Priya Jhaveri: A Sense of Self Over A Sense of Style

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Published in Mint Lounge, October 28 Edition
Photographs by Abhijit Bhatlekar

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The passion for art began at home. Gallerist Priya Jhaveri’s parents were “obsessive collectors” of beautiful things, including modern art and antiquities, textiles, jewellery and ornaments. “They travelled widely, always including us in their visits to artist studios and galleries, and encouraged a study of the humanities,” says Jhaveri.

Since 2010, an apartment on Walkeshwar Road in South Mumbai, designed by Bijoy Jain, has been converted into Jhaveri Contemporary, a gallery showing artists across generations. Priya’s older sister, the London-based Amrita Jhaveri, manages the relationships with the estates they represent as a gallery. In Mumbai, Priya works closely with the gallery’s international artists, producing, promoting, managing exhibitions and negotiating sales, while overseeing daily operations.

The 41-year-old modern history and Spanish major from Oberlin College, US, has worked with an environmental law firm in San Francisco, collaborated with writer and filmmaker Bishakha Datta’s non-profit organization Point of View (POV) in India, co-authored a book,Unzipped: Women And Men In Prostitution Speak Out and worked as editor and project manager on books on Indian art and architecture at India Book House, before joining the art consultancy set up by her sister that evolved into the gallery.

The gallery showcases a wide range of artists, both veteran and avant-garde—currently on show is experimental film-maker Shambhavi Kaul’s work—and it forms a reference for Jhaveri’s individualistic sensibility and aesthetic values.

Priya gravitates towards understated elegance with a touch of quirk. She is dressed in Western attire for the most part. “I adore saris but I can’t tie my own sari!” she says. She has a practical approach to dressing: You are likely to find her in flats and sporting a white Swatch Skin watch. She avoids “high-maintenance clothes” for her work life, and opts for functional ready-to-wear for travel abroad, accounting for the local climate and long days at fairs. But there is always an accessory, like the chunky ivory wedding chudis she wears to add a touch of colour, or jewellery from sister Nandita Jhaveri’s eponymous line.

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 4.05.13 PMShoes by You Khanga. 

You might struggle to recognize the brands she wears, for she shops at local boutiques abroad for anything that catches her eye, like the You Khanga closed-toe flats (an Italian brand that works with African prints). A classic blue Acne Studios shirt is a staple and a Stella Jean dress a fun favourite, with basics from Uniqlo and Zara. In India, she tends to pick up items from Bodice, Amba, Vraj:bhoomi (for brogues) and close friend Maithili Ahluwalia’s Bungalow 8. It’s all so subtle, you wouldn’t even realize she is wearing a Chloé dress. You believe her when she quips about her personal style, “I’ve not given it much thought, so perhaps it’s effortless.”

Lounge caught up with her for an interview. Edited excerpts:

How would you describe your personal style?

I do know that style eclipses the best of wardrobes, presupposing a certain authenticity: Find comfort in your own skin, and the rest will follow. I tend to veer towards a more classic look. I’m not hugely adventurous and, depending on my mood, I can pick things that are elegant, androgynous, lazy even: I’d love to leave home in a pretty kaftan and chappals with a silver necklace thrown on.

Are you attracted to a specific palette or cuts?
I gravitate towards classic cuts set apart by irregular detailing. I enjoy striking colours—orange, turquoise, sky blue, emerald—and, on occasion, patterns and prints that are graphic, playful or more delicate. I appreciate clothing made using natural dyes and fabrics and the use of traditional weaves reinvented in contemporary design.

Do you believe that a sense of style is important?
Not as much as a sense of self. But if we’re thinking of style more broadly, in terms of attitude and comportment, then yes it is.

Is there any weight to the saying: style/dressing is an art form?
It can be, absolutely, just like the best of television can, or a piece of writing, music, architecture or dance.

Describe your preferred outfits for work, evening and a casual setting.
Lots of dresses with silver jewellery (also jewellery made with materials like coral, stone, glass) and sandals for work. If I’m working at an art fair, I add skirts and jumpsuits, with heels on the first three days and flat shoes on the last two when comfort trumps vanity. In a casual setting, I adore roomy trousers in Khadi by Runaway Bicycle.

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 4.07.30 PMVintage agate and diamond earrings designed by her father Dinesh Jhaveri in the 1970s.

Describe your three best style acquisitions.

A Patola sari for its flawless double-Ikat weave. Brilliantly handcrafted, it resembles a Nintendo game with its graphic pattern sporting animals and hybrid creatures. Earrings designed by my father, Dinesh Jhaveri, in the 1970s, for their inventive use of materials like wood and crystal alongside diamonds and gold. And a classic Boucheron watch with interchangeable leather straps in multiple colours for its timeless design.

When it comes to art and fashion, do you believe in acquiring timeless pieces or the flavour of the moment?
The challenge is knowing whether the “flavour of the moment” will be timeless or, equally, whether you need it to be timeless. In collecting art, my judgement sits somewhere between instinct and knowledge. It is important to make informed decisions. Supporting an artist can often be reward enough, as can an impulsive bout of retail therapy.

How important is sensibility and can you define it? Can it be acquired or is it inherent?
Sadly, I can’t define it. Its importance, however, is hard to over-exaggerate. Given that sensibility covers everything that not only makes sense but also makes beauty out of the daily rough and tumble of our lives. In a different mode: I don’t think sensibility is a value that is central to art or style anymore. Most artists today respond to literary or political values. Prelapsarian aesthetic pleasures have given way to more theoretical approaches.

When it comes to style, who or what inspires you?
Artist Amrita Sher-Gil, irreverence, The Sopranos, the novels of Philip Roth, the people I love and the laughter of old friends.

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Fiction: Slow Romance of Snow and Ice

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Published: Verve Magazine, September 2017
Illustration by Tanuja Ramani

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There was a nip in the air. Some may call it a frozen point of time. We only felt a warm suffusing feeling surge through our bodies. Snow clung to our eyelashes, curling inwards to stay warm. Not for long of course, as it would melt and trickle down as tepid water. The streets were soulless, twisting and winding with buildings huddled together to stay snug. The pebble stones of Europe, forming delicious curves as lovers’ feet grind against them and with tourists’ enthusiastic tread, were not visible under the thick blanket of snow. Lush, deep and virginal, it looked from afar like a down feather comforter; you could tuck your toes in and wriggle under, dreaming of spring blossoms.

Perhaps it was a stretch to think we would fuel our love in the dead of winter. But marriages in Mumbai happen in balmy breezes and some may say the true test of romance is to kindle fires in the bitter cold. Discovering the dark history of the Continent under the beating sun of summer was for philistines. The ones with character and mettle surrounded themselves with the reflecting light of gas lamps that looked hazy in the crackling air. The pink blush that crept into our cheeks, the rosy-blue temper of our lips, and the slow embrace to beat the diving temperature battled desire and made way for an old-world romance.

