The Curse of Fashion

As published in the first issue of ‘Smudge- The Social Nudge’

Today, I stepped out wearing a men’s pinstripe dress shirt tucked into high-waisted ankle trousers, underneath which fierce purple gladiators stood their ground. A pair of oversized shades reminiscent of the 70s and a canvas Louis Vuitton tote acted as loyal companions while a single white champa flower added that extra oomph to my updo. Even just visualizing this outfit gives me the warm fuzzies but for most people, it makes them want to scratch their heads and wonder if I dressed in the dark today. They say that being a woman in Pakistan is one of the toughest things to be, I am here to tell you that being a fashionista is even harder.

As I walked across campus, a score of varying reactions greeted me. Puzzled, bewildered looks accompanied by a slight tilt of the head was the most common one; some looked at me with curiousity and intrigue, while most just seemed confused. It was only a rare few who expressed appreciation and a hint of admiration. I was used to such feedback, it was not unusual for me, and I actually enjoy it for the most part. Fashion comprises a huge chunk of my life, I love looking at clothes and imagining different combinations with them. I could spend hours going through collections online and probably about a week in just one shop. I change my outfits around 4 times everyday before finally settling on one, and I have a habit of making sure nothing I wear looks too ‘common’ or ‘ordinary’. It sounds crazy to a lot of people, and maybe it is, but looking good is directly related to feeling good. I dress the way I want to, in the fashion I prefer, because it’s a passion I like to indulge in. I enjoy the creative process involved, but for the majority of people, being ‘fashionable’ means to ‘fit in’. In salons all across Pakistan, aunties flock in for their weekly manicures, monthly botox shots, and almost daily blow dries. I doubt this happens because Nabila’s is suddenly charging cheap-as-chips rates, but more likely because that is just what they need to do to be able to host next month’s much-awaited kitty party.

Women throughout the ages have rallied for more rights, greater recognition and fair treatment irrespective of their gender. They have fought to escape from the cage of a patriarchal society, such as that of Pakistan, yet by their very need to belong and fit in, they chain themselves to a stereotype. The Islamization ruling that women must always have their heads covered on television has simply transformed into another one which dictates that women must always look glamorous, meticulous and gorgeous. Women’s empowerment seems to now be coming from the prestige of the spa they go to and the designer they prefer rather than the university degree they hold or the career goals they have accomplished. Fashion is just another platform now for women to grapple over, rather than one which they can use to further express their independence. I suppose I am not an exception to this rule. On the ‘liberal’ campus of LUMS, I feel relatively comfortable walking around with my calves bare, and my waist heavily emphasized with a cinch belt, but if I were to roam around the streets of Liberty market in the very same outfit, my comfort level would be decimated. I would think twice, not about the fact that I should be able to wear what I want despite being a woman, but that perhaps because I am a woman, I am required to be demure and modest.

We live in an age that thrives on an obsession with perfection. It is fueled by a game of perception and perspective, where the former almost always supersedes the latter. I started expressing myself through the clothes I wear, but in doing so, I’ve created an image for myself that I sometimes feel forced to follow. I adore couture and all its bizarre trends, but sometimes I just want to go out wearing granny slacks and my brother’s old t-shirt. But that nagging idea of perception comes into play, and my perspective shifts so that I start rummaging through my closet for vintage wear again. Similarly, a person often just follow trends and adopt fads because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do; fashion is about communicating your distinct personality, but in following it, many people just end up looking the same. Fashion is not about doing what everyone else is, it is about wearing and liking what appeals just to your own eclectic soul. So go ahead, banish those long, flowing kameezes from your wardrobe which you’ve been wearing even though you hate the expansive hemline, and wear the knee-length shirts again which you’ve been craving for.

