The fashion world mourned the death of famous photographer Bill Cunningham at the age of 87 this month. A legend in fashion media circles, his portraits of real people wearing real fashion on the street of New York became a regular and most-loved section of The New York Times, where he worked for over 40 years.
A recipient of several photography awards, Bill was loved and cherished by the fashion fraternity as he cycled about town looking for fashionable people to immortalize with his lens. “We all dress for Bill,” said Anna Wintour, the famous editor of Vogue US, adding that the worst thing to happen to a New York fashionista was being ignored by Bill Cunningham.
Bill served in the US Army in the Korean War, and later became a milliner designing hats under the label William J. He then turned into a fashion writer, working for top New York dailies and magazines. In the 1970s, he began taking candid street style photos, which later went on to become his signature and indeed spawned a whole new genre of fashion journalism.
Everyone knows celebrity images are Photoshopped before being published or released online. Some celebrities even hire their own personal Photoshop artists to ‘fix’ their so-called spontaneous Instagram pictures. But award-winning actress Kate Winslet’s new stance against Photoshop has brought the topic to the fore, and has ‘retouched’ an old conversation.
The 40-year-old Oscar winner recently signed a contract with beauty giant L’Oreal, in which she included a clause that forbids them from Photoshopping her advertisements. The star has spoken against retouching earlier as well, notably when she was ‘touched up’ for a ‘GQ’ magazine cover. “I think we have a responsibility to the younger generation of women. I think they do look to magazines, they do look to women who have been successful in their chosen careers. I want to be one of those women who are telling the truth about who I am,” she said.
Well, Kate is not alone. Here are other celebrities who have spoken up against excessive retouching in the past.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Several eyebrows shot up when Fashion101.in launched as India’s first and only multi-lingual fashion website, available in English, Hindi and Gujarati. “Is the Hindi- or Gujarati-speaking mass market interested in fashion?” was the question on several skeptical minds.
Despite the naysayers, we of course went ahead with our vision of making India fashionable. It hasn’t been easy. Much is lost in translation – how do you describe an outfit’s ‘silhouette’ in Hindi? How do you translate ‘cleavage’ or ‘trousseau’ in Hindi while still being politically correct? How do you explain ‘androgyny’ or ‘couture sari-gowns’ to a new audience that may not be familiar with such terms? The challenge flummoxes us. But then, if something doesn’t shake you out of your comfort zone, it’s not worth doing.
Both are in line with me to attend Eina Ahluwalia’s conceptual jewellery installation called ‘Pilgrimage’ at the Palladium Hotel during Lakme Fashion Week.
It is dark and the first sight we see is the gold bust of a fat woman. At the base lie jars of hair removal creams, tweezers and razors, along with flowers and candles. It is an altar for a Venus statue discovered several thousand years ago. The sight appalls and shocks you momentarily. Venus, fat? The death of hair removal? (A subconscious aside comes to mind – isn’t Philips, the epilator brand, one of the sponsors of this fashion week? They won’t like this. Uh uh.)
The next installation is another gold Venus, another altar with flowers and candles, this time for a huge, chaotic pile of makeup – from lipsticks to eyeshadows. (Poor Lakme.) This Venus has bulbous breasts and a bulging abdomen. A cloud in your brain begins to clear – was this the ideal of beauty 20,000 years ago? Does one not really need makeup to look pretty?
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She was wearing a plain purple fitted T-shirt with blue jeans. Her bun had made a valiant effort to hold in all her curly hair but failed in most part. She wore no accessories besides simple strappy flats and chudas on her wrists. A newlywed with her husband out to get a honeymoon visa, I mused, since they were outside the VFS offices in Delhi. Her face was bare; she wore no makeup – a minimalistic style statement. And yet, walking past slightly perturbed on a sunny summer morning, she looked the epitome of fashion.
It struck me that there are three fashion accessories money can’t buy. You either have ‘em, or you spend all your time buying stuff to make up for the lack of ‘em.
Youth: The cosmetic-surgery industry in India isn’t valued at Rs 460 crores for nothing. There is nothing like the glow and bounce of youth when it comes to your overall style statement. As we grow older, marry, or begin to make our own money, fashion accessories load our dresser drawers and wardrobe corners with greater alacrity – covering up for the wrinkles or age spots on our neck and hands, brightening up what we think is our dimming light. But the young need no embellishment. Their youth is sparkling enough.
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Niharika Khan feels lucky when she gets a few months to research the looks for a film – usually, it’s just weeks before shooting is to begin. In fact, she says she also got into costume design by luck – she was hired for Khoya Khoya Chand (2007) because she claims she came cheaper than her famous brother Arjun Bhasin. But going by her track record with hits such as Band Baaja Baaraat, Delhi Belly, Rock On!!, Kai Po Che, and The Dirty Picture (for which she won a National Award), she seems to be living out the Coleman Cox quote: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Born in Jamshedpur and brought up in Lawrence School, Sanawar, Niharika moved to Mumbai to study at the prestigious Xavier’s College. She later did her post-graduation in HR management and public relations from Seattle, US. “Then I got bored of all that and did a silver-smithy course and began making jewellery,” she tells F101. In what seems like another lifetime, she joined Tanishq and helped them open up stores all over the country.
Now the mother of two adolescents, both of whom also study in a boarding school like she did, Niharika found the siren call of Bollywood irresistible. “Khoya Khoya Chand was period styling, all about 1960s Mumbai. It was rooted in culture. As my first stint in films, it was quite overwhelming but then I did a whole range of films after that,” she says. Bombay Velvet was by far the largest production she ever worked on. “People are shocked when they hear the budget I got – they ask me, ‘How did you manage with just that much?’ See, that’s the thing with period films. You have to make it amazing but you also have to work within your budget parameters,” she explains.
She speaks to F101 about “how she made it happen”.
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