We began to imagine a life on the calmer side of Prague’s Malá Strana. On the Charles Bridge, 30 baroque statues towered broodingly, and the Gothic shadows fell long on those evocative 500 metres, telling tales of darker times. There had been blood on the walls, there had been lovers who held hands, until the bridge, which was meant to forge ties, separated them. It described a time of mystery and madness; moments of furore. The placid mise en scene belied this, but the mind knew better. The heart beat faster, keeping pace with the pounding feet as the lovers were chased by naysayers. The silence around was deafening. If only the waves of River Vltava would crash mercilessly to calm the heart. If the world made noise, the mind could be silent. Summer was a pretence. A pretence to understand the truth of a city. It was sunshine and flowers and happy, smiling people. They all returned to their broken lives. In the harshness of winter the gaps were visible, the thoughts flooded in, mending what could not be ignored. There was nothing to hide behind. You faced the music in silence.

It was not always silent in Prague. If the opera house sang a tune, then the fervent chatter at the Christmas markets spun yarns. Stories of people’s lives, of cheer, of celebrated moments over hot mulled wine floated through the-Romanesque-making-sweet-love-to-the-Gothic 10th-century Old Town square in metaphysical abandon. Turning the pages of time via Josefov (the Jewish quarter), the 14th-century Wenceslas Square or Church of Our Lady before Týn along the way. The Prague Castle, the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, Czechoslovakia and now the Czech Republic, where the Bohemian crown jewels reside, had etchings in stone that you could see with your mind’s eye; Saint Vitus Cathedral held silhouettes in its arms. Standing at the gates outside, taking in the spired city that had been enveloped in white to depict a false sense of innocence, you saw the grey in the hidden courtyards of the cobbled alleys.

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Our fingers curled together, knitting patterns on the rough wooden table. Our breaths came out in steamy bursts, condensation clung to our lips. We were lovers from the turn of the 20th century, escaping reality for a few moments into the golden age of beautiful Budapest through its coffee houses like the Művész that we wandered into. Or the overt passion of a kert, an open-air ‘ruin pub’ that demands that you huddle together. Close enough that your mind stopped thinking. Enough to lead you to one of Budapest’s ‘secret’ thermal baths fed by natural springs to help you cool off, topped off with Gellért’s thermal spa to rejuvenate and prepare for another day. Perhaps a day that could be lived in contemporary times, where Nobu would play truant with Buddha-Bar, where we drank ourselves into deep inebriation and whispered the night away.

The Danube severed the large city, but it seemed whole. Like the marriage of two individuals with very distinct personalities. The castle district on one side of the Danube had many stories to speak of, but we could only see the chapters through the monuments, or while making our way, hand-in-hand, through the 2,200 metres of the Szemlõhegyi caves riddled with mineral precipitations. You couldn’t miss the bullet holes and shrapnel etched on buildings, or the sharpness of the Hungarian art on display at the National Gallery in Buda Castle (accessed by a funicular ride), even as the castle gates’ menacing black figures in wrought iron gazed watchfully as you dared to enter. And yet, the city had mellowed. It glowed with a quiet dignity, as you stood on one of its eight bridges, staring into the deceptive darkness with lights liberally splattered like war paint, glittering like a bejewelled bride, ready to come into her own.

She held me close. We swirled in silence. Her head only reached my chin, but we fit. I imagined the ballerinas pirouetting gracefully last night. In the peak of winter, the opera houses opened up in all their grandeur. The best artistes swung into action, the lights shone bright, the opulence of the performing chambers was larger than life. This was not the touristy show of the summer, this was art. At the Hungarian State Opera House a story that told the tale of a better time unfolded. Or worse, depending on how you looked at it. And then, we were on the city ice rink. Even as the beautiful castle tried desperately to throw a reflection on the brittle surface riddled by skating figures, I knew the city couldn’t hold a candle to my love at first site: Prague. As Franz Kafka imagined it, perhaps while sitting in Cafe Milena, ‘Prague never lets you go. This dear little mother has sharp claws.’

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We walked the 1,940 metres of Dubrovnik’s walls, the first of which were built in the 9th century. It usually takes about two hours, it took us six. Not because we fought against the throngs of the summer tourists; rather, the car-free streets were achingly bare as the locals had long left the historical old town for the modern suburbs. It made room for moments of passion that snuck into fortified medieval corners, cold baroque buildings, against darkened glass storefronts that were shrouded with our steamy breath, under spindly naked branches that shivered with passion and showered a cascade of white dust on us. Melting fast on your face as you held her close. As you parted and found your jacket soaked. We were drawn into the Dubrovnik Winter festival, filled with the pulsating beats that mirrored our pulses, food that satiated the senses but never the gnawing hunger inside, and a continuation of the mulled wine journey that flowed like blood in our veins. Or the rich sounds from the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, for culture had nothing to do with beaches and sun tans, and bonds are forged over the soaring notes of classical harmony. Perhaps there were those who were looking for King’s Landing, but there was another song of ice and fire that we experienced, and it had nothing to do with games or thrones.

Set inside a Napoleonic fort near the city’s cable-car station, a permanent exhibition in the war museum is dedicated to the siege of Dubrovnik during the Homeland War of the 1990s, where the local defenders stationed inside the fort ensured the city wasn’t captured. The walls of Dubrovnik may be strong and thick, but the turrets and towers also had aching stories to tell, as long as you stood and listened. Moments of war and peace, moments of passion that died, and lives lived to the fullest.

High above the city in the cable car, we took in the twinkling lights in silence. No jostling crowds, just us. Lonely in our togetherness. Through this mystical honeymoon, we spoke, and we remained quiet. We found a comfort in knowing that we don’t know. We accepted reality, we knew we would go back to find ourselves, fill in the gaps. After all, we were women of the world.

Rajesh Pratap Singh: ‘Brocade Hoods and Pin-tucked Tuxedos’

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Published in Verve Magazine, September 2017 (Bridal Issue)
Photographs by Rishabh Malik

Designer, Rajesh Pratap Singh, on undertaking ‘super couture projects’ for unconventional brides. 

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He won’t design a wedding outfit. But, if you are lucky, he will create something, as a ‘super couture project’, for you, if approached with the right sensibility. All he asks is that you be: “intelligent, experimental, unconventional, and not bound by tradition”.

Seminal androgynous fashion has come out of Rajesh Pratap Singh’s atelier. Based in New Delhi, he hails from Rajasthan, and considers the poshakh the perfect bridal garment. Post NIFT Delhi, he worked in fashion in India and Italy before introducing his own line of men’s and women’s clothing in 1997. Pratap Singh, who has showcased his collections at Paris Fashion Week, draws from his roots to craft artisanal garments that stand out for their impeccably clean lines, careful detailing and subtle international silhouettes.

