“Why a course in fashion technology?” This question posed to a motley batch of students from different streams at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Panchkula, during a short elective course on creative writing was a predictable one, yet it was answered with sheer zest, passion and flair.
Punya Gulati, who is pursuing a masters degree in fashion management, says, “Looking back to where it all began makes me nostalgic. I remember, I was just an eight-year-old when my sister asked me to accompany her to NIFT in Delhi. Not knowing where it would take me, I said yes. The first sight that my eyes rested on was a tall and skinny boy in black haram pants, a bell-sleeved shirt and a mop of curly toffee-brown hair. I had never seen such an apparition and the experience was surreal. This vision in front of the main gate of the institution lined with green trees bewitched me and I felt that this was where I belonged.”
Others too shared their stories of being a Niftian as they call themselves with the pride of a Stephanian of yore and the hard work and setbacks they faced.
Looking good and feeling fine
Interacting with young folks creatively engaged in different areas of design and fashion, chasing their dreams even in these masked times, what comes to mind is Lady Gaga’s fashion song: “Looking and feeling fine, Fashion!” This is followed by a more desi song of a rather dark 2008 Hindi film Fashion with the Madhur Bhandarkar stamp: “Fashion ka hai yeh jalwa.” The film had Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut playing super models and paying a heavy price. Now old and wizened, one knows for sure that nothing ever comes to anyone anywhere without a price of some kind.
Fashion began the moment humans started covering their bodies. The Biblical thought says it started with the serpent enticing Eve to give the forbidden fruit to Adam. Of course it has been a long journey from the fig leaves to high fashion and ‘The Devil Wearing Prada’ a 2006 Hollywood blockbuster film which looks at the world from the office of the top fashion magazine.
Well, in the times that one is living, it is said that everyday is a fashion show and the world is your runway. However, one cannot help recall the days when women in the 80s protested on the wings of feminism against fashion shows and the use of their bodies as a commodity. One recalls participating in such processions even on the roads of Chandigarh. With liberalisation, many taboos vanished and at a film premier actor John Abraham was asked by photographers to open the buttons of his shirts as girls in the audience made catcalls. Times had changed indeed!
Fashion as a movement
One saw many social and political movements sadly withering away and to an old-world person like me who carried a chip on the shoulder for being politically correct all the way, it was bit of a shock to be sent by the editor to go and cover a fashion show in a city hotel in the 90s. As models paraded their wares down the ramp one caught sight of a hoarding which carried the message loud and clear: When Fashion is a Movement!
Of course with a heavy heart one edited it a bit and put it in the intro taking sweet revenge for the story appearing on the glossy pages with the headline: In Times When Fashion Is the Only Movement.
However, those who have to spell change and make a statement will do it even on the fashion ramp. Two fashion designers one would like to talk about are from the East. The first one is the legendary Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto ,78, who changed the whole perception of fashion the world over. His collections instead of laying bare women dressed them in oversized black clothes creating a sensation in Paris in tribute to his deep love and respect for women. After all he was inspired to be a master tailor in a little dress-making business run by his mother. Of the long coats he designed for women, he says: “It meant something to me; the coat guarding a home, hiding a woman’s body. Maybe I liked imagining what was inside.”
Closer to home, Wendell Rodrick (1960-2020), one of the most innovative fashion designers who grew up in Mahim, Mumbai, with a diploma in catering to dizzying heights of fame but never failed to raise issues of social concern and environment. Awarded the Padma Shri , he created history by parading plus-size models at the Lakme Fashion Week. He paid tribute to the actor, Rekha, on her 60th birthday at yet another gala show and worked for the LGBTQ consistently. So fashion is what a master designer makes of it.