Couture is not an Indian concept

Features Friday, October 10, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | September 26, 2014 | 06:43 pm IST  His closest friends say Wendell Rodricks is a consummate story teller who can keep his audience – children and older people – enchanted and in splits for fours. At work, he is no-nonsense, suffers fools badly and is quite happy to be a contrarian.  And that is what he is will be doing at the India Fashion Week which opens in New Delhi next week with a collection named Yoga-Calm. Fashion watchers say you need nerves of steel to pull of something like that, but the designer dismisses it all saying his collection is influenced by the Illuminati philosophy and he seeks to bring back some calm at a time when bling in king. “Colour – no, that’s a secret” says Rodricks who has just been decorated with one of France’s highest awards, the Légion d’honneur. In a conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of The News Minute (TNM) Rodricks, who is gay, say it’s about time Indian law-makers get real about people’s sexual choices. Excerpts: Do we have a fashion industry in India - everyday fashions for everyday people? We most certainly do. In fact, I must elaborate that Indians are keener on real clothes rather than the West that has relegated real clothes to supermarkets and left high end brands to sell accessories. Walk into a Chanel, Prada or Gucci store and look at the racks compared to the shelves. They sell more bags, shoes, sunglasses, perfumes, cosmetics, beauty products than actual clothes. There was a time when Dior sold more clothes in their stores. Now the focus has shifted to accessories. In India, the international brands and Indian designers find perfect market space. Indian designers sell real clothes. Foreign brands sell accessories. Marketing heaven for both! Is there an accessories market developing in India?  There was always an accessories industry in India. Look at Indian bangles. It's a huge market. (Bags too) – however, the 'it' bag has found a minuscule percentage of followers. And those followers have spawned a further lower priced bag that can be made in Chandigarh or China for the rest of India to follow suit. There is now a push through skill development and other initiatives to push for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that typically employ 10-250 people.  Considering that we fall into this bracket, I am delighted to say that we welcome this push. Do fashion schools in India teach the fashion art and skills like arts et métiers?  Yes they do. And the art of couture art is also taught in most colleges. However, it is important to know that couture is not an Indian concept. The cost of couture techniques and real couture will not be feasible in a country like India where the majority of the public and even the well-heeled, care only about appearances and bling. Finish and couture are alien to most Indian mindsets. How do you explain the obsession that Indian designers have with wedding clothes?  Weddings are and have always been in our DNA. The West has a one evening or part day wedding. We have always stretched a wedding for three days to a week - whether rich or impoverished. So it is natural that Indian designers cater to that week-long celebration. There is a lot of money in Indian wedding wear and the entire wedding celebration – from the paanwallah to the mandap. In other fashion centres like Paris, New York and Berlin film stars don’t dominate and crowd the scene. Why do we do this in India? Quite simply because Indians love glamour and that translates into fashion and film. An average labourer in India gets a thrill not from the hundred rupees he has spent