Pratap Singh, who is Woolmark’s first wool ambassador of India (2013), has his creations (made with Bhutanese fabrics) permanently housed in Bhutan’s Royal Textile Museum, while his ajrak prints on linen as well as handloom weaves in ikat are housed in the permanent textile and apparel archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. However, his textile repertoire extends beyond experimenting with ikat weaves, handloom indigos, Chanderis and Benarasi weaves. His fondness for the sari, which he describes as “a directory of Indian textiles”, is evident by the animation in his voice and generosity of adjectives used while on the topic. “It is the purest and most perfect Indian garment: versatile, beautiful and sexy.” He has developed a range of saris; his looms, whenever free, go into creative production to make these.

His voice is crisp, but his demeanour is non-confrontational. He doesn’t want to disrupt, he just wants to be true to his point of view. Perhaps that is what is missing from the Indian bridal milieu — sophisticated, cultivated points of view that offer a bouquet of options to the bride-to-be. Not one that remains limited to what Pratap Singh, at the risk of being politically incorrect, suggests is “a crazy obsession with an idea of ‘Indian royalty’ which manifests itself in a whole different avatar when it comes to wedding attire”.

The designer, who — literally, as we speak — is setting up one of his looms to weave a garment for a close friend’s daughter, has, in the past, designed a classic Benarasi lehnga woven with engineered motifs for his colleague Devika Multani and created a veiled brocade jacket with dhoti pants for Border and Fall’s Malika Verma Kashyap, for their wedding days. Pratap Singh holds strong to the fact that “people should be able to wear whatever they want to, on supposedly one of the most important days in their life. It should be an extension of their personality and whatever they are comfortable with. There must be no expectations, nor should their wardrobe selection be dictated by norms”. Verma Kashyap speaks about her choice of designer for her wedding outfit: “Reaching out to Rajesh was a simple decision, as was the process of creating it with him. I’ve always loved his clothing and the spirit in which he approaches design: it’s thoughtful and cuts through the noise.”

In essence, it boils down to sensibility. And realising that if you like his work, he’ll work with you to create something exclusive. A garment that would be simply the combination of his technique and your personality. Both irrefutably unique.

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Excerpts from a conversation with the designer….

Tell us about your problem with Indian women dressed like ‘royalty’ on their wedding day.
There is a confused ‘royal hangover’. What a lot of designers think royalty ought to be, or ‘nouveau royalty’. We already have a traditional wedding outfit (typical to different parts of the country). I believe you shouldn’t touch a garment that is perfect, unless you have something serious to say. I see bad reproductions of some things that existed or that which are thought to have existed: such as a cancan-gown-inspired lehnga. It is neither here nor there.

Do you believe you could create a relevant voice in nontraditional bridal wear?
The categories we work with, so far, have not included bridal wear. Jackets were what we started off with and that is where we progressed. Our job is to solve problems, and we didn’t look at the bridal market as having a problem. There are enough people in this sphere, with some doing a really decent job of it.

What does style mean?
Style is distinctive, definitive and comes from being within your comfort zone, in an effortlessly natural and honest way.

Do you believe that bridal wear, by nature, allows women to be comfortable?
Each to her own. While I don’t want to judge, I can’t understand women wearing something so heavy, where the internal construction has suspenders to carry the weight of the embroidery on the lehnga. I would not make something like that! Weddings in India are a long affair, so wear what you feel comfortable in. If you want to make a statement, make sure it’s one you believe in — the designer is the last person who should be the decision maker.

Today in India, can there be an androgynous bride….or an androgynous groom?
Today in India, you should be whoever you want to be and wear whatever you want to wear. That is the true essence and spirit of freedom. If a girl wants to wear a tuxedo for her wedding, go ahead. I’ll make it for you!

How would you design a lehnga?
With engineered motifs, and definitely woven. I can’t say that the alternative is a pin-tuck lehnga, which people ask for. The geometry of the pin-tuck lehnga won’t give the right finish to the garment; it’s not meant for that.

Basically, it is the personality of the individual that pushes a garment, rather than me trying to say, ‘I’ve made a lehnga, I’ve put 10,000 crystals on it, it costs you a bomb and you have to wear it.’ It may be great for business, but I am not in that business.

What would it take for a bride to convince you to make an outfit for her?
She just needs to ask. And if she’s interesting and intelligent, why not? If I know the person, I would do it out of love. If a random person throws money at me, I won’t do it.

There has to be a certain vibe and understanding. It’s difficult for me to do a faceless, nameless design of this nature. For that, I have tons of friends doing wonderful work and I’m happy to direct you there!

With Love From Scandinavia

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Published: Mint Lounge, September 23 edition
Additional images and content (end box) used in this post.

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Swedish philosopher and feminist Ellen Key described in her essay, Beauty For All (1899), a life that consisted of fewer but finer things—those that are functional and beautiful all at once. By the 1950s, Scandinavia (colloquially including the five countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark) witnessed a design movement characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality. It’s a design sensibility influenced in part by the stark beauty of the Nordic landscape, the harsh northern climate and a lifestyle that is driven less by excess and more by fulfilment. The long winters and reduced sunlight, for instance, have designers creating bright, light and practical interiors. It is visible in art as well: late-19th century Swedish artist Carl Larsson was known for his brightly coloured paintings, while innovative, futuristic shapes dominated the works of the late Verner Panton, one of Denmark’s most influential 20th century furniture-and-interior designers. Contemporary interior brands like HAY and Ikea are Swedish exports to the world.

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 9.50.02 PMLifestyle scape by Hay.

With fashion, the focus is on functional—and often multifunctional wear—rather than occasional glamour. Importance is given to longevity, and there is a drive towards go-to staples that you can experiment with, add your own personality to and build your look around. Over the decades, from the bold prints of the 1960s and 1970s to the boho chic of the 1990s, the fashion sensibility of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and their neighbours has emerged as a distinctive “Scandi style”.

Today, you can’t make a trip to any of the European fashion capital cities without walking into a boutique devoted solely to Scandinavian fashion brands, not to mention its deep impact on wardrobes via high-street or upmarket streetwear, like H&M. It’s what the chic Parisians and Londoners are buying, and what global celebrities are headlining.

We bring you a lexicon of the fashion brigade from Scandinavia.

ACNE Studios
Ambition to Create Novel Expressions (ACNE) is a 21-year-old brand that has bridged the gap between high fashion, ready-to-wear and streetwear, with its headquarters in Stockholm and outlets in major fashion capitals of the world.

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 5.42.04 PMFjällräven

Backpacks as utilitarian cool
Chasing functionality entwined with a “cool geek” sensibility are brands like Fjällräven and Sandqvist. Fjällräven uses G-1000, its own hardwearing and versatile fabric born from founder Åke Nordin’s experiments with building mountaineering jackets out of tent fabric, while Sandqvist is inspired by the untrammelled rawness of the Nordic landscape.

Ganni 2Ganni

Copenhagen Girls
Danish brand Ganni is an Instagram fashion wonder. In 2015, Danish model and photographer Helena Christensen took a selfie with her friend, actor Kate Bosworth, for Instagram (both wearing Ganni) and captioned it “#GanniGirls”. It went viral, via digital influencers like Danish models who post images of the latest styles while on their summer break. What began as a niche cashmere line has taken the quintessential “Copenhagen girl” global, with celebrities like Jessica Alba and Kendall Jenner buying into the brand and concept.

