Shoes studded with crystal. Enough makeup on the face to keep a small cosmetics shop stocked for a year. Microscopic shorts and minuscule dresses that end at crotch level. Everybody completely over the top.
Have you any clue what we’re talking about?
If you’re thinking, “one of those fashion weeks again,” you’re absolutely spot on. But you’re also wrong. Because chances are you think that what we’ve just described was seen on the ramp – but it wasn’t. What we’ve just described are the guests at every fashion week, because what’s on the catwalk is (often) more sober.
“Women come to fashion weeks to see what other women are wearing, as much as they come to see the clothes on the ramp,” laughs designer Rohit Bal whose collection comprises the grand finale of the Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW) Spring/Summer 2015 edition tonight.
As with every fashion week event in the country, these last five days have been busy for the city’s beautiful people, who’ve spent hours primping and prepping themselves to attend the shows. To see their outfits is to wonder where the real fashion event is taking place – on the ramp or off it.
Because while it’s natural to dress up for an event organised by the industry of glamour, many of the guests seem to think they’re competing with the models – but often, unfortunately, not to great effect.
Crimes of fashion
“It’s all about the photo-op these days, which is why the guests dress the way they do,” says Nonita Kalra, former editor of Elle magazine.
So walk into any of the pre- and post-show gatherings and what you’ll see is fashion editors in hot pants and crop tops, and socialites in dresses so short and tight that when they sit, little is left to the imagination. “Watching mature women cram their bodies into clothes fit only for 16-year-olds is just sad,” says Kalra.
It’s also sad how many guests forget any sense of aesthetics, says Tanisha Mohan, socialite and front-row regular. “I know women who come for day shows with too much makeup – fake eyelashes and glitter on their eyes,” she says. “But often, the women who dress this way are first-time attendees at fashion weeks. Freshers tend to get a little over-excited.”
The media’s obsession with what people are wearing just adds to the costume party effect – and it isn’t only ‘freshers’ who crave that ‘caught-at-fashion-week’ photo in next morning’s paper.
Members of the fashion media themselves are often the biggest perpetrators of fashion crimes. Fashion editors plan their looks weeks in advance and ask their stylists to source clothes for them. And fashion bloggers aim for all the publicity they can get, often forgetting to tweet about the show they’re supposedly covering, but posting photos of their own outfits at fashion week, hashtagged #OOTD (Outfit of the Day).
“It is great that the media makes this effort during fashion week and it is fun to observe the hits and misses,” says Mumbai-based designer Nachiket Barve with a perfectly straight face.
But media people are not the only ones in imminent danger of being arrested by the fashion police. Many of the publicity agents of fashion designers feel the need to wear a piece by their employers – whether or not it suits their figure, face, age and personality.
And let’s not forget the designers themselves, many of whom appear to think they must outshine their own closing outfit. ‘Stylistically’ coiffed and much made up, when they emerge from the wings to take their bows, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for small children playing with their mothers’ makeup.
But the best way to judge whether a person is there to look at fashion, or whether she’s there to be the fashion is to glance at her shoes.
"I do not understand why some women wear Swarovski-studded shoes for a day show," says Mohan. If you spot sky-high stilettoes, you know their wearers are at fashion week just to be seen, not because they are interested in fashion.
With two main show areas and the designers’ stalls a level below, anyone who’s really interested in fashion would have to do a lot of walking – so clearly the stiletto-clad are there purely for the photo-op.
"Some of the better-dressed women at fashion week are those in the business of fashion, such as Ensemble’s Tina Tahiliani Parikh, or Evoluzione’s Tina Malhotra," says Barve. "They get that balance between pushing the envelope and keeping it elegant."
The truth is, no one expects anyone not to be dressed up if they’re attending fashion week. But there’s a fine line between dressing to kill and murdering style. As Rohit Bal says, "As a designer, it is wonderful when you see your invitees wearing your clothes. But keep it slick and chic and do not over-dress. Some looks should be reserved only for the ramp."
Sujata Assomull Sippy has been a fashion commentator for almost two decades
From HT Brunch, October 12
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