‘Aisha’ – A Fashion-Savvy Watch

I went to watch ‘Aisha’ the same day it released in the UAE. Now I am not much of a movie buff when it comes to Bollywood, but after watching the trailer for this movie, I just could not resist! I’m not crazy about Sonam Kapoor, nor did I go for the fact that ‘Aisha’ is supposed to be an adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’. (Austen is Austen, how much better could a Bollywood version of it be better than the original? I mean, come on!) I went for the fashion, the amazing wardrobe, the gorgeous styling, and to see whether a Bollywood movie could actually pull off Dior!

Let’s just talk about the movie here, without going to the styling yet, which is hard to do since the clothes were SUCH a huge part of every single scene. It’s not Stratford-upon-Avon stuff but it was a light watch without any garish dancing-around-trees song sequences or any melodramatic and exaggerated dialogue. Sonam Kapoor was alright, it was an average sort of role that did not require any tremendous display of actings kills and she was so-so; it was the supporting cast that stole the show, the three friends, Abhay Deol, and even the super-hot Lisa Haydon acted better than what their character required.

Back to the clothes.

Formalwear that oozes casual, who wouldn't want to go to work in these?

Abhay’s wardrobe in the entire movie screamed Wall Street, just look at that slick skinny tie!  From Valentino to Hugo Boss, he stayed suited up the whole time, and my, what a sight for sore eyes he was! Each and every piece was cut to perfection, and suited his lean frame incredibly well. Sigh.  Now let’s get to what Sonam’s wearing.  The first thing you notice is how the bright blue of the linen shorts contrasts with the white, and this is a great way to add a splash of colour to a typically dull formal-white-shirt-and-trousers combo. Is that a pink snakeskin belt I see? The comb hairband looks neat and can cure any bad hair day, and what’s NOT to love about that Chanel bag!

I just can't get enough of Abhay in a suit, and lookie there, I own that very same headband!

How amazing does that suit look? Wow. The dull beige of the suit should clash with the darker beige of the tie, but they both complement each other surprisingly well, and those dimples could melt a glacier. Sonam’s wearing a vintage Chanel suit here, which according to Pernia Qureshi (the stylist of the movie), was rather difficult to obtain; hanging blissfully off her shoulder is, once again, a classic Chanel bag. On her head is an adorable black-bow headband, one of which I own as well; not many people can do headbands but Sonam is one of the lucky few and throughout the movie, her headbands look uber chic. The monochrome Chanel suit actually looks a lot like a modern Marc Jacobs creation, but nonetheless, I went green with envy went Sonam strutted across the screen in this. Chanel + vintage + headband = MY DREAM COME TRUE!

This looks like a still out of Gossip Girl!

Black and white, always a winning combination! Is it just me or is Sonam Kapoor dressed up a lot like Leighton Meester’s on-screen persona, Blair Waldorf? Even so, I think Sonam does justice to the look: the dress is just the right length and the shoulder detail of black ruffles is bang on trend, the black beret is quite Parisienne, and the big black shades and are the perfect accessory. The black Lady Dior bag is a collector’s item, on top of my list along with the Birkin bag, and I honestly wish I had Anil Kapoor as a dad to produce my film JUST so I could have this bag! The only problem I have with Sonam’s outfit are the black pumps, a pair of black Loubs would have looked soooo much better, but nonetheless, the overall look is still top-notch. Her friend on the side is also pretty trendy: she’s wearing a Manish Arora Mickey Mouse warrior top and those fierce shoulders remind me of Balmain’s 2009 fall collection. It’s been paired here with short shorts and knee high boots, and looks like something I’d see in a couture show. Nice!

This is SO Blair

Okay I included this picture of Sonam JUST to prove a point. In interviews, she’s denied that the styling of Blair Waldorf had anything to do with her look in Aisha, and I find that reallyyyyyy hard to believe. Here, she’s dressed in what looks like a gunmetal March Jacobs dress, paired with a white bow waist belt (which I own in purple, thank you very much), heart-shaped sunnies and a bright pink chain bag. Does anyone recall Blair and Serena’s photoshoot at the very beginning of the show for Eleanor Waldorf’s collection? I think it was in Season 1 (Episode 4) and the two girls decided to model the outfits together. This pose is SO similar to one of Blair’s that I was taken aback that it wasn’t actually her, but Sonam Kapoor, so kudos to Sonam for perfecting the look so well.

