The P&P Project

Star Speak, By Mini Mathur: Why I Don’t Feel Naked Without A Birkin

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Star Speak is an ongoing series of columns, penned by celebrities we are used to seeing on these pages. This is their space to write about their take on fashion, the fraternity and whatever else catches their fancy.

Mini Mathur, one of Indian television’s most popular faces takes on fashion policing and follies of stereotyping “looks”. You can follow the model, presenter and actor on Twitter here and Instagram here. But first, read on.

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Mini Mathur


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Why I Don’t Feel Naked Without A Birkin

Writing about fashion on the very blog that makes me run for cover and adjust my sari pleats when I spot cameras. Brave. Rather brave.

As someone who wears many hats and has run the gamut of being a Dilliwaali from advertising (read: management student, handloom lover) to an MTV VJ ( read: lets paaaahrty in fun, shiny corsets & thigh high boots) to a reality TV host ( Ummm.. its called ‘general’ entertainment for a reason) to the wife of a film director (Read: glam bhabhiji), I pretty much can’t figure out what my “look” is supposed to be. Or if I should even HAVE one. Because as much as folks love slotting folks into neat little fashion stereotypes, some of us are tripolar. And whichever person residing inside wins the argument on the given day, decides the on-duty look. Besides, isn’t a “look” only what you create for a character in a soap or a film? Surely real life doesn’t work like that! Why should one be happy trying to project just one fashion persona? For me, there’s so much perverse fun & madness in dressing a Barbie in a combat fatigues with her hair all oiled and tied back and black streaks on her cheeks.

When I joined MTV, I remember angst-ly leaving my khadi wardrobe back in Delhi as it was just not cool for a hip VJ to be seen in a cotton sari. Girls in Bombay only wore saris at a wedding, or a festival.. complete with the ‘costume-y’ big bindi, bangles & jhumkas.. like they were dressing for some ‘part’. For me saris have never been about the great Indian overkill. I grew up watching the super cool women in my family wearing it with such ease & spunk that saris did not seem out of place even at an all night rager. Neither did it feel aunty-like or particularly ‘decent’. In fact I felt rather sexy wearing colorful mulmul over lycra, linen over lace and tussar over net. I still do. That said, I also love my ripped denims and on-duty draped gowns.

Yet every time I depart from my beloved sari, the readers of this blog feel “I should stick to my look” or “I am trying too hard”. If I ever felt like changing up my sari with brogues or a belt, well, “I should not mess with how a sari is worn”. Bruh… I know how a sari is worn traditionally, but there are 84 styles in which a sari is draped and not each one is bullseye all the time!! I find it so much fun to experiment occasionally. I get so happy when my niece also tends to think of it as a red carpet worthy garment, without always having to look like the blazingly beautiful but traditional Rekha in a kanjeevaram.

Star Speak, By Tisca Chopra : An Open Letter To Women’s Wear Designers

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Star Speak is an ongoing series of columns, penned by celebrities we are used to seeing on these pages. This is their space to write about their take on fashion, the fraternity and whatever else catches their fancy.

Tisca, a theatre and film actor (who also happens to have a book to her credit) is no stranger to the red carpet and the attention that comes with it. This week, she has a beef with women’s wear designers and let’s it be known in an open letter to them. Read on, and after that, take a look at her short film here.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO WOMEN’S WEAR DESIGNERS
(On behalf of women who actually wear clothes and not just pose in them)

We must accept that when it comes to attire, as females of the species, we have not created the best reputation as possessors of wisdom. We will buy, wear and do almost anything, so long as the word fashionable is prefixed. Fashion victims, they call us. And with good reason. Think Armadillo shoes, hobble skirts, stirrup pants and conical bras.

We may have, inadvertently, led manufacturers/designers into believing that we are ok with just about anything, so long as we see a person half our width and double our height look amazing in it. What we don’t know is that there is great lighting, expert makeup and hair, and of course Photoshop involved in their seduction of us. So, on behalf of the average woman I felt, it might be time to address some truly grave concerns that affect us deeply, day to day. The ginormous popularity of this blog made me think it best to list these key concerns here:

Clothes. Bags. Shoes.

Some may say that we are being superficial and talking about trivialities. But dressing up is serious business. 3 trillion dollars serious. It accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP. So, it’s shocking really, that there is no conversation between those who think up women’s clothes and those that wear them. Don’t corporates have conclaves, conferences and conventions in deluxe hotels at exotic locations, for lesser reasons?

Grouse #1

What would be the point of making a wash and care label from a material that could survive a nuclear holocaust? In the event of a tragedy, I have visions of billions of wash and care labels littering the Earth, while the clothes that once bore them have turned into radioactive ash.

I do wonder if manufacturers realize that most will use a simple domestic scissor to cut the label and not an industrial laser. And why are small books printed on labels? If besides manufacturing garments they have a deep secret desire to turn author, they must. They should try self-publishing. Just not on my skirt.

