All these years of working on myself,
those sleepless nights and lethargic days,
and finally being able to smile through the pain,
Would I want to give it all away?
Were all those years, just for vain?
All these years of working on myself,
those sleepless nights and lethargic days,
and finally being able to smile through the pain,
Would I want to give it all away?
Were all those years, just for vain?
Today I stepped out for a run. But ended up going to Forever 21 instead. (Don’t say it – I know – it’s silly). It started off quite ordinarily. After watching quarter an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix and downing two mugs of tea, I suddenly realised that if I didn’t step outside now, it would be too late. Daylight would’ve disappeared. So I changed into my sneakers and shorts, almost didn’t take my wallet (which on second thoughts would’ve been much smarter) and bounced outdoors.
Once I was actually out on the street, I got this sudden itch to spend money – which is surprising as I am literally in debt with most of my recent purchases being on a credit card. However, I thought – a few steps in the crisp, fresh November air may inspire me to stick to the healthier original plan. So I continued walking towards the park. The itch, sadly, was a stubborn one. I couldn’t walk it off. And by the time I reached the corner, I found myself hailing an autorickshaw – “Bhaiya, Infinity Malad?” And fate decided to take me on with a slight nod to the affirmative.
I sat in the rickety rickshaw, my thoughts racing. What do I do once I reached Forever 21? Shop or just browse? What if I actually liked something? Shit, that would suck as I can’t afford it. What do I do when I am back home? Maybe I should finally start writing the book I’ve been meaning to write for the last gazillion years. The book about love. But what part of love? My first boyfriend? Current boyfriend? But, I have no clue on how it all turns out! Should I assume? No. I should concentrate on what’s elapsed. Finish a story that’s already finished. This happened and then this and finally this. Oh, but would people want to read it? And what if it sounds too rushed? Maybe I should just stick to an incident and elaborate every little detail. Maybe, I should add a hint of magical realism like Murakami? But what? Murakami’s books are mostly metaphors about uniting with your dark side or shadow. What would my books be about? I need to discover something and then use metaphors to explain it. What have I discovered?
And like this, my brain raced on and on and before I knew it, me and my auto were speeding along a windy backroad that ran parallel along a sewage drain. For a brief moment, I thought we were near the sea but the black colour gave the drain away. What a disappointment. A sea would’ve been the perfect sign for me to begin work on the book. Romance. Possibility. Freedom.
The auto screeches to a halt near Forever 21. I get off and rush to the women’s loo. I find a stall that seems it’s about to get vacant any second -a brush against the flimsy door somehow seemed to me an indication of pants being being pulled up clumsily – however I was wrong and the lady in my stall decided to have a nice, long dump.
I got to Forever 21 and the first thing that caught my eye was a faux leather button-down miniskirt. Love at first sight. My mind began racing – I would team it with a t-shirt and a boyfriend shirt. Or a vest for a night out. And I found myself throwing it in the black mesh bag, an overenthusiastic sales person handed me.
The collection was very streetstyle inspired – hence I was in love with it. There were jackets – military, bomber, trench-style, fluffy, straight – all kinds. And there were skirts – corduroy, military, pink georgette, rust hued. The bralets and bustiers didn’t fit well – so I didn’t pick up any- I wanted to wear one with a saree. However, the skirts were lovely. Boots were a colossal disappointment – they had barely anything that fit my large feet. Plus the designs were very blah.
Anyway, after a bunch of clothes I tried, I ended up buying nothing.The faux leather skirt was awesome – but was I really going to travel in a local train looking like a goth-inspired monkey? Nah. So, reluctantly I placed it back on the shelf I’d borrowed it from.
A lady walked over to me, “Ma’am, would you like me to find you another size?” “No, I murmured, I am just putting it back” How could I explain to her that the skirt fit me like a glove and how I wish it had been too big or too small so my heart wouldn’t tear when I placed it back like that?
So, sheepishly I hailed another rickshaw. And took an hour reaching home. Evening traffic.
A run would’ve been more fulfilling after all.
Unless ‘clothes’ refers to a short sequinned (read ugly) number. Or worse, a my pure-white shirt has a spot of mustard. That’s when humans become a breeze.
I remember when I bought my first pair of boots. I was 21, in London for the first time. And my father bought me these really chic knee-high black boots. From Aldo. And oh, I was in love.
And, like all kinds of love, with it came a new set of anxieties.