All in all, this was a Bollywood movie that stands apart from all others, simply because this is one of the very first of its kinds: an Indian movie that actually takes the importance of good styling into account! It features clothes not just from established fashion houses such as Chanel and Dior but also relatively new ones like Acme and Marc Jacobs; lace, ruffles, pearls, suits, sarees, the movie has it all! Of course, I loved it a lil bit more just because so many of the clothes are of the sort that are in my own closet downstairs, hehe. A little heads up to the rest of the over-the-top producers in Bollywood: watch and learn from ‘Aisha’, and use more of your production budget when it comes to wardrobe! I definitely got my money’s worth from it: the couture, the headbands, the designer bags and of course, Abhay’s cute-as-buttons dimples.

P.S: This movie is a statement for the amazing style make-over Sonam Kapoor has had over the years. When she started off with ‘Saawariya’, she was a nobody who dressed in Anarkalis and lehenga-cholis. A couple of years later, she discovered personal stylist and TA-DA! She is now a fashion force to be reckoned with; just goes to show you that clothes do make the person.

Shoe Love

I love shoes. I know they’re common objects of affection for women but it’s hardly surprising.  The right pair of shoes can make or break an outfit and all of us, yes even the guys, crave to have a walk-in closet solely for the sake of housing our unlimited pairs of designer foot candy. 

Giuseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Alexander Birman, the list truly is endless, just as the number of zeros in the price tags.  Although each and every show creation is fabulous and oh so fashion savvy, here are some of my favourites:

Heels made to kill by Christian Louboutin

Lets start with a pair that’s really out there.  These fierce heels designed by Christian Louboutin were actually part of the Rodarte Fall collection in 2008.  Here they are worn by Victoria Bekham, the ultimate queen of super-high heels, who actually looks quite calm walking in these despite the fact that her toes are all squished.  I love these because they are outlandish and they scream aggression, just look at how the bright crimson sole clashes with the shine of metallic gold!  They are definitely not a pair that just anyone would want to wear, let alone carry off or even afford to buy!

Stunning an sophisticated, the rose pump by Valentino.

After the previous shoe, this one looks quite sober in comparison.  Yet, it’s not dull or boring, but rather elegant, classy and still quite stylish.  Designed by the house of Valentino, this sleek heel is the perfect evening companion; wear it with an LBD or a startling red taffeta gown, and you’ve got yourself an outfit that will wow them all.  The look of the shoe is modern yet also undeniably classic and sophisticated, and the trademark rose of Valentino gives it an extra oomph.

The shoe that's captured many hearts, the satin blue pump by Manolo Blahnik

 I am sure all the girls, and maybe some of the menfolk, will recognise this shoe right away.  It’s the one that Mr Big proposed to Carrie with in the SATC movie, the shoe that brilliantly lit up the whole all-white custom-made shoe closet that Carrie had gotten built.  Sigh, I was so full of envy during that scene.  Sarah Jessica Parker, and her on-screen persona, Carrie Bradshaw, is known for her love of Manolo Blahniks and it’s easy to see why.  I just adore the colour of this, the electric blue is blight but not hurtful to the eye, and the intricate embellishment adds sophistication and baances out the bright bue.  Wear it with a dressed down outfit in pale colours, or better yet, make it your ‘something blue’ on your wedding day, and your feet will be a sight for sore eyes.

Lace has made it big the past couple of seasons and this Jimmy Choo shoe proves that.

 Think vintage.  Think gothic.  What do you picture?  I am sure this shoe will not be first on your list, and it’s for that reason that it’s on mine.  The Faye Lace Pump by Jimmy Choo is not an ordinary buy; for one thing, it’s definitely not something you can pair with any old outfit.  This is a shoe that must be worn with care, after great reflection on the outfit so that it doesn’t overpower the shoe.  I love this for the burlesque feel it has to it; Ican easily imagine someone like Dita von Teese wearing this with a pomegranate-red corset dress and pulling it off with great flair. The lace is extremely feminine, and only the truly daring would combine it with a masculine outfit of cropped pants and a boyfriend blazer.