Expressive knitwear
Family-owned, heritage knitwear companies like the Swedish House of Dagmar (named after the founders’ late grandmother, a tailor) and Danish brand SNS Herning (specializing in knitwear geared for Nordic fishermen) focus on the basics. Dagmar has defined the term “expressive knitwear”, where inspiration is taken from architecture, contemporary art and culture, focusing on textures and cuts.

Gothersgade
The major street in the city centre of Copenhagen, Denmark, offers a wide range of shops and smaller boutiques.

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Scandi Kids
Nordic children’s brands emphasize on comfort, colour and print: from Swedish brand Mini Rodini started by an illustrator, Indikidual’s unisex pieces and Danish brand Bangbang Copenhagen’s circus play to Gardner and the Gang’s cartoon-embellished organic cotton and Soft Gallery’s poetic prints and embroidery.

More than H&M
In 2014, the Swedish multinational H&M Group was valued at €13 billion (around Rs99,300 crore), the highest-valued fashion brand in Europe. H&M also owns Cheap Monday (known for their hip skinny black jeans in the 1990s), the trendy & Other Stories, the younger-apparel brand Monki, and COS (Collection of Style), the unobtrusive brand which takes high-street wear into a chic new realm.

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New Nordic Movement
The award-winning, Copenhagen-based Henrik Vibskov is known for his avant-garde and forward-thinking designs in clothing (particularly men’s fashion), furniture, art and music. He is often associated with the “New Nordic Movement”, especially due to his serious runway fashion credentials.

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Performance footwear
Swedish brand Tretorn has expanded from weather-ready rubber boots to casual and performance footwear, with canvas shoes like Nylite and Racket. The brand that was born in 1891 holds a warrant of appointment to the Swedish royal family, making it an exclusive supplier to the court.

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Camilla Skovgaard

Toffel clogs
Sweden’s famous “toffel” clog has found its way into contemporary times with a modern look and vintage twist. Available in 22 countries, Swedish Hasbeens toffels (expanded from platform sandals to loafers, heels and clumpy boots), bags and belts are based on the original 1970s models, and are handmade with ecologically prepared natural grain leather. Meanwhile, award-winning footwear designer Camilla Skovgaard’s edgy spike heels and moulded platforms, which count patrons in actors Halle Berry and Kristen Stewart, and singer Rihanna, are available in 33 countries.

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 9.49.10 PMRAINS

Weather-proof textiles
Denmark’s wet climate has led to a surge in brands that factor in the weather. RAINS works contemporary cuts with weather-ready textiles, including classic rain anoraks and other waterproof apparel and accessories. Elka has rubbery, heavy gear, while Stutterheim applies the rubber fabric to handmade raincoats and SWIMS has a wide range of accessories made from 100% waterproof material.

OTHER KEY SCANDI BRANDS

By Malene Birger is worn by the Crown Princess of Denmark as well as the Duchess of Cambridge.

Bruuns Bazaar is the first Danish company to show in Paris in 1999.

FILLIPA K is a Swedish men’s and womenswear retailer believing in minimalist, pure, clean lines with high-quality fabrics and flattering cuts.

Wood Wood is a smart Danish athleisure brand with an attitude; with over 50 collaborations with brands from Nike to Disney and Fred Perry.
Gestuz Has a pared-down sophisticated sensibility for whom they describe to be a “Gestuz Girl”.

Astrid Andersen counts fans in Rihanna and Drake, and has taken forward the sport-luxe genre by adding materials like lace and fur to classic tracksuits.

Cecile Copenhagen Took two printed scarves and turned them into a shirt and a pair of shorts, which now count as signature pieces.

Norse Projects Copenhagen brand that blends streetwear and workwear towards a higher aesthetic.

Très-Bien The Swedish menswear store has an in-house label that speaks of minimalism and timeless silhouettes.

Sophie Bille Brahe Delicate and contemporary jewellery, counting Madonna as a fan.

Georg Jensen Classic Scandi jewellery that also collaborates with upcoming designers.

‘My child does nothing on a vacation, and that is alright’

Published: Conde Nast Traveller India, August 23, 2017
<A line not in the original piece added to this blog version>

What use is a holiday if all you do is chase itineraries?

What-to-do-with-kids-on-vacation-866x487Illustration via Conde Nast Traveller: macy75/Getty Images

When a well-meaning but slightly bitchy mother asked me, ‘What did you do on the holiday?’, I tried to explain the multiple dimensions of ‘nothing’ and ‘absolutely nothing’ without launching into a philosophical explanation. But ‘nothing’ somehow isn’t good enough, it isn’t satisfying. Can a EUR25,000 holiday be justified with ‘nothing’ to show for it besides a couple of fridge magnets and boarding pass stubs?

Having survived trips with some serious holiday Nazis, my husband and I have decided that we are not cut out for vacations ruled by checklists. And with cultivated practice, neither is our nearly-seven-year-old daughter Samaira. When she was a year-and-a-half, we spent a fortnight on a beach in Goa to a rhythm driven entirely by mood, with regular meals, books and showers thrown in. We stayed put at the hotel, without venturing anywhere—not even to that seafood shack everyone was ‘peri-peri-ing’ about. But, we returned home entirely refreshed and with the perfect tan—neither of which should be taken lightly.

After a hectic city life filled with the kiddie social circus of playdates, BFF parties, birthday bashes and NRI visits (all of which require the perfect tan) I’ve realised that the only holiday to write home about is the one with no agenda. The one where you do nothing.

<It’s more than that though, it’s our inherent attitude towards learning. The belief that only within rigid boundaries do we achieve; but I counter, only with a lack of boundaries do we have the space to create.> And so, from experience, I suggest ways to do ‘nothing’ rather effectively:

Age 2: On the grass by the lake, Salzburg
We walked the same roads often, strolling and taking in the beauty of the landscape, creating a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar city. We stumbled upon a playground right by the lake, with an old tyre for a swing. Parking our stroller there, we watched her play for hours, jumping and crawling, swinging and singing. Not wanting to put a time limit on freedom, we walked over to the town and brought back a picnic lunch in a nondescript paper bag. We sat on the embankment, lay on the grass and caught the few rays of sunshine on a cloudy afternoon. She felt like a child out of an Enid Blyton book, minus the pet. Sandwiches, cheese, lemonade, chocolate. Ducks that came to be fed. Memories that contain the joy of play that is not timebound, set to the music of the hills.

Age 3: The home life, Suburban America
A month in the States, and there was no ‘plan’. It was as simple as (or as much as) exploring the local preschool summer activities, playing games in the backyard, tending to the organic garden with her own watering can, going grocery shopping, walking in the woods, checking out the local strawberry festival and the butterfly farm, playing mini-golf, bicycling down leafy lanes, helping make meals, loading the dishwasher… Somehow they all served to foster spirit and maturity that Disney world cannot.