Why can’t a label simply read?

Italy
Silk-80%/Elastane-20%
Dry Clean (at a good laundry)

The label should be attached to my garment in a way that after I have finished reading the wash and care instructions, I should not have to carry those instructions around everywhere I go. After all, what are the chances that I will take the garment off during a pee break from a meeting, quickly find a washing machine, set it to forty five degrees and wait semi naked for forty minutes, while its on spin cycle?

It stands to reason that the woman who afforded herself that garment would also have the brains to remember basic care instructions. They should just have a sticker with a small picture of the garment, which we can stick on the inside of our cupboard and just like that, we are done.

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Grouse #2

The old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is quite literal when it comes to heels.

Any fashionista knows that the taller one is, the better any outfit looks. Many a girl will add a liberal two inches to her height, if asked. Long legs will take you far. And that’s not just simple physics, it’s simply fashion.

Ergo, heels become a necessary evil. Footwear manufacturers are all too aware of the star performers in their shoe line-up, so design elements are always focused on the impractical, teetering stilettoes. Stilettos have wings, bows, chains and spirals. Someone even did a mock lipstick for a heel. I think it was Alberto Guardiani. But for some reason the designers won’t focus on putting a cushion near the ball of the foot. And that’s the part that makes women leave parties.

Don’t believe me?

The wise girl at FitFlop, Marcia Kilgore, sold 4.8 million pairs of FitFlops in less than two years. The real moolah is in the mommy heel. Walking on sunshine is the feeling we want, not walking on pins. So, if someone can put kid leather inside a stiletto and a cushion under the ball of the foot, this will be the making of the next Fortune 500 Company.

Much Ado About Knoting

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I’m too hot (hot damn), called a police and a fireman, I’m too hot… (What, we are no longer doing the Uptown Funk? Okay.) But really I am so hot, feeling so hot (hot hot hot, sorry, child of the Eighties here) that I am two seconds away from melting into a puddle leaving behind a sopping wet EKA linen tunic that once valiantly held my body.

It is not like I haven’t lived in Madras before (I did, over two decades ago), or that I haven’t been in the city since (every December for the last eleven years) but I did forget what it is like to survive, brave, no, suffer humidity in June and July. (there, I just Geotagged myself.) The weather has brought out sides to me I didn’t even know existed. Like me being capable of murderous rage. Or take a fatalist worldview, “Is anything important anymore really?”. Or slipping in and out of consciousness-bending hallucinations. Or having the ability to throw my hair in to a mean top knot. Now you know what this is going to be about (that is if the title didn’t tip you off already, in which case am guessing you are as miserable as I am).

Fact is, I can be as cotton clad as I want, heck, be a walking catalogue for Anokhi days on end even, but there is no greater feeling of relief than when you throw your hair up in a knot and feel that vague excuse of a breeze on your neck again. (Okay, taking off your bra at the end of a long day comes mighty close too.)

Not having the luxury of celebrity or time, the only way to survive this humidity is to do everything one possibly can to stay coool and hair is a big part of it. (Less ‘yo’ and more ‘yo hair stays up so nicely, tell me how?!’.) AC-Car-Curb-AC works but hair IS still a very big part of it. Having mastered the basic top knot, the option to try different kinds of knots and updos was both quickly considered and then abandoned for sake of my sanity and the safety of those around me. You know how you either have an aptitude for something or you don’t? Turns out complicated updos and simple math… Not my thing.

After watching multiple Youtube videos along the lines of ‘The perfect wispy knot in under 10 minutes’, ‘Get a halo braid in eight easy steps’ or ‘Double-knot updo for beginners’, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a sinister plot to just make me feel utterly incompetent. (The fact that I haven’t yet blinded myself with a bloody bobby pin is no minor miracle.) So what if I juggle two jobs (the blog is one), a home, social life and some semblance of a functional marriage- I can not make a braided updo in eight easy steps, I have failed at life DAMNIT! (Hey Youtube, stop taunting me with recommended videos already.)

Today was especially difficult. After a quick cold shower (and an irrational desire to shower again after toweling off), I stared at the mirror long and hard this morning. Cotton dress by Péro, check. Cute kolhapuri chappals with neon pompoms, check. Then, on to hair. Much like every underdog sports team coach before a big game, I looked me in the eye and told myself I could do it. “You are a fashion blogger for Chrissake”, I yelled. Thankfully the madness passed and I realized, if there’s anything I’ve learnt, the one fail-safe trick I’ve mastered, it is how to work a top knot. I am a fashion blogger for Chrissake! So after throwing my hair up in a neat and efficient knot (today marking seventeenth day in a row), a quick spritz of perfume, some kohl and gloss, I exited the room feeling mighty fine. Only to be greeted by the mother-in-law who in a quick once-over seemed to question my ability to keep her son happy going by my inability to twist and tie my hair in to one glorious updo she and the ladies of her parayanam group could be proud of. Such colossal disappointment I say!