These were just a handful of some of my favourite shoes, I haven’t even gotten to boots or flats yet!

Coco before Chanel

I watched a great movie over the weekend – Coco avant Chanel.

Audrey Tatou as Coco Chanel

The title is pretty self-explanatory, its obviously about the life of Coco Chanel (whose name was actually Gabrielle btw) and how she became the trailblazing designer and founder of THE brand of the world. 

I love fashion, and for me, Chanel is right at the top.  It beats every other fashion house in terms of elegance, sophistication and history.  It’s creations have always been timelessly classic, uber elegant and oh so chic (barring, of course, the latest few fiascos of full-body fur suits and what not). 

The movie depicts Coco’s rise to the top, but its not as cliched as it sounds.  She is an orphan who works as a seamstress during the day and sings at a cabaret bar/parlour with her sister to earn money, and even then she’s extremely picky about who to take it from and the line between singing and selling your body.  The song that she performs is extremely catchy and about a a little puppy called Coco who is lost: Qui qu’a vu Coco dans l’Trocadéro? (Who’s seen Coco in the Trocadero?) This is how Gabrielle earned the nickname of Coco.

She catches the eye of a baron by the name of Balson and it is through this liaison that she makes her entrance into the high society.  Balsan himself is a character who I, as a viewer, both despised, pitied and even empathised with; his multifacetedness is depicted brilliantly.  As much as she desperately wants to go to Paris and become rich and famous, she is equally disdainful of the opulence that she witnesses in the social circle of the creme de la creme.  Hers is a paradoxical nature, and though she knows she was destined for greatness, she’s also puzzled about where it is that she belongs or what her place in the world really is. 

She starts designing hats for the society women and begins to make a name for herself for having a minimalistic and chic approach to accessorizing.  This is emphasized immensely in the movie by the way Coco prefers to dress up in men’s trousers and vests instead of soft, pink and lacey gowns.  She refuses to wear a corset, preferring instead that the fabric fall naturally on the body, and she continuously mocks the other women under her breath for their excessive display of jewels and use of rich fabrics.

The movie also shows Coco’s affair with the English businessman Arthur Capel, and its tragic end was so beautifully depicted that anyone who’s ever had a love story cut short will definitely be able to relate.  It also offers an explanation for why Coco never married, as she herself says in the movie that she is not the type of woman to marry.  I think there’s a direct quote from her regarding why she never married a certain Duke, and she just said that there are many Duchesses but only one Chanel.  Sigh.  She was a woman ahead of her time and exasperatingly independent, truly deserving of the being the icon she became.

The REAL Coco in 1938, oozing with oomph

Audrey Tatou does a fantastic job at playing the role of Coco, she lives and breathes the character through every nuance and every gesture.  She embodies the essence of Coco, and bears a startling resemblance to the icon.  It may not be a subject of interest for many, but for anyone who has even the slightest inclination towards or passion for fashion, this movie is a must-watch.  There were so many instances that inspired me, and I was just in awe of it all.  The outfits are all amazing, and it’s really fascinating to watch the origins of the simplistic, demure and ultra chic designs that the fashion house of Chanel is so renowned for creating.

Note:  The movie is entirely in French so if you are flunet in the language, it’s a rela treat to watch.  Otherwise, keep your English subtitles on and the experience is just as gratifying.

Dissecting my fashion sense…as a baby

So I was looking through old pictures back when I was home and I realised something:  whoever dressed me had a hidden Rachel Zoe in them.  I was a cute baby (not modest about it either :P) and there were times when I looked like a fashion-savvy toddler but also many other times when I was dressed hideously in atrocities I can’t even define.  So in this post, I bring to you readers a couple of photographically captured moments from my childhood with a ruthless analysis of what I was made to wear.  Hit or miss, you decide.

all dolled up, but am i really loving it??