From the latter, you may enjoy the rides (that take an hour’s wait to get onto), bring back the toys and pleasant memories, but it’s a world of incredible make-believe. But by exposing them to a real-life environment that fosters independence in day-to-day skills, you allow them to explore a backyard filled with stories and mysteries of the imagination.

Age 4: People watching, Lisbon
In the long hours of summer, cafes on those cobbled streets were bursting with an eclectic mix of people. It seemed a shame to bypass the moment and rush off to the next place on the itinerary. Strong coffee, luscious berry tarts and people make for the perfect mix. We talked about a local shop that we liked, the street artist that appeared unable to take a bathroom break as he stood in the sweltering heat slathered with silver paint. We watched the birds swoop by and peck at tea-cake crumbles. We observed the American family that wore pearls and boat shoes together, and the Asian one that stared at their mobile phones together.

We tried to explain to our daughter why the two men—one scruffy and rather unwashed, and the other boho-chic—were holding hands, whispering sweet nothings and about to kiss. We thought of ways to tackle questions about marriage and babies with enough truth and enough circumspection. We watched her throw pennies into the water fountain, and talked about the significance and history of the buildings. People came and went, and we watched others who watched, taking a leaf out of the book of the best old-world artists and writers. We talked, mused, we stayed silent. Thoughts were built, explored and connected to new ones.

Age 5: Gallery observations, Budapest
A small travelling exhibit of a retrospective of Picasso’s art drew us in. We thought we could jet in and out quickly. I kept the folks waiting in the cafe as I took my daughter to check it out. She washed her hands off Picasso fairly quickly, but decided that Hungarian art deserved a bit more attention. War-torn moments, installations and gigantic abstract canvases caught her eye, and we spent five hours inside the National Gallery, where I had planned to spend 15 minutes. Children seem to have more interest in modern or abstract art than figurative art, perhaps. The lack of form allows them to draw from their imagination, which figurative art would perhaps limit them from doing. Sitting on those gallery benches, feeling like a moment out of The Thomas Crown Affair, helped rest my tired limbs and let her mind roam free.

Age 6: Cruise control, The Adriatic Sea
Every morning we would wake with anticipation of a new bit of land that would magically appear before us. Discovering a different country each day was an exciting experience, but cruises can be as hectic or peaceful as you would like them to be. With daily ports of call do you jam yourself in the routine of getting out, exploring and returning only to start the process all over again the next day? As we watched the hordes of travellers line up to ‘see’ the town and all its neighbouring heritage spots, we took a call—to not join them. We would begin with a leisurely breakfast on a nearly-empty ship, chatting with the crew that hailed from all parts of the world. Eventually, we would step out for a couple of hours to grab a light lunch or coffee in the town, drawing the locals into a conversation and keeping an eye out for an authentic home-grown boutique that stood out from the mass of chain stores.

Way before departure time, we would turn back, giving my daughter downtime in the balcony to sketch the day’s observations (while we Instagrammed), before the others arrived exhausted but replete with stories to tell back home. We had no stories; just flights of fancy, moods of a town captured through its locals and tourists, little streets or a Church explored. She had a point, after all, when she observed, ‘Mamma, all the ‘old towns’ look the same’.

Preview of Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017: Notes from the atelier

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Published in Mint Lounge

As the Lakme Fashion Week takes off in Mumbai today, here are five designers to look out for and the causes they express through their collections

Eco warrior: Chola by Sohaya Mishra

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Mumbai-based Mishra has worked with a monochrome palette, which she feels “leaves space for thoughtful interpretation and encourages conversations on the beauty of contrast”. “Black and white, two opposing forces yet complementary, work together to bring balance, inherent to the concept of sustainability,” she says in an email interview. This dualism is woven into her dialogue on sustainability. For the collection, Mishra is working with Recca, a recycled cotton fabric sourced from Tamil Nadu’s Anandi Enterprises, an organization that supplies organic cotton. The collection consists of recycled twills in herringbone and check weaves. The recycled cotton is soft and is different in texture from the light weight organic cotton she has used previously. The movement is forged by a social media initiative, run with the hashtag ‘#RestartFashion’, intended to educate consumers about the consequences of fast fashion and benefits of using post-consumer waste.

Master of the weave: Sanjay Garg, Raw Mango

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Delhi-based Garg’s latest collection, “Angels” or “Cloud People”, opens Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) this season, with an off-site showcase at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai. It highlights the softness of white with delicate chikankari on Bengal mulzardozi and handwoven brocade. “The angel motif adds a new vocabulary to chikankari, which traditionally features florals and paisley motifs. In this case, it was about questioning the use of chikankari, as almost everything seen today is a diluted derivative. The chikan work in this collection is incredibly fine and delicate.” Garg recommends viewing the garments closely to examine the insides and details. What you’re likely to discover is soft feathers and clouds of angels in flight.

Bender of Norms: Anaam by Sumiran Kabir Sharma

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Delhi-based Sumiran Kabir Sharma’s collection is inspired by Sonagachi, the red light district in Kolkata. “Our collection, ‘Sonagachi’, represents an unstoppable, unbeatable army of warriors from the infamous district, those who march headfirst in flowy uniforms. Fierce, nameless, ageless, genderless silhouettes representing the collective strength and a call for identity, respect and recognition,” says Sharma. He goes for a representative colour palette with grey, black and earthy browns. The material used is suiting fabric, which is conventionally menswear fabric used for uniforms or corporate clothing. Drapes and patterns co-exist to form unique silhouettes, dotted with epaulettes and stitch detailing. He asks that you “come prepared to view it with equality and acceptance”.

Nostalgia artist: Eká by Rina Singh

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Inspired by old, discarded sketchbooks and undone artworks, Delhi-based designer Rina Singh’s theme embraces unfinished techniques. She creates a patchwork of artisanal, aged textiles, in a subtle aesthetic of Gandhian India. “I like to use the feeling of familiarity as opposed to sharp, untouched starched clothes. I like to present the clothes with a feeling of being washed and touched by hand, almost like it has been a part of your wardrobe already,” says Singh in an email interview. She looked to late artist Amrita Sher-Gil for inspiration, and also reached out to activist-author Arundhati Roy and artist Mithu Sen, to ask them questions about their choices and mementos in clothing.

In this collection, you will find monotones of nude with washed-down teal, indigo and blush pink. Faded shades of cement, iron and charcoal “lend a sepia-tinted veneer”. Visualize unfinished floral motifs on jamdani silk wool, block-printed textiles in art mosaic, and embroidery in unspun wool, silk and cotton yarns.

Upcycling advocate: Doodlage by Kriti Tula

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Delhi-based Doodlage started with the idea of being able to use scraps from the garment industry and to work around fabric defects to create limited-edition collections. Tula has collaborated with Conserve India, a Delhi-based organization that re-purposes used polybags, discarded seat belts and tyre tubes. They will present together on the second day of the five-day event of LFW; the day is dedicated to themes of sustainability. “Upcycling industrial waste is the central idea of our brand. Each garment is created using industrial scraps, defected fabric and end-of-the-line fabrics which are all a part of pre-consumer waste that often end up in massive quantities of landfill,” says Tula. The collection for LFW, “Dreams and Dystopia”, addresses the chaos and distress in current political and social situations. “What we need is a call to action. To find the strength to push for change and to go beyond likes and shares on social media,” she says.

