Archive for the ‘An Essay on Street Fashion’ Category

An Essay on Indian Street Fashion

January 12, 2012

This is a story I did for HT Brunch with some additional images & text. It’s about drawing analogies between trends I documented in small towns and urban fashion, and my experiences.

mcleodganj sky

mcleodganj

street style india mcleod ganj
Photos: My first photo in McLeodGanj; the town; Tibetan boy on Temple road.

“Photographing street fashion started as a weekend thing for me on a trip to McLeodGanj. I was living and working at an NGO there. I had weekends to kill, the place was new, people looked different. Everyday I’d sit by the sidewalk and take photos.

I’m often asked why I photograph the kind of people that I do. I don’t think I’m looking for anything in particular. I just want to make good photos that are socially and culturally relevant. I’m also taking photos for documentation and it’s exciting to make all these images a part of the global ‘street fashion’ conversation with the help of social media.

street style india ht brunch fashion

masoom minawala street style india
Photos: Girls of Summer | Masoom Minawala, Fashion blogger.

Bollywood:The biggest trendsetter in India
Undoubtedly, Bollywood hero is the ultimate fashion idol for the common man whose style inspirations, conscious or not, are Bollywood films. For instance, men wearing unbuttoned shirts with their chests exposed, with or without accessories, is the most common trend seen on the Indian street romeo, “Indian MTV” niche, and Bollywood fans.

In small towns, many shops are still selling FRIEND caps from Maine Pyar Kiya & friendship bands from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Clearly, these Bollywood films still have an impact on the local fashion a decade later. In some towns, men are wearing skinny jeans – not a Bollywood inspiration & the only digression -possibly a remnant of the skinny jeans trend that became rampant when some Indian denim brands launched their range of skinnies and slimfits in 2007. A shopkeeper in Bareilly who stocks skinnies for men says his contacts in Delhi, where the stock comes from, tell him what’s in trend.

street style india

street style india

street style india bandra
Photos: Boys in Aurangabad; boys on Khar Danda, Bombay.

Also, there was a time when masses in urban sphere related colours to sexuality. A guy wearing pink would be tagged ‘gay’ in general conversations. This mindset is yet to reach the small towns. In Aurangabad and other similar small towns, men wear pink shirts and walk around holding hands. (related: Stuff Indians Like #170: Holding hands).

In small towns blind aping makes Bollywood the biggest fashion trend.

poster street style men india

street style india
Photos: Hoardings in Aurangabad(on a street +outside a men’s gym).

Why runway trends don’t permeate to mass fashion in India?
Fashion designer, Anand Bhushan says, “we don’t imitate runway but Bollywood. Remember SRK’s C-O-O-L neck chains?”

Bandana Tewari says in an interview, “Bollywood is by far the biggest marketing tool for anything that you do in India.” Fashion has to go through Bollywood if it has to reach the masses. Does the common man follow Indian runway fashion? Where is the vision and interest of the masses? Is there even a need for Indian runway trends to reach masses?

Isha Bhansali, stylist at Femina adds, “runway trends don’t go mass because there is no link between Indian high street fashion and Indian fashion on the runways unlike markets abroad. Just how Zara follows catwalk to boardroom procedure, Indian high street labels like Chemistry do not do that with catwalk; they follow international high street.

In Ramp Up, Hindol Sengupta blames the designers. “Unfortunately the appeal remains niche and confined as designers make little effort to really reach out to a wider consumer base. In many ways, runway fashion is the circus of the rich but that’s true for perhaps the entire high-end leisure industry. The thing about the clothes industry is that unlike caviar farming or customised jets, it does not necessarily have to be elitist. The young with dispensable incomes should be addressed by these designers.”

While Anand Bhushan designs for a niche market. He says, “These are the mega mansions one would expect out of a luxury label. I don’t want the world to own my clothes but crave in for a desire to own one. Restraining the supply chain in essential.”

street style india fashion



Trends in small towns
In small towns, it’s rare to find an urban middle class person wearing the same piece of clothing as the working class. Usually, clothing of working class people going about their daily jobs is comfort driven and practical. From the old town of Jodhpur to the streets of Shillong — great style is pretty much everywhere. David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore agrees and says, “Often the most beautiful textiles and clothing are worn by the simplest and the poorest in our society. And with great style.”

In Salem, I found an abundance of men clad in madras checks lungis. IOU a clothing brand based in Spain makes all its clothes out of these madras checks fabrics.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: Man in Ellampillai, Salem; Paloma Monnappa in Bombay.