What if, I leave my shopping bag somewhere. What if my baggage gets lost in transit? And with it go my boots? What if somebody steps on it – when I am wearing it? What if, it gets fungus? What if it breaks? What if a pigeon shits on it?
And I realised, I share a weird relationship with fashion.
Inanimate, material fashion.
A ‘spontaneous anti-depressant’ in the words of Eugene Hutz, an instant excitement kick or a happiness machine – call it what you may, just the act of putting together fresh combinations from my closet is enough to bring on that sense of achievement. “Oh, why I didn’t I ever put those two together?”
And, the sheer joy on seeing a movie where the star dresses just like you do! Keira Knightley in Begin Again, anyone? Or Emilia Clarke in Me Before you?
So, I wrote a silly poem about clothes.
Here it goes.
They won’t throw a fit if you don’t call them.
They won’t taunt you when you crib.
They won’t leave you for another country.
And they won’t make you feel like you’re shit.
They’ll be there for you when you’re happy.
And they’ll be there for you when you’re low.
They’ll make you feel fabulous,
even when you shed half a kilo.
They’ll bring out your best features
And they’ll notice your new haircut.
They’ll cover-up the extra inches – oh you dark-dark chocolate sundae!
And they’ll show-off all those curves!
Well, folks, that’s all for today. Drink lots of tea, wear lots of dresses, and laugh a lot.
Anti-social. Eccentric. Chemically clean. Neatness-obsessed. People-hating. Super-stressed. Perfectionist (in all the wrong ways).
That’s who I have become.
Somebody dumping a wet towel on my bed is enough to drive me up the wall. Forget maid absenteeism, traffic and over-spending.
I expect things to be perfect. And people to be perfect too. And when that doesn’t happen, well, I start screaming in my head, scowling on the outside and snapping at my loved ones.
I have built a wall around me. Concentrating on just getting to work and back. And managing to keep myself sane from the stress, by cozying up afterwards in my warm furry blanket and a hot cocoa. Alone. Without small talk, pointless chitter and anything to distract me from my “me” time. Because, sometimes I really feel like I would lose it. In the sea of petty conversations, overworked-ness, less money and a zillion other things that threaten to haunt me and drag me to the darkness.
“No”, I tell myself. And to stay afloat, I go home a little earlier, pamper myself a little more, dress a little brighter, and drink a little more tea.
A decade ago, I was pretty much the opposite. Like I was telling some people yesterday, I was crazy enough to rub “conjunctivitis fluid” in my eye, so I could get the illness too and therefore be able to bunk class and games and stay in the hostel with 20 other fellow patients who played cards – spit and taboo, while we – the healthier ones sat and got bored in class. Talk about being rewarded for good health.
I was carefree enough to go a week without bathing – twice, and not give it a second thought – We’d wet our towels and wash our faces as proof of our “hygiene” to our matron.
And we would eat a ton of junk (I don’t touch fried food now – I get anxiety after every bite of unhealthy food) and we’d empty a dozen packets of Lays on the counterpane or bedcover, and eat it straight from that. Yes. We were a bit too dirty.
I am the exact opposite now.
And I don’t think I like me very much.
I think I miss the me who would laugh with her braces on display, and flap her hands around like a chicken.
I miss the me who wouldn’t stress over the sugary french toast I had for breakfast.
I miss the me who missed her friends, who could talk nonstop and laugh about the silly things.
I miss the me who wouldn’t care about a wet towel on the bed. Or the pile of clothes in the corner.
I miss the 13-year-old me, even as I know I could never be that again. And this 13-year-old me would hate her ‘twice-the-age’ version. Maybe this is growing up. Or maybe it’s me who has taken growing up too seriously. Or it could just be the circumstances that have changed me. Or it could just be the genes kicking in. I don’t know.
Well. From what I hear, I think this is just called “growing-up”. And I don’t think I like it very much.
So I was just scrolling through my news feed the other day, and this label caught my eye. Right from its distinct, minimalist logo in a gorgeous monochrome rendition, to the label’s clothing, a stark opposite with its vivid interplay of vibrant colours, I was enamoured.
So I found the link to their website, and in between my day job, took more than a couple of minutes off, to check this fascinating label’s work.
Well. I was impressed.
