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We’re not a fashionable country: Johar

Johar’s taking his reputation as fashion pundit seriously; his debut menswear line in collaboration with designer Varun Bahl will be launched at Aza Men. Since he wanted to be a designer even before...

india Updated: Apr 17, 2010 13:30 IST
Rochelle Pinto

Karan JoharKaran Johar hates the term ‘Lokhandwala dressing’. The director and unofficial stylist to Shah Rukh Khan says, "I detest expressions like that. It’s ridiculous for people to get geographic about fashion. Even South Mumbai with all its affluence gets it terribly wrong sometimes."

Johar’s taking his reputation as fashion pundit seriously; his debut menswear line in collaboration with designer Varun Bahl will be launched at Aza Men this Sunday. Since he wanted to be a designer even before turning director, you’d think he’s as nervous about this collection as his first movie, but Johar’s playing it cool.

“Designing is more of a hobby, so criticism from the fashion community won’t get to me like it does when critics trash my movies.” The director-turned-designer claims that the contemporary clothes are the kind he’d wear himself. Does that mean we’ll see KJo in a sexy leather jacket and one of those really snug trousers? “That ain’t gonna happen,” he laughs.

“I’m not deluded about my frame or structure. I don’t want to look like I’ve gone mad.” Delusions aside, the Johar-Bahl line is meant for the new Indian male. “Why should the focus only be on women? Men have become more vain now, more focused on looking good. But that doesn’t mean they’re homosexual or metrosexual. People just throw these words around like uninformed toys.”

Karan’s kaveats
People who wear fur coats in the summer need medication. This is not a fashion faux pas. It’s a mental faux pas. Not every man’s hair looks good spiked, yellow hair colour is disgusting. Just because it’s trend setting, doesn’t mean you should try it.Not everyone can carry off skinny jeans.

Men who are naturally very thin and wear skinny jeans look like they’re walking on poles. Herve Leger bandage dresses are meant for women who have the curves, not for women whose stomachs are moving towards you.I once tried the scarf and jacket combo and got trashed in the newspapers.

When I looked at myself, it did look like crap. My apologies. Bling is not necessarily king. Nobody wants to see things shining at them in the harsh sunlight. Swarovski was meant to be on a vase, not on your body. If you’re all blinged out, you’re in danger of being used as a disco ball.

‘SRK is fussy about his jeans’
Amitabh Bachchan is a fashion pioneer,” Johar opines, “I’ve shopped with him and he knows his Guccis from his Pradas. He also has the best collection of sunglasses.” He credits Saif Ali Khan for his British style, while Shah Rukh Khan is casual chic all the way. “I shop for Shah Rukh, I know exactly what he likes. He’s a very easy to shop for because he likes anything in black or white,” reveals Johar.

“The only thing I won’t bother buying are jeans. He gets upset when people wear ill-fitting jeans.” Shah Rukh’s jean-o-metre has resulted in the star owning one from every brand. “He’s also very fussy about his socks,” Johar admits. “He loses his cool when his socks don’t match his shoes.” As for himself, Johar admits, “I have very extravagant tastes. My friends don’t bother giving me gifts because they know I won’t like anything. I’m a compulsive shopper too, I need help!”

Movie madness
In the ’90s, any sari worn by Madhuri Dixit would instantly spawn a million copies.Young girls shopping on Mumbai’s Linking Road or in Delhi’s Karol Bagh wouldn’t hesitate to ask for the Hum Aapke Hain Kaun sari. But Johar predicts the end of such blind imitation. “Movies dictate street fashion and a certain section of people get very influenced,” Johar says.

“But fashion in cinema is now more character-driven, the days of people copying movie looks are over.”And if you think that being friends with most of Bollywood restrains his blunt criticism, Johar admits to dishing out advice even when he’s not asked for any. “I’m very happy to offer my opinion because we’re not a fashionable country. Nine out of ten people get it wrong, even on the red carpet. I cringe when I see stars with access to top brands still messing it up.

We only get it right when we stick to Indian garments.”He contests the notion that Indian garments are less fashionable, saying, “Most actresses are too scared to show off the plunging neckline or skimpy back that you find on western gowns. I tell them to stick to a sari, it always looks stunning.”