In Asansol, the daily wage workers wear Lungis with gamcchas out of practicality & necessity. In Jodhpur, men wear colorful turbans with buttoned-up shirts, tailored jackets with dhotis, and jewellery. Women wear vivid saris and plenty of jewelry. Shillong is full of fashion conscious young people unlike any other city in mainland India. Their influences vary from Korean pop stars, Japanese films, to American sitcoms and music videos.

street style india

street style india

jodhpur old city
Photos: Man/Woman in Jodhpur; Old city near the Mehrengarh Fort.

Connecting street style and fashion trends. I am not looking out to do that on purpose but sometimes it’s just out there. If I remember seeing something somewhere and can make a connection, I definitely will.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: a fashion writer for NYT at fashion week and a man on street in Aurangabad.

I saw the scoop neck tee shirt & cotton pants worn by working class men in all four small towns I went to. Pants below were selling on the streets for less than 100 Rs. I picked a pair and photographed them on a friend.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: Man on street in Aurangabad and Katarina Levshova, a fashion model, in Bombay.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: Torn. Ekta Rajani, senior fashion editor Grazia at fashion week and a drifter in Shillong.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: Sacha, fashion stylist, at fashion week and a man on street in Salem.

Experiences
Taking photos on the streets is tiring and exciting. I was once detained & questioned for two hours by the police in Aurangabad as I was taking photographs inside the High Court premises.

In Salem, I was taking photos outside a church and the police asked me to produce an id. They told my cab driver in Tamil that my visiting card did not seem genuine as it didn’t say I was a photographer & didn’t have my house address.

I was mobbed in a small clothes market in Bareilly. People saw my camera and wanted me to take their photos. They were genuinely intrigued.

Once I was followed by two drunk men who first asked me to take their photos then asked me to give them money and my camera for taking their photo.

It’s easier to photograph people in tourist-drawn places like Dharamsala & Jodhpur. People are used to photographers and they don’t give them much attention. While in small towns that are not on the tourist radar, it’s a bit difficult to manage a single photograph without drawing some attention.

street style india fashion

street style india fashion
Photos: Recycling girls & Paloma Monnappa.

Indian streets are stimulating, colourful, unpredictable, and make for great photos.

street style india

Documenting people on the streets requires patience. People talk, linger, stare, get mad. It’s all normal.

street style india woman

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Next up: Preview of the project I was working on during Nov-Dec. I did street casting + a few other things for a TVC.

Priyanka bose street style India

street style india railway station

Connecting the Polka Dots

November 7, 2011

street fashion mumbai india

street fashion mumbai india
Aayushi Bangur, fashion blogger, wearing a polka dot top from Zara.

polka dresses asansol

polka shop
Polka dot dresses hanging in a shop in Asansol, West Bengal.

street style delhi
Girl in polka top, with siblings, en route to Lotus Temple.

lotus temple delhi
..and the Lotus Temple.

street style fashion delhi india

street style delhi india
A ragpicker in Delhi…in a polka dot skirt.

street style india

street fashion delhi india
Niamat Bakshi in Stella McCartney.

polka dots
— Scarf at Ogaan in Hauz Khas Village.

street fashion mumbai india

street style india
Divyak channeling Dr. Strangelove at LFW..wearing tailored polka dot shirt and bow tie from Selfridges.

dr strangelove
Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove in polka dot sunglasses.

street fashion mumbai india

polka pants
Tania at LFW in tailored polka dot pants.

polka dots bag
Ruchika’s polka dot pouch.

street fashion mumbai india
Paloma Monnappa channelling Hepburn in a Zara dress, her mom’s vintage glasses, and a thirty rupee scarf from Asansol.

The polka dot story ends here…and another begins..

Below is a daily wage worker in Asansol, wearing the same scarf(gamccha) as Paloma...

street style india fashion asansol

street fashion mumbai india

The story I did for HT Brunch Quarterly is out now. It’s a 6 page spread of about 3000 words and 8 such analogies+ I’m also talking about undesirably stumbling upon trends in the unlikeliest of places, about runways & Bollywood, and my experiences in general with people and the streets…

Hermès & Indian Sadhus

October 10, 2011

hermes spring summer 2012

street fashion style india

hermes spring summer 2012

street style fashion india

Hermès ready to wear Spring Summer 2012.
Sadhus in Asansol, West Bengal.

hermes spring summer 2012

street style india sadhu

Sadhu in Shillong…photographed in January.

Men’s Fashion in Small Towns|Preview

September 9, 2011

Sometime in July, I was contacted by the people at Future Brands for documenting street fashion in a bunch of small towns in India. The project was for one of their clients, Madura Garments-one of the biggest apparel retail companies in India.

