The world of fashion is almost otherworldly. Super rich models, today’s million dollar babies sashaying their designers’ creations on ramps across the fashion capitals of the world – Paris, Milan, New York, London and now, Mumbai and Delhi as well. The glitz and glamour associated with these events must be experienced to be believed. Of course, it is all part of a much larger industry that encompasses clothes, fashion accessories such as cosmetics, jewellery, footwear and, believe it or not, luxury cars even. If we aggregated the turn-over of all these industries together on an annualised basis, there will not be enough space on this page to place all the zeroes.

This piece, however, is not intended to be a learned critique on the state of the fashion industry. On the contrary, I am utterly fascinated by the scarcely believable clothes that one frequently sees being draped on anorexic models at fashion shows. One is often asked if people actually buy these outlandish outfits that the strutting models display at these sparkling affairs. Which is a very naïve question and misses the point altogether.

The attire on display during a fashion show are a highly exaggerated inspiration to the more wearable stuff the celebrated fashion designer will ultimately put out in retail stores. One must concede there is an element of ‘smoke and mirrors’ involved here, where the primary intention is to bedazzle. The invited audience requires only to be present, sip goblets of fine wine, nibble at cocktail canapés and generally feel bewitched by the sense of occasion. At the end of it all the star designer gets to hop on to the ramp, take a bow, hug and kiss all the models surrounded by flashbulbs and the paparazzi.

From a purely brand marketing perspective, the idea is to reinforce the fashion designer’s eponymous brand name on the invited glitterati. Then there is the media outreach that is a direct consequence of these shows. An elaborate public relations machine moves into top gear, and highly appetising photographs, write-ups, interviews with the celebrity designer and supermodel will be sent out to the glossy fashion media. To employ an American argot, ‘It’s a gas’!

To the uninitiated who may be a bit foxed by all this apparent unreality, there are a couple of key words you should be aware of. ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Trend’. While sipping your Chateau Latour, casually toss a remark to your adhesive arm candy. ‘I never thought Picasso’s Blue Period could serve as an inspiration for the launch of Tahliani’s wedding trousseau. Though I shouldn’t be surprised given that post-moder-nist cubism is the trend this year’. You see? It’s quite simple once you get the hang of it. You are now part of a charmed circle and well on your way.

The other cardinal ploy is to drop names of a clutch of fashion designers and celebrity models, both ‘desi’ and ‘phoren’. Names that should trip effortlessly off the tongue. ‘While I entirely agree with you that Alexander McQueen and Tommy Hilfiger have been game changers in the way we look at fashion trends, give me the elegance and savoir faire of a Coco Chanel or Donatella Versace any day.

That said, you need a Claudia Schiffer or Kate Moss to carry it off.’ That will win you several brownie points. And if you must stress on the ‘desi’ designers, an opening gambit such as, ‘You know I simply love the exquisite flow that Sabyasachi Mukherjee is able to achieve so seamlessly in his oeuvre, but I must confess to being quite partial to the studied elegance that Ritu Kumar brings to the table. Or to the ramp. Mind you, you need the sassy charm of a Nethra Raghuraman or Ujjwala Raut to do full justice to these creations’. Now you’re really cooking, man!

En passant, I have been quite intrigued by the fact that the world of fashion unfailingly attracts so many talented members of the gay community. ‘The love that may not speak its name’ may be a tiresome cliché, politically gauche, and the remark is by no means intended to raise the elephant-in-the-room bogey. Or indeed, to pigeonhole fashion designers as a stereotype. It’s just the way it is. That’s all I am saying.

Apropos style and fashion, a couple of months ago, former model and current Bollywood and Quantico star, Priyanka Chopra (Piggy Chops to her friends), found herself mired in an unintended brouhaha. She was granted an audience with our Prime Minister in Berlin – and was photographed sitting across the room in a pretty dress (PC I mean, not the PM) revealing her beautifully sculpted legs. The frenzied Hindutva brigade went frothing at the mouth.

She might have considered a Benarasi or Kanjeevaram silk sari for the occasion, but decided to throw caution to the winds. For crying out loud she was in Europe dash it all, the home of haute couture, not in Tirupati! The PM, no slouch himself when it comes to sartorial nattiness, did not seem unduly put out, and was quite at ease. He held a thoughtful pose ruminating, ‘Now what would my pracharaks make of all this?’

Finally, if you are going to be present at a fashion show, have the good sense to doll up appropriately. I cannot speak for the ladies as I am not adequately abreast of current trends of ‘dressing up’ as far as the fair sex is concerned. Speaking for the men, landing up in a charcoal grey pinstripe suit will make you look a right Charlie, so perish the thought.

While the ‘sherwani look’ is gaining currency these days, I think your best bet is to arrive in a pair of deep crimson drainpipes, waist hugging poplin white shirt, a Harlequin yellow blazer with green stripes, a ‘cutaway’ heliotrope tie that ends somewhere between the second and third shirt buttons, bottoming it all off with a pointy, hand-stitched pair of sockless beige slip-ons. Hair, gelled and slicked back. Face, a carefully groomed 7-day shadow a must. If you don’t wear spectacles, wangle an unpowered, black-rimmed pair anyway, for that Elvis Costello or Michael Caine’s ‘Ipcress File’ look – that’s the killer.

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