Fashion designer Michael Halpern says walking around in India is an assault to the senses.(Brahms Dirsipo)
Who would have thought that Michael Halpern, the newest glamour boy of world fashion, would leave the comfort of his swanky hotel to visit a local bazaar early in the morning? But the London-based New Yorker, who was in India late last year, apparently had the Dadar flower market at 5.30am on his to-do list! “I know India mostly through photographs and I have seen some amazing pictures of this place. There is so much colour…”
…And there is also chaos. It is peak hour at the wholesale flower market. But the 32-year-old sashays over the slush of trampled marigolds and mud with the ease of a local and the excitement and curiosity of a kid in a candy store! The newest sultan of sequins who is dowsing the minimalist and normcore world of fashion with high-octane glamour is a sucker for everything dramatic and over the top. In that, he has the soul of an Indian!
“Tacky is part of my ethos! There needs to be humour in it. You can’t take yourself too seriously.”
“I have a lot of Indian friends from university and all these years I have been hearing stories about India from them! And I am so excited to finally be here! Yesterday I walked around on my own, stopping for masala chai every once in a while and gorging on the street food. It is a real assault to the senses…the colours, the smells, the people, the honking, the driving…it is so incredible! At the heart of it, I am a voyeur! I like to watch and observe people and to talk to people,” he says.
Instant Halpern, Add Drama
This particular trait makes his over-the-top clothes personal. Instead of art or even fashion in general, the Parsons and Central Saint Martin’s alumnus draws inspiration from people. “I love to meet these people, see how and where they are wearing these clothes, know why they are drawn to specific pieces. I love to see a piece that I have designed taken up by these people and interpreted in their own way. One of the most interesting parts of the design development process is to get into the minds of beautiful, glamorous women, from my mom who is a stylish, colourful, loud woman, to Barbra Streisand, Anjelica Huston, Cher, or to people on the streets who look or sound interesting. Art is an incredible way to get inspired about colour and textures, but people make it more personal,” Halpern explains.
The sparkly protest
The designer literally dazzled the fashion industry when he showcased his first eponymous collection at London Fashion Week in February 2017, having already worked at J. Mendel, Versace and Oscar de la Renta. Since then, his fashion brand has grown fast, with Marion Cotillard, Amal Clooney, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o and Adwoa Aboah on the client list. His shimmering disco-inspired designs are known for Studio 54ish sequins and sculptural shapes. But Halpern, who features in the BoF 500, insists that the hedonism of his works is a direct response to the worldwide socio-political turmoil.
Halpern says sometimes you dress to change, and not reflect, the times ( Brahms Dirsipo )
“Not everyone dresses to reflect the times, sometimes you dress to change the times,” he says.
“In the early 1900s, the 1970s and now, the socio-political scene was and is very difficult. Nothing is going right in any part of the world. It can get really overwhelming. I provide fantasy and escapism to people who need a short break from these dark realities. We are protesting with colours and sparkles and textures instead of placards and slogans.”
Bollywood is BAE!
I can’t help but point out how
Bollywood his approach is. And he laughs out loud. “I know! I relate to Bollywood very, very easily. I love the escapism it provides. I loved Devdas and I adore Aishwarya Rai. I love the houses, the drama, the colours, the song and dance, the costumes, the flowers, the joy…basically everything that is Bollywood!” says Halpern, who made his retail debut in India through Le Mill.
“I know India mostly through photographs…There is so much colour…”
“If you feel authentic, if you own it, then it will never look tacky,” says the King of Bling who admits that he himself was called tacky ‘a lot’ when he started off.“Tacky is part of my ethos! There needs to be humour in it. You can’t take yourself too seriously. Also, if everyone likes it, you are not doing something interesting. If you are not polarising the audience then you are just nice. And I am not okay with ‘nice’. I would prefer an ‘oh that’s awful’ or ‘wow, that’s amazing’!”
From HT Brunch, July 5, 2020
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