My brief was to document fashion in these towns as I’d previously done in Jodhpur & Shillong…with the focus being on men’s fashion. My end task was to provide insights via photographs that’d probably help them understand the ‘underlying ethos of dominant aesthetic preferences’ in contemporary India, and maybe help find answers to questions like: How certain fashions develop in small towns? What affects the general style of dressing? Why people wear what they wear…?.& so on…

I would be posting about all these towns separately a little later. This is a preview.

I’ve also done a long story(3000+ words-before getting edited) for HT Brunch – it’ll be out sometime in October. The story mostly covers trends I noticed in these small towns, analogies that I drew between street fashion & urban fashion(similar to this and this), and things I experienced while being on the road…

street style men india

street style men india

street style men india

street style men india

auto rickshaw india

Aurangabad. Here, I was detained by cops for two hours for taking photos inside the high court premises. And this other time I was followed by two drunk men who wanted money & my camera.
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street style men india

street style men india

street style men india

street style men india

street style men india

Asansol. The only people I found interesting here were the rickshaw-walas and the day-labourers(actually this was the case pretty much in all towns).
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street style fashion salem india

street style fashion salem india

street style fashion salem india

street style fashion salem india

street style fashion salem india

Salem. Salem was the cleanest of all these places, surrounded by hills(and a small hill station-Yercaud), and the only place I wouldn’t mind going back to.

yercaud

Rest other towns were not appealing at all & there was nothing much to do. That also made me a little sad. I would often think about the kind of lives kids here live and couldn’t help but compare it to mine in the city. All the things I can do and have access to, while people here don’t….even if it is as trivial as deciding which wifi enabled coffee shop to sit at. That may not be a great example but in a big city one has many options and choices- where to go; where to eat; where to shop; where to hang out…while in small towns it’s always this one average looking place where everything seems slow and everybody looks disconnected. I’m sure the town has its own reasons to be like that…

In Salem, it also seemed like there were no young people in the age group of 15-25. Someone said, “Most youngsters go to the big cities to study and when they come back for the weekend, they stay inside their homes. Once they’re finished with college they get jobs outside+there is nothing really to do here for anybody to stick around for long..except for the old people.”

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street style fashion bareilly india

street style fashion bareilly india

street style fashion bareilly india

street style fashion bareilly india

indian men

Bareilly. I got mobbed here.
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I took about 2000+ photos & mostly ended up photographing the poor working class people on the streets as slightly-urban, middle-class fashion was nothing new or different(I did take photos for the sake of documentation). Another thing common in all these places was the crowds in the markets. It seemed like no matter what, people just never stopped shopping. I find that slightly crazy.
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My travel screenshop looked like a mini-India in itself. This is via google-maps..right in the beginning when I was calculating and figuring out the trip.

india map travel

The trip was about 20 days long with me spending about 3-4 days in each town – involved 6 flights(two I missed). a few train rides, many cab rides, and a lot of walking in the July sun. All these small towns were about 200 kms. away from the big cities. So it was always plane to the big city and a train/cab to the small city.

mumbai from sky

Each time I flew, I took a window seat just so I could marvel at the crapulous civilization from above, admire the shapes clouds made, stare at the horizon that stretched to eternities, think about how amazing it is for planes to fly in open spaces with no physical barriers and go from one exact land point to the other…and lot of other trivial stuff..

sky from sky

delhi from sky

earth from sky

Hazy earth is obviously Bombay. Blue-green is Delhi. Intestine is somewhere in West bengal.
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One day I’d like my pre-travel map to look like this. A giant steak.


Color Blocked

May 8, 2011

color blocking trend

color blocking trend

color blocking trendcolor blocking

color blocking trend

color blocking trend

color blocking fashion blog

color blocking trend

color blocking trend india

color blocking trend indian fashion

color block

color blocking india fashion

color blocking

color blocking indian fashion

color blocking indian fashion

color blocking sky

color blocking trend

color blocked wall

color blocking

Orange wall & blue windows – school in AurovilleCarrot from D-Mart. Dairy wall in Versova. Bhakti from FrancePacman from The Wall Project. Shruti’s skirt and top from Zara. Beret & phone receiver from Chor Bazaar. Sky from ShillongGrass from Dharamsala. Runway photos from Shivan & Narresh’s Summer ’11 collection at LFW. Horse from a pony farm in Pune. Pipes & knobs on an under-construction building. Two year old dusk sky from Bombay. Blue green mini dumpsters from 7 Bungalows. ‘Aur’ from a Pushkar roof-top restaurant. Pot belly from Shillong.

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