Malavika’s Mumbaistan: More than just a kurtamumbai Updated: Mar 13, 2018 17:00 IST
Hillary Clinton with fashion designer Payal Khandwala.
Something significant happened this weekend in Mumbai and it is cause for celebration.
On her recent trip to Mumbai, Hillary Clinton divested herself of her stuffy pastel pant suits, the ones that might or might not have played a role in her ultimate defeat in the last Presidential elections, and instead chose to wear a hand-woven silk kurta, colour-blocked in coffee bean brown, silver and sapphire blue, created by Mumbai-based Payal Khandwala. She had never looked more comfortable or elegant or at ease.
This sartorial transformation, coming as it did on the heels of Kate Middleton and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau opting to wear Anita Dongre for their official engagements, and doing so to much appreciation, marks the beginning of two trends. That of women designers of power and influence finally giving other women like themselves the clothes they require to empower and nurture them in the post ‘Me Too’ age. And even more significant, it underlines India’s immense potential to become the world’s aesthetic benchmark.
“My focus has always been clothing for women that care more about personal style than fashion,” says Khandwala, when we spoke to her about the garment that had been featured as the second part of her ‘Indessentials — Redefining Indian Essentials’, for her Autumn Winter collection last year, which had made its way to the former Presidential candidate’s back. “It is important for me to make clothes that are comfortable because women shouldn’t have to suffer for fashion. Not anymore. We have bigger things to fix. Clothes can empower us all and we must choose the ones that make us feel better about ourselves. How can we expect to be treated as equals if we spend our time fussing about our bodies, squeezing in our tummies, shaping our thighs, tottering in our heels? How can we be confident if we are not even comfortable?” she says.
Unsurprisingly, this woman-centric approach found great synergy with Clinton, an international feminist icon. “She said the outfit had ‘jumped right out at her’. I’m thrilled that she picked it! She embodies all the values this brand stands for, so it made it all the more special,” Khandwala says.
In her unstructured kurta, Hillary had displayed a hitherto unseen exuberance warmth and confidence because that’s how clothes are meant to make you feel. “She said she was so comfortable in it and that she received so many compliments,” says Khandwala.
So palpably, had Mrs Clinton enjoyed wearing the garment so much, she insisted on making a quick pit stop to the designer’s store in Colaba, and it was no coincidence that she had chosen to wear another striking Indian outfit, this time from Dongre’s Grassroots for her visit.
“She loved the shape and the colour and she responded to that in the garment and later to the silhouettes and our palette at the store,” says Khandwala.
As for the Indian aesthetic and what it can do to transform the world’s attitudes to dressing, Khandwala is as focused as Dongre about championing Indian crafts and textiles. “Our craftsmanship separates us from our peers in the fashion landscape. I hope that we can bring to the forefront the voice of a Modern India. One that is young and proud.”
So there you have it. One kurta and two emerging fashion trends: women opting to wear clothes made by other women, who understand their need for empowerment, ease and dignity; and Indian crafts and textiles standing on the cusp of an international aesthetic resurgence.
AN ACCIDENTAL CASTING?
We were delighted to learn that Akshaye Khanna had been signed on to essay the role of our friend and former editor Dr Sanjaya Baru in an upcoming film being made on his best-selling memoir ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’. As is known, Baru had spun a riveting tale about his years as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s media advisor and chief spokesperson from May 2004 until August 2008, revealing that the former PM had been more or less in Sonia Gandhi’s thrall during his term. The political commentator and policy analyst — serving as secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry — who is as celebrated for his erudition as he is for his rapier sharp wit and constant twinkle in his eye, appeared happy with the choice too.
“I was delighted to learn that Akshaye Khanna would play me. Ever since I watched Dil Chahta Hai, I have been a fan of his.” Did he think Khanna would do justice to the role? “Well, he has the required glint of mischief in his eye!” he said, over the phone.
However, our enquiry if Khanna would require additional dancing skills to match Baru’s legendary nimble footedness in the corridors of power went unanswered.