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Looking Good: India's affair with fashion

brunch Updated: Feb 25, 2014 12:06 IST
Prasad Bidapa
Prasad Bidapa
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The first issue of Brunch in Delhi came out on February 1, 2004. Nine months later, with the launch of the Hindustan Times in Mumbai, Brunch was introduced to readers there as well. The Delhi Brunch completes 10 years this month.

And so we bring you a special two-part anniversary issue, on the theme 'Look How We've Changed!' We asked writers, specialists in their field, to do a series of essays for us, chronicling these changes.

In this essay, Prasad Bidapa is a well known fashion expert, writes about India's fascination with luxury brands which started in the last decade and is showing no signs of ebbing.

A decade of decadence defines ten years of our love affair with luxury brands, and the fascination never stops. It's a global phenomenon, not just an Indian thing, but we do it better than most.

Russian, Chinese or Indian, the New Super Economies want all the trappings of success, branded as visibly as possible.

Sexing it up
This desire has always existed in our society. The desire to look better, be thinner, fitter and more desirable. To be more expensively dressed than your friends, have glossier hair, a juicier pout and a tighter, gym-toned bubble butt. Carry the 'it' bag of the moment, wear the label du jour, spray on the expensive perfume, climb into your Manolos and turn into a sexy beast instantly! It doesn't matter if your are 14 or 40, for Size 0 can be anybody's if you are willing to starve yourself into that size which Kareena Kapoor made so famous, even though it made her head look bigger than her body.

THE GOOD LOOKING LIFE: A professional makeover is something everyone can tap into.

So guess what? Now everyone wants the 26-inch waist, the tummy tuck, even the bariatric surgery that vacuums out the fat, for everybody craves the social acceptance, the Pg 3 moment, the film star connect, the feeling of Having Arrived!

A prettier, fitter you

But how did this happen? As the prosperity index went up, so did our spending. Using

beauty salons

as a benchmark, you can safely say that there has been a growth rate of several thousand per cent in the last ten years. Cut, colour and a blow dry can work magic and every woman knows it! A professional makeover is something everyone can tap into, and today even the largest corporates offer their staff crash courses in everything from dining etiquette to wardrobe workshops, from public speaking to make-up lessons, everybody's invited to the party! The information superhighway brings the fashion moment instantly to you, and your friendly neighborhood blogger can bring you that designer label at a very special price. Why wait?

Every aspect of your life can benefit from the lavish use of luxury services and products if advertisers are to be believed. From the costly cut glass jar of night cream made from Beluga caviar to the expensive salon treatments for your skin, hair and body, India is awash in scented lotions, magical potions and extra large portions of chocolate body scrub. Soon there will be no ugly people left, and everyone will have a


, less fat, fewer wrinkles and look gorgeously young at their own funerals. So what if beauty is only skin deep? What do you want? An adorable pair of kidneys?

The affluence index

With the trickle-down effect of affluence, you can be sure it's only a matter of time before every young person in this country begins to look like a cover shot of an upmarket style magazine. In the corporate world, the power suit is a mark of affluence and prestige. Billion dollar fashion businesses have been founded on dressing CEOs to perfection.

India is a hugely aspiring nation. The hard work of a billion citizens paid for this affluence that makes India such a great country, in spite of venal governance. Bangalore techies of the '80s and '90s tasted this affluence but their mental bandwidth encompassed a spend on basics like homes, cars and settling their parents, who had usually sacrificed much for their children. But the next generation of successful Indians discovered luxury. They wanted the LVs, the Burberrys.

Indian luxury designers like Tarun Tahiliani, Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla benefited hugely from the luxury bridal market (the true haute couture of India) , as did the jewellers and other purveyors of luxury and sophistication.

On the party circuit in any large city in India, one can see the visible sparkle of the glitterati's solitaires as they wink and twinkle on newly minted cleavages. A slip of a dress by one of India's celebrity designers like Abraham & Thakore moulds perfectly to a toned waist and a firm behind. (You can even share outfits with your teenage daughter for you are practically the same size now!)

The men are not far behind. Armani is de rigeur for more mature men, and youthful brands like Zara and Superdry fill up a lot of blanks.

The end of exclusivity

This celebrates a global revival and interest in the rare, the precious, the hand-made and the truly special. For me, a hand-woven length of silk or cotton will always represent the amazing and the beautiful, and I'm pretty certain that it cannot really ever be replicated. A gorgeous khadi sari carries a guarantee of originality and reflects a thousand years of finesse and appreciation of beauty, so why would you buy a nylon frock from Stella McCartney at 1 lakh a pop?

One day the world will fight for what is made in India, for we have the heritage, the skill and the talent to make something big out of India, to turn our designers into international brands and export Indian luxury and style to the world!

Soon there will be no ugly people left, and everyone will have a nose-job, less fat, fewer wrinkles and look gorgeously young at their own funerals

Prasad Bidapa

is a well known fashion expert based out of Bangalore, who has written for Brunch ever since its inception, commenting on India's social evolution and other matters of style.

From HT Brunch, February 23

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