Deep tones of navy, maroon, sap green are combined with light under-tones of pastel blue and steel grey. “A layer of patchwork and prints representing complex city grids is superimposed with whimsical floral details,” says the designer. Doodlage employs slogans as part of its fashion vocabulary. “Clothing is a means of self-expression and slogans allow you to be more vocal and expressive,” says Tula, of the typographic design employed in her fashion line.

Timeless in Le Sentier: Bulgari’s watch atelier in Switzerland

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Published in Verve Magazine, July 2017
Additional text added to this post from original. Images by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh from her live instagram feed (Jan 2017).

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It is a mind-numbingly cold morning. We are the first call — before daybreak — on the coach taking us into snow-clad Swiss mountains to the Italian brand’s watchmaking atelier. Bulgari is best known for its jewellery (Elizabeth Taylor was a long-standing fan) and luxury goods including fragrances and leather accessories, and hotels. It is the brand’s incredible watchmaking journey, however, that is the focal point of discussion between the journalists of various countries today.

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Pascal Brandt

Upon arrival, we disembark at Le Sentier, a town tucked away from the world. Pascal Brandt’s passion (and attention to detail) is deeply evident as he greets us. The communications director for the Bulgari watch division has a background in journalism, and having previously worked with other watch brands like Vacheron Constantin and Panerai, he immediately comments on the watch on my wrist.

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The first Bulgari watches were made in the ’20s, but it was only at the end of the ’70s that the firm presented its first important collection. Following the success of the Bulgari Roma launched in 1975, the Bulgari Bulgari watch was created, a model that is now considered a classic and an icon, and continues to be one of Bulgari’s bestsellers.

The brand has come a long way, horologically speaking, since it founded the company, Bulgari Time, in Neuchâtel (the heart of Swiss horology) in 1982. Today Bulgari’s range of watches include several lines of classic, sporty, complicated and precious timepieces. For instance, 2014 saw the launch of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, the thinnest tourbillon movement ever made — creating a world record.

Guido Terreni, the gregarious managing director of Bulgari Watches, said to me at the Baselworld watch fair two years ago, “To be credible in luxury, you have to be credible in terms of style and craftsmanship both. That’s why we have developed the know-how internally. After all, the ladies are buying competence!” To that effect, Manufacture Bulgari fully masters the production of the mechanical watch movements ranging from grand complications to the ultra-thin hand-wound calibres, as well as the standard Solotempo self-winding base movements. Production of the external elements — metal cases, bracelets, high-end dials — is also done internally. The Manufacture’s vertical integration strategy — evidenced by a string of acquisitions from 2000 to 2007 — has enabled the brand to progressively secure the skills required to make a complete watch, catapulting Bulgari into the cluster of elite watch manufacturers.

The 350-plus workforce is spread over four sites in the Jura mountains: Le Sentier (which we are visiting) for the grand complication, ultra-thin Finissimo movements and the production and assembly of the Solotempo calibre; the Saignelégier facility for the gold and steel cases and bracelets production; La Chaux-de-Fonds for the manufacturing of high-end dials. Assembly and the final controls on the watch are at Neuchâtel, which continues to be the seat of the operations. What ties all the facilities together is the drive to succeed and the quest for perfection. After all, the journey to watchmaking success for Bulgari has been uphill; and now that they are at a remarkable height, it’s not one they will surrender easily.

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As we look out from the large windows of the Le Sentier facility in Vallée de Joux, it’s lonely and quiet. The kind of place that permits you to hear your thoughts, to explore silence and musical notes in précisément. Besides the variety of ‘classical’ sophisticated complications such as the tourbillon and the perpetual calendar for instance, Bulgari is at the top of its class in its ability to craft the whole range of highly acclaimed chiming watches. Its expertise is evident as we stand watching master craftsmen at work in the manufacture de haute horlogerie’s dedicated chiming workshop.

Each watch component is assembled (with up to 1,000 components), adjusted and decorated entirely by hand: it takes around one year for the master artisans to complete a single grand complication timepiece. We meet Bulgari’s John Sheridan, the industry’s youngest watchmaker to work on minute repeaters, which require incredible skill and knowledge by virtue of their extreme technical demands. Bulgari has four of the 12 minute-repeater specialists that exist in Switzerland — who need at least 20 years of experience. For Bulgari, as Brandt puts it, the Swiss high watchmaking tradition is in the hands of one Irishman, two Frenchmen and one Portuguese!

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You can’t help chuckling at the calendars on the wall — they are in the form of moonphases. The facility includes the technical office, the hotbed of the research and development of movement-related projects, and the production office where the complicated (and super-complicated) watches are produced. They are working on everything from pre-ordered pieces to a futuristic five-year plan, including some top-secret stuff that we may (or may not) have seen.

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As we head back, driving into sunnier skies, and stop for stunning photo ops at the frozen lake just outside our lunch spot, Bellevue Le Rocheray, we take a moment to admire the calm that is spread out around us. In that coolness of spirit, lethargy doesn’t prevail; rather the sounds of perfection sing through the hills. Bulgari as a watchmaker believes in quality assurance over quality control. The inspection is carried out not only of the final piece but also at three specific stages: during the creative phase, after each individual component is made, and during assembly. Every stage in the production process is monitored both by the watchmaker himself and by the quality assurance inspectors, who check functions and compliance with rigid quality parameters.

Bellevue Le Rocheray is a buzzing chalet tucked away into the secluded hills. Post the comprehensive walk-through of the facilities, the meal is leisurely, abrim with warm Italian hospitality. The wine is flowing and our vegetarian needs are particularly satisfied. The conversation on the table has shown Brandt, much like the core watchmaking team we have interacted with at the previous Baselworld fairs, to be witty, erudite and honest. I pose a question about the ‘Bulgari Diagono’ prototype with the ‘vault’ facility (the big moment from Baselworld 2015). While it has got held up in trying to get worldwide banks on board, we hope that some version of it may be in the market in the future.

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Falguni Kapadia, Sitanshi Talati-Parikh, Pascal Brandt

Terreni had said: “We are the only brand that thinks about technique and design simultaneously, we are not selling to watch freaks; we are selling to people who know what luxury is about and can recognise the authenticity of an idea and the craftsmanship in the watch. I love idea generation, to see the design grow, to see the prototype become true…but your emotion is the true reward of all this work. I don’t look for ‘I like’, or ‘I don’t like’; I look for ‘Wow’.”