Sigh. Tomorrow is another (muggy) day.

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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Mayville. Shop the artist’s prints here.

Dear Freud, the Interweb has me in its deep, deep clutches. We blame my mother, yes?

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It is not the diet. Not the getting-a-wee-bit-too-snug tee after a vacation. It definitely is not the what to buy on sale, the item with the bigger mark-down or the one with the lower price tag. Nor is it the ‘Bag or Shoes?’ predicament. It is not the you-just-found-out-your-hot-yoga-instructer-bats-for-the-other-team. What it is, is the little yellow-orange flickering light on your modem. Nothing haunts, gives you anxiety or brings your world to a crashing halt like the three ominous words- Connection is down.

Crickets.

Were there Internet Gods and there are of that am sure, my mother-in-law would ask me to fast on a Wednesday, wear yellow on Sunday, check the vaastu of where my modem is and maybe feed fifty poor unclaimed domain names to appease the WWW. But deeply engrossed in her game of Temple Run, my pain is dismissed with a “Wait one second!”. So much for divine intervention.

By the way, has rahu-kalam passed?

And what is a Blogger to do, without having a Blog to do?

Frantic to be connected, on moves on to the next then. The ubiquitous coffee shop. Who like the Witch with her shiny red apple, has me bite. For a simple reason- Free WiFi. And instead of falling asleep for a hundred years, I suffer through loud generic pop, a populous of age-group I long left behind and terrible Lattes. Headphones on, I proceed to stare at the blinking cursor on my blank screen. In my best pensive, angst-y writer look. Wait, no one saw me checking my Facebook page, right?

(On these coffee-shops, I have a lot to say. But that’s a rant best saved for another caffeinated day.)

There’s only one thing worse than waiting for him to call after a first date. (What, I remember!) Waiting for a picture to upload.

Ah the woes, will they ever cease? (It called for a melodramatic moment.) For a blogger who has often bragged “If there’s WiFi, will blog”, the curse of only one or no bar seems to haunt me every time I travel. Last time, the forced two day e-detox chalked up to one Marni top on sale that I couldn’t get my hands on, two abandoned games of scrabble, beginning Franny and Zooey (again), one squabble, two fun lunches, a bottle of wine and a brief moment spent considering self-medicating.

Hashtag YOLO. Right? RIGHT? Sigh.

Okay, so once back on, I will grudgingly admit, my world didn’t come crashing down. But best not to make this a habit, yes? My closet has feelings too you know? And besides, I don’t want my credit card lulled in to a false sense of security.

As a blogger, online shopper and social media lurker, this post really was going to be about the severely dependent relationship we have with Internet. How it validates, gratifies, proves and cements our social existence with an intensity that just can’t be duplicated. It really was. But now that I see signal strength, I really must go Instagram my Latte and make that ever important pick- XPro or LoFi?

Of Fashion Weeks

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It is interesting when designers send out their clothes from a collection yet to be presented to celebrities days in advance of their showing. Billed as a ‘sneak-peek’ in to the work to come, it gets talked about. It certainly gets blogged about (Hello!). But if we really got down to if it was necessary… That would be debatable. Undisputed is the fact however that in the age of digital everything, it leaves a footprint right away. Perhaps just what the P.R hired for the label wants.

That said, how does it serve the brand any purpose when a celebrity is spotted wearing an outfit months in advance of its showing? Does that mean that the outfit (even collection) has been in production and in the market already? So then, what purpose does the showing at a Fashion Week serve other than as a P.R and branding (not a very good one at that) exercise?

Forget months, let’s talk about a year. Ms. Reddy presented a collection that had pieces that we’ve previously seen as far back as June of last year. Kosher? We think not.

Fashion Weeks serve many purposes, no doubt there. Create a buzz and further an identity of the brand. Showcase innovation, craft, creativity and design. And perhaps most importantly, strike a relationship with the ever so important buyers. Especially true for a nascent industry like ours (we’ve earned the right to say “ours” haven’t we?). But if a collection is already doing the rounds, what purpose does it really serve? And how is it fair to the few good designers doing great work?

A pair of fashion ingénues we may be but pray tell, what are we missing here?

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Far Left: Swapnil Shinde, LFW Summer/Resort 2013
Left: Aarti Chabbria At MTV Music Video Awards 2013
Right: Priyanka Chopra At Toofan Trailer Launch, Hyderabad
Far Right: Surendri, LFW Summer/Resort 2013


Left, Centre: Sonam Kapoor At Femina Womens Awards 2013 Press Meet
Far Right: Masaba For Satya Paul, WIFW A/W 2013


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Left: Bipasha Basu At Her Birthday Celebrations, Goa
Right: Preeti S Kapoor, WIFW A/W 2013


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Left: Madhuri Dixit At Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 5 Launch
Right: Anushree Reddy, LFW Summer/Resort 2013

Photo Credit: Viral Bhayani, Ragalahari