Ok so here I think I’m about 3 years old and the expression on my face is evidence enough of what I think about the outfit I was made to wear.  Not pleased, not at all.  There is just too much going on.  The sailor neck, the bow, the polka dots, the ruffled skirt, the red tights; they’re all really cute and chic individually but put them all together and you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of what NOT to wear.  The baubles in my hair are distracting and it’s probably a good thing I can’t see the shoes that were put on me.  Take away the bow, the layered ruffles and the tights and you’d have a better, albeit simpler, outfit.  And simplicity is the ultimate sophistication but I guess whoever dressed me wasn’t too concerned with how urbane a 3 year old should look.  This, folks, is the reason why they say that pictures from the past do come back to haunt you.

Ok why do I look so grumpy in pictures?  Couldn’t someone have just told me to smile and actually look like a happy kid?  I suppose I was too preoccupied with thinking about eating the cake in front of me, and that also explains why I didn’t protest before I was dressed in this…creation.  I think I was about 4 or 5 here, not quite sure.  Let’s go from top to toe on this one:  now the side ponytail is normally very stylish and swanky and it might’ve worked here if didn’t have those things dangling from it, what are those anyways, ribbons or tentacles?  Thebangs are a nice touch, but sadly, they’ve been swept the wrong way.  I like the overall navy blue, white and red combo, its very sailor girl (what’s with the obsession with the navy?) but once again, the outfit is a bit too busy.  I like the lace but the sailor neck has got to go and the shade of red of the shoes isn’t quite the red that’s on the dress.  It’s just a slight difference in the tint but it’s the details that make the dress.  All in all, not a horrible effort.

Those are all the pictures I can bear to share for today.  I was a cute kid though, right?

p.s:  for reviews of ACTUAL runway shows and collections, http://www.thirdsmagazine.com is a good page to check out (I’ve even contributed a couple of reviews myself).  It may not be as commercial as style.com but we like it that way.

Vacation woes and Dubai Mall

I’ve only been on ‘vacation’ for 2 days and I already feel like a beached whale. Ugh.

I have oodles of things to do and yet I am being lazy and lethargic.

Things to do:

1) Read the first 300 pages of The Brothers Karamazov for Lit class

2) Read and decode the 30-page booklet on ‘How to Make Money Blogging’

3) Start doing my assignment on ‘What is piety?’ based on the works of Socrates, Viktor Frankls and Al-Ghazali

4) Raid the racks of H&M and shop, shop, shop for all my summer essentials

The last thing on the list is the only one I’ve made any headway on, obviously. Teehee.  I just resent the fact that I have to do university coursework in my week OFF from university.  Sigh.  But one must do what one has to do, and all the other cliches on necessity.

Dubai Mall, by the way, sucks balls (pardon my French).  It’s beyond HUGE, has over 1200 stores which is fine if you want to LIVE there but for one of those leisurely, therapeutic strolls, it’s not the place to go.  It takes about 10 mins just to figure out their map, another 10 to get to where you want to go because the stores are all so far away from each other  (H&M is at the exact opposite end of the mall from Bloomingdales).  It’s got a monstrous aquarium (which leaked last month and caused the mall to close!), a gold souk, an artificial waterfall, about 3 different type of arcade areas for kids, a luxury hotel attached to it and over 100 restaurants. 

I know it all sounds rather grand and heavenly but I didn’t like it much, it’s too big, has way too much and just all seems like a sham of a mall.  But then again shams are what Dubai excels in creating and selling.  Personally, I like my malls normal-sized.  Dubai Mall’s only redeeming qualities are that it boasts of a magical giant store called Candylicious which has, as the name suggests, every and any type of sweet thing imaginable and a Fashion Avenue thats lined up with stores I drool over and can only dream about even entering.  Alexander McQueen (RIP), Chanel, BCBGMaxAzria, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs, Valentino.  Sigh again.  And some cliche about turning dreams into reality.