Admittedly, now, having seen it with our own eyes, a Bulgari timepiece is the happy marriage of Italian creativity and Swiss technical craftsmanship. It speaks for itself that although last year saw the luxury industry on shaky ground, Bulgari finished the fiscal year, as Brandt puts it, “on a very, very good note!” After all, the Octo Finissimo minute repeaters (in their extra-thin collection) launched last year were all sold out. Brandt says simply, encompassing the enormity of what they do to be successful: “All the pieces are very wearable”. (Read my Baselworld 2015 interview with Guido and Fabrizio here.)

Payal Khandwala: Out of the Closet

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Published in Mint Lounge July 8, 2017
(Text edited from original). Photograph by Abhijit Bhatlekar

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Her brand-new cat interjects his way playfully into many parts of our conversation, and artist-turned-designer Payal Khandwala deals with the situation with the same composure that she would any other area of her life. Khandwala draws from her vivacious artist’s palette for the eponymous clothing line she first showcased in March 2012, 10 years after she moved back from New York to Mumbai.

Khandwala went to New York to study fine arts at the Parsons School of Design in 1995 and then worked with menswear designer Sandy Dalal in the US.

Unable to find clothes that she liked, and sensing the potential market for a prêt line, she decided to move from canvas to fabric. The line has taken on a life of its own: She started by retailing at Good Earth and now has two stores in Mumbai, and is stocked in multiple stores in four metros.

Khandwala, 43, has repeatedly made it to best-dressed lists for her individual sense of style, which is bold-hued, sleek and non-fussy. Her eyes are always made up dramatically, her petite frame is enveloped in colourful drapes, trousers and antique silver accessories. But what she wears best is her grounded attitude to life and style. After all, she is the one who popularized lehngas with pockets for women.

payal1-k6vG--621x414@LiveMintColour-coordinated brocade saris.

The saris in her wardrobe are grouped and hung in order of colour shades and sometimes, she says, she will just “undo it to avoid becoming a slave to that kind of discipline”. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Should we be surprised that your living spaces are minimalist and muted?
I am very practical; I don’t like fuss and clutter. Not only is it the way I design, it’s also the way I live. While I like accents of colour, I want the environment to be neutral. Besides, I can’t wear and be around colour simultaneously!

How different is your look now from your New York avatar?
As a student I didn’t have any money, but New York is full of flea markets and vintage stores. I was more bohemian: pairing jeans with a top, shawl or kaftan. I became more minimalistic when I began making clothes for myself, and with age, perhaps. I don’t want too much of either sophistication or free-spiritedness.

cat-k6vG--621x414@LiveMintDistressed jeans from Hong Kong.

You’ve struggled to find lowers that worked for you, how did you figure them out?
I love jeans because they stand the test of time (she’s “obsessed” with a pale pair from a mall in Hong Kong that is loose-fitting, distressed and bootleg). I always found everything else more formal, while high-street options are largely trend-based. So now if I want to wear a particular kind of pant (she counts the palazzo as a staple), I just make it.

Anything from “back then” that makes you cringe?
You won’t see me wearing colourful patent leather wedges or fluorescent colours. I disliked the 1980s and 1990s. It was the worst time for fashion. I did it then and it was a disaster. I have learnt my lesson.

Didn’t you have a love affair with saris?
I took two Abraham & Thakore cotton saris with me to New York, but it became a lot easier when I moved back to Mumbai, because of the weather. Being a part of the art circle, or maybe as a reaction to having been away so long, I began wearing saris more frequently, pairing them with tank tops or jackets that I procured from Vietnam, Cambodia or Istanbul. I easily have more than 80 saris (none of which are from my mother), including 50- to 70-year-old vintage brocade saris, and lehngas woven with pure gold thread, and an early Sabyasachi.

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Silver necklace from Istanbul.

Tell us about your eclectic jewellery collection.
I have a lot of silver jewellery: I wore it with saris for my wedding. I’ve not bought anything in ages, because there is very little of the genuine kind in circulation—they just make pieces that look antique. I’ve picked up stuff from Rajasthan (Jaipur and Udaipur), Istanbul and, earlier, from Amrapali. I am also fond of necklaces that are like thin discs made out of coconut or vinyl put together and tribal, Maasai-style pieces. I’m currently in love with flower-shaped leather rings that I picked out in multiple shades from a little Spanish store, Tierra (now shut down), in New York.

shoes-k6vG--621x414@LiveMintA pair of indigo brogues from Miz Mooz, New York

Do you believe in a “look”?
If you have a distinct sense of style, it will automatically come with a “look”. Any decision you make—if it comes from a place that is not external or trend-driven—is based on your personality. For instance, I’m an informal person. I will go to a restaurant and cross my legs and sit; so you will very rarely see me wearing anything that is short and tight.

Which is more important, fashion or style?
Style, of course! And that makes you question the male gaze. In much the way that Coco Chanel was trying to do by questioning the need for women to wear corsets—because there were men designing for women, with their idea of what a girl should look like. I feel now there is finally some conversation about this.

purple-k6vg-414x621livemint.jpgReversible handwoven jacket from Payal Khandwala.

What do you believe is key to making, wearing and choosing clothes?
It is simply a matter of taste that will connect all three. And while I know colour is what everyone responds to, the bedrock of a good outfit (for anybody of any size and shape) is proportion. It’s like assuming that a long skinny rectangle can be equal to a square. As you “cover up” with clothes, you are cheating: Perhaps three people in the world have a body that looks perfectly proportionate. The rest of us are stuck with bits and bobs and the lines we’ve earned and stretch marks we have fought for.

Payal’s colour wheel
Khandwala gives us her markers for special occasions

Brunch: Think beyond white. It works, but it’s predictable. I recommend citrine or coral.

Cocktail: Don’t feel compelled to pick black, go with a deeper bold colour. I’m partial to jewel colours, so sapphire blue, emerald green, perhaps with a hint of metallic.

Romantic date: Pick a colour that is an extension of your personality. This is probably the best time to be at your most comfortable. If you’re bold, I would recommend crimson; free spirits can try chartreuse; if you lean towards shyness, then powder blue, silver, or blush rose.

When in doubt: Neutrals like charcoal, black, navy, indigo and white work in most situations, so when unsure, turn to one of these shades. Whichever colour you pick, the key is to wear it with confidence.

Discovering Design: Alexandre Peraldi for Baume and Mercier Watches

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Published Vervemagazine.in July 3, 2017

Alexandre Peraldi has a fluid sense of fashion. He is passionate about ‘balance’ and is inspired by ‘everything and absolutely anything.’ Perhaps it is suggestive of the creativity that helps him keep the clock ticking at Swiss watchmaker Baume & Mercier (B&M), a brand that was founded in 1830. He’s been with the Richemont Group (a Switzerland-based company that owns some of the best luxury brands in jewellery, watches and writing instruments) since 1988, which incidentally is also when B&M joined the group. B&M are known for their sporty, classical watches in the ‘affordable’ mid-range luxury watch segment. Popular B&M lines include the Clifton Club – vintage watches based on the brand’s offerings from the mid 20th century, the minimalistic Classima, and Linea for women with interchangeable straps.