Check out their entire collection here
My personal favourite? This gorgeous choli top with a front tie. Buy it here
The best thing is that the prints are all hand-block printed. So if you buy their products, you’re wearing something that encourages the craftsman to hone his or her skill. So, in other words, you’re supporting India’s fabulous heritage.
This label is for all the minimalists out there. Boxy silhouettes, unexpected cuts in patterns and a straight-out-of-prison or daddy’s-nightsuit chic sensibility. Oversized, comfortable and breezy, this collection is designed for all the no-nonsense, comfort-seekers out there.
Here’s a sneak-peak from their SS16 collection.
Follow them here on Facebook.
My personal favourite is this gorgeous charcoal grey skirt.
Available at Second Floor Studio, Khan Market, New Delhi.
So, with everyone trying to fit into the signature black Zara leggings/tights/jeggings (yeah you know what I’m talking about), here’s a designer whose broken out of the mould by doing the seemingly obvious. It’s so simple yet so glorious that you can’t help but wish you’d done it first. She’s created the first linen saree. A saree that shatters your perception of the, well, saree.
No longer is it the dreaded 6-metre-long fabric threatening a wardrobe-malfunction, should you choose to trip or fall or get caught in a nail.
She’s made the saree low-maintenance, no-nonsense and oh-so comfortable, you wouldn’t want to wear anything else. Yes, she’s made the saree compete with lazy boy pyjamas and the LBD together. Like it was even possible. “Ek teer se do nishaana”, if you may.
Ladies, say hello to this fabulous innovation. Handwoven by men and women in rural India, sustainably manufactured and beautiful to look at, you’d want to ditch your favourite blue denims for these.
Do take a look at some of her fabulous work.
My personal favourite? The second saree from the left. Isn’t it just dreamy?
She also does amazing blouses. Like this.
I love everything about her collection. I mean who would’ve though, sarees could look so comfy? And could be worn with something other than a tiny blouse? A blouse that you need to prep days in advance for?
By teaming sarees with loose-fitting kurtis, she’s definitely brought the whole 6 yards back into daily dressing.
P.S: I love her kurta-pyjama combos too.
To get in touch with her, click here
By this time, you must have a clear idea of my aesthetic sensibilities. It’s natural fibres all the way. So, before you yawn or snort or turn up your nose at this edit, take a look at yet another designer who’s making waves with her seemingly-simple yet beautiful approach to design. Sheena Roy of Mogra.
She takes your traditional handwoven sarees and indigenous Indian textiles, and makes gorgeous dresses out of them. Dresses you can wear on and off duty.
Her boho-chic aesthetic coupled with sharp western silhouettes brings in the surprise to every creation. Take a peek.
To see more from Mogra, click here
Last but not the least, is Jappi. The brainchild of Parineta Borah, this label brings together a kitsch sensibility with a distinct urbane touch. From sarees to mekhlas to beautifully bizarre jackets, this label is not for the faint hearted.
Parineta experiments with embroideries and traditional Assamese silks to create outfits suited for India’s burgeoning audience. Think eye-popping hues, contrasting textures topped with a swag, only a true desi can pull off.
Check out the rest of her collection here
To follow Jappi on Facebook, click here
Well, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. And do spend the rest of the week checking out these very talented designers and their very-covetable clothes.
Ok. So a lot of people comment on my “unique” sense of style. They say it’s distinct. A lot have even used the word “fashionable”. And of course, there are others who turn up their noses and coax me into wearing something more “normal”. Normal meaning tighter pants, asset-enhancing dresses and shinier Indian-wear.
That’s not “me”. My standard reply. And of course, people don’t get that. After all, how can a material thing be you? Come on Shivani, aren’t you “deeper” than that? How can your outfit be “you”… is what they’re probably thinking as they roll their eyes and smile disdainfully within.
Buying an outfit is an action. You pay money. Money that exchanges hands. That goes from the retailer right down to the dexterous eye that picked the fabric amongst hundreds of swatches.
The act of picking and choosing an outfit is literally paying homage to the designer who visualised the outfit, pattern-master who used his years of perfected skill to draft the pattern, the craftsman who laboured for hours on his sewing machine, no thought to trends or design, food for his family being the only motivation, and the smiling sales lady determined to not sit at home and be just a “wife”.
And yes, you could say that applies to every other thing we consume.