His women

Gauri Khan gets his approval, and Sonam Kapoor’s experimental style has him waiting for her public appearances.He’s observed Kangana Ranaut from a distance, and admits that he’s impressed with her “inherent sense of cool.” But if he’s a fountain of fashion advice, then why hasn’t he helped out best friend Kajol who always finds herself being rapped by the style police?“I’ve given up on Kajol. She is beyond fashion. Her sheer presence and persona allow her to carry off anything with pizzazz. But even she’s been making an effort lately.”

Costume drama
Karan Johar takes us on a dressing room tour of his movies, explains the yellow Speedo in Dostana.On the upside, his films have always kicked off new trends. On the downside, he’s been accused of making over-the-top, flashy outfits de rigeur. Karan Johar’s response? “Films like Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham needed to be opulent, but they were never tacky.In films like My Name Is Khan, the message of the movie was given prominence, so the costumes didn’t really matter.”

His long-standing association with Manish Malhotra has been symbiotic, one feeding off the other’s vision.“Manish and I have plenty of fights on sets. But he usually wins,” Johar admits. “My actors also trust me, they know that my films make them look good.” He also nods to other films that furthered the country’s fashion consciousness. “I think Dil Chahta Hai was exceptional, it made hair styling noticeable. It is the hair revolution film.”

Kuch Kuch Hota Hain
Johar thinks this was his most iconic, because it was the first time that colour palettes were used with elegance. “Manish said, ‘Let’s kill the myth that Indian films are only garish.’I hadn’t seen anything like it because in the 1980s and early ’90s, we had succumbed to a complete lack of aesthetic.” The result was Kajol’s short hair and hairband look that made women comfortable with wearing sporty clothes.

My Name Is Khan
Johar asserts that in this movie, the message was larger than the wardrobe. “We needed to unlearn everything that we had learnt about fashion until then. The whole brief to Shiraz (Siddique) was that no costume should stand out. I didn’t want fashion to distract from the theme of the movie.” SRK’s preppy look made an understated but effective statement.

Designer Aki Narula was in charge for Dostana, a film out of the Dharma productions stable. “I didn’t interfere with the styling at all, except to come on sets to check how everything was going,” Johar insists. His brief to his design team — Make Priyanka look hot, make Abhishek look cool, and don’t give John any clothes. Hence the yellow Speedo.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
We introduced opulence and largeness here,” recalls Johar. He remembers Kareena Kapoor’s look, saying, “With her character, we decided to aim for a Legally Blonde look, she needed to be a fashionable bimbette.Our references came from Alicia Silverstone in Clueless and Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls.”

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

This look was couture,” insists Johar. “From Amitabh Bachchan’s fur coats to Abhishek’s upturned collar; Preity Zinta’s Dior gowns to SRK’s grunge look.” Manish Malhotra thought of turning the song, Tumhi dekho na, into a colour song. “In the blue sequence, Rani Mukherjee’s sari was given a black trim to help her stand out,” says Johar.

I’m not trying to change the way Bollywood dresses’Varun Bahl, the design technician of the duo, on filmi expectations.

Our clothes already seem popular with people from the film industry,”exclaims designer Varun Bahl.Describing his line as twisted classics, Bahl says, “Indian men like classic clothes. Our collection is crafted to the degree that an Indian male would experiment.”

Since his partner is a famous Bollywood name, does Bahl feel the pressure to deliver a line that wouldn’t be decreed ‘filmi’? “Karan’s movies and his personal taste are sometimes opulent,” explains Bahl. “But Bollywood is the medium for fashion to be seen by people countrywide. We design for glamourous men, many of whom come from the film industry.”

The collection currently retails clothes along with accessories like cufflinks, ties and bags. “We want to make them available internationally. Sunglasses and perfumes are also being worked upon. Men don’t have the patience to go from one shop to another, our brand is the one-stop shop for all his needs.” As for his pet peeves, Bahl says, “I hate body-hugging spandex shirts with plunging necklines. Those guysneed to be fined.”