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Excerpts from an interview with the Baume & Mercier design director:

12 years at Cartier, 16 years at B&M. What has the journey been like?
“Patient. I’d like to use the line of the musician who said that, to be a good one, you have to learn classical music for 10 years and after that, you will be able to play jazz. I learnt ‘classical’ design at Cartier and I moved to Baume et Mercier to ‘play jazz’. It has been a very exciting journey.”

You believe in a fine balance with the tension of imbalance – how do you bring those two elements together to get that perfect jazz note?
“It’s difficult. First of all, it’s teamwork. At B&M, we try to design with the marketing, industry and design teams together. Being affordable is a very important constraint while being a great opportunity. You are obliged to go further in your design, to improve upon it and to be able at the end to find the best solution, with the best quality, with the best price. At Cartier, we designed directly and it reaches production without price constraint.

The other constraint is the aesthetics –  we try to stay classic with no extravagance. And yet, we have to find that touch of originality. Elements in design give this kind of balance between elegance, affordability and timelessness.”

Do you still sketch by hand?
“Yes. Less and less. I just engaged with two new designers, and it was very important that they are able to design by hand. When you have an idea in mind and when you work in a team, to explain something, you take a pen and like that… (sketches for Verve). If you don’t practice a lot, you lose your ability to design. We just spoke about inspiration – in the past, when I saw something, I always had a notebook to sketch in. Now, I have a phone to take a picture. While, now I can take a lot of pictures, later I may look at the picture and wonder why I took it – which wouldn’t happen if I were sketching what caught my eye.”

Does one design for the brand or for the market?
“The brand is nothing without the market. At the end, we have to be successful. We have to fit the needs of different markets, which is difficult. We are an old international brand and we have our own DNA. But, we have to adapt this design to the reality. So, we have to be aware of the competitors – not to follow them but to try to understand this market. The nightmare for us is that we don’t have our own boutique, so we can’t get direct feedback from the customer. Now, with social media, it will be a little bit easier because when the people don’t like something, they say it. (But when they like something, they don’t say it!)”

What is the future of the wristwatch?
“I don’t know! I am not really pessimistic. It’s an old story in watchmaking, that we (watchmakers) continue to exist, albeit, differently. Let’s take a parallel of the car. In the past, cars were all the same. The only change we had for years was the front-wheel drive and automatic transmission, and now you have electric or driverless cars. But a car with the motor, engine, wheels and doors will continue to exist; and I think it will be the same for the watch.
Perhaps we would change some details within the watch: the movement, connection or connectivity. The first step is the Apple Watch, but it’s not the final step. We didn’t imagine it in science fiction, but now everything is possible. When you see Star Wars, it is not the future. It is now. It will not be the role of the designer to change the watch, but of the innovator, who may come up with new materials, perhaps.”

What should an Indian buyer know about a B&M watch before buying it?
“They should know that it’s a very comfortable watch.
1. It fits the wrist well. It’s a sports watch, but you can wear it with anything. If someone says to me, ‘I forget the time while wearing your watch’, then my work is done.
2. The second comfort is that of aesthetic appeal. We are a classic, elegant brand. We are not aggressive or extravagant. We pay attention to details that would make a difference to the wearer.
3. And the third comfort is that of the wallet. We have to be affordable.”

 

Have The Bag And Eat It Too!

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Published in Mint Lounge, Saturday May 27, 2017
(Additional images and content used for this post)

If you eat meat, stop reading now. If you are often accused of being a grass-eater, carry on. The eureka moment, when you realize that if you don’t eat it, you shouldn’t wear it, is accompanied by a sense of sartorial discomfort. In India, while designers flirt with the idea of cruelty-free fashion, it’s not all-encompassing. Satin clutches and beaded pouches aside, where do you find the sophisticated bag, the kind with fashion lineage and net worth, the bag that speaks a million dollars with a slight flash of its label? Where do you find a bag that isn’t nouveau riche and one which shows that you care? It may sound noble, but saying no to leather isn’t glamorous when your options are polyurethane.

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Stella McCartney’s #FalabellaBox in wicker.

In 2001, Stella McCartney, a life-long vegetarian and a supporter of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, took her lifestyle choice and made it a sustainable business. The British designer doesn’t use leather or fur in any of her high-end fashion products. They are cool, edgy and modern and keep the good politics alive, one animal at a time. It actually mimics leather so beautifully that you wouldn’t know the difference, unless your eye picks out the giveaway trademark metal edging (and really, with that price tag, it will keep society from judging you on the basis of your bag).

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Matt & Nat’s ‘Parallel’ Handbag, worn as a briefcase or cross-body bag.

While McCartney’s classic Falabella handbag (distinguished by a braided chain detail) packs a punch, the Canadian company, Matt & Nat (Materials and Nature), came as a complete eye-opener. When it arrived in the mail (after the whole customs shindig), the vegan bag itself was sleek and functional, but what the “live-beautifully” product said was that the lining was made with 100% recycled plastic bottles (clocked at approximately 21 bottles per bag). The label is made from recycled cork, the price tag moonlights as a bookmark. They have introduced recycled bicycle tyres in their collection and on Earth day, their Instagram post noted that they have recycled over three million plastic bottles to create the linings of their bags. Unlike cheaper man-made materials, this bag lasts until you tire of it, without any difference in texture or appearance.

While their site does not publicize it, the founders are of Indian origin: Inder Bedi launched the company in 1995 after moving to Montreal to go to university and attempted to go vegan. He found his options limited, so he set out to become a game changer. Five years later, Manny Kohli, another passionate vegan, joined him, and is currently president and chief executive officer. Their office lives by the philosophy, including having monthly vegan potluck meals.

 

Gunas bag and wallet.

Take another instance of vegetarian-turned-vegan Sugandh Agrawal, who grew up in India and now lives in New York. Her experience with raw hide, while interning at a local handbag design firm that specialized in exotic skin handbags and shoes, led her to start her own line of vegan fashion wear, Gunas.

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Grain’s stirrup tote bag.

Unlike man-made leather, ahimsa leather, which has become a topic of serious discussion in India over the last few years, is made from the hide of dead animals. Grain, started by Avinash Bhalerao in 2014, offers unisex bags. While no certification is provided, they work with 30-year-old tanneries that recycle the skin of dead animals into leather, which is the closest you can get to the real thing, without actually harming the animal.

Brands like Guess are dipping into the man-made leather initiatives—but it wouldn’t be amiss to begin thinking about sustainability, and going all the way while you are at it. It is a process of transition, as model Renee Peters explains on Ethica, an ethical fashion blog: “The hardest thing about going completely green has been doing it while being a member of the fashion industry and wanting to express my personal style. I have to work harder at curating my own look….” Go ahead, make a difference, one bag at a time. There is #NoRheson to say no.

 

Stella McCartney’s Falabella wallets and bags made from eco alter-nappa and the oversized Stella Popper. 

Where To Find It:
Stella McCartney
Matt and Nat
Angela Roi
Gunas
Freedom of Animals
Ethica
Modavanti
Rheson