Maybe being a fashion student opened my eyes to the hard work that goes behind every glittering red carpet appearance that people so easily dub as “shallow”. The hours spent draping and re-draping an outfit, months before a Sonam Kapoor wears it to Cannes. The long hours spent by junior designers for a meagre salary, all justified because of their passion for fabrics, embroideries, craft and art. The multiple sampling and redo’s, the search for the right colour combination, fit and finish…
There is a story behind every outfit, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Which is why, what you wear could be an expression of you. It could be your way to show your support towards a certain striving group of talented professionals toiling to create a piece of art, that you’re going to strut around in.
Which is why, when I pick an outfit, I make an experience out of it. I touch the fabric, feel it, try it on… It’s not as easy as going to Hill Road and picking up a zillion tops just because they’re ‘cheap’. Though, I can’t deny there’s a charm in getting something stylish for less, but it should be driven by a quest for art rather than a mad scramble for a bargain. Or, that’s just how I feel. And I bet, others who you think have a “unique” sense of style feel.
We make an event out of our fashion. It’s something to be cherished. Which is why, owning a saree from your mother’s trousseau is so special. There’s a story to it. A legacy. Which is why, the dress you wore on a special date always holds a dear place in your heart. Which is why you never part with certain old t-shirts and warm mittens.
They’re special. And they deserve more than just a cursory glance. Which is why, each time you buy an outfit, you need to really feel it. To be it. Until you and the dress are one. United in that brief moment of passion. And not every store or boutique has the power to make you really connect with a dress, a top or a scarf.
I personally love plaids, loose silhouettes and natural fibres. I love clothes I can breathe in and float about. I like contrasting styles, textures and breaking mental blocks in daily dressing. I like glamming up a ‘sack’ of a dress with bright beads or giving it some seriousness by pairing it with brogues. I love baggy denims, oversized boots and ultimately breaking its androgyny with a fluttery chiffon top. I like playing with my outfits. I love walking into the big fat Indian wedding wearing a cotton backless choli with a Nagaland hand-woven skirt and a Kalimpang fabric as dupatta. And to arrive to raised eyebrows as everyone has piled on more glitter than they can handle! Ha Ha!
There’s beauty in fashion, no denying that. But there’s more beauty in being creative on your own. By carefully handpicking pieces that connect to you. And then putting it all together in a flawless display of art.
So enough of the jargon. Should we get down to business? Here are a few designers, brands and stores that I love. I have covered all price ranges and all kinds of looks for a holistic approach to dressing. Don’t claim you’ll find your “The One” here but no harm in looking. Right?
Cherry Fig | assorted
This Mumbai brand sources outfits from all over. Slashed labels, minor defects, Global brand redo’s… you get the drift. But, and I am serious, if you really look, you will find some adorable clothes. I got myself a faded plaid ‘Vero Moda’ dress, some quintessential ripped denim shorts and an embroidered mini dress. Needless to say, I am very happy with Cherry Fig.
Dr BR Ambedkar Rd, Pali Village, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Khara Kapas | for dresses and contemporary Indian wear
If you love cotton and long flowing silhouettes, this is the place to shop from. I haven’t bought anything yet (I am on a budget), but if you have money to spare and a style sense to create, here’s where you should go. I absolutely love everything on display.
Mohh | for jewellery
Wedding or no wedding, festival or no festival, this collection of Indian-heritage inspired silver jewellery is going to leave you gasping for air. Yes, it’s that good. And I think Khara Kapas and Mohh are two brands that go well together. So, the next time you’re looking to give yourself a new look, you know what to do.
Forever 21 | dresses and basics
Well well. It’s a cliché and you’re already probably shopping from here. But, I couldn’t help myself as I absolutely adore this brand. From basics to not-so-basics, their dresses and ganjis are just fabulous. The piles of clothing and jam-packed aisles may be a deterrent, but if you can muster up some courage and grab a bottle of cold water to keep dehydration in check, you will love what you get. In fact, even if something seems too blah at first, once you’ve got it, you will end up wearing your Forever 21 dress more often than any other dress. Just make sure you buy something simple and wearable rather than an over-short number that you’ll wear just once.
For instance, don’t you just love these plaid numbers?
SSS OR Street Style Store | for shoes
Whether you’re on a budget or not, this is the place for shoes. I got myself a nude pair of Oxfords and they are extremely comfortable. And I paid just 700 bucks! It may take time to arrive and you may need to call them up a dozen times, but rest assured when it does come, it’ll all be worth it.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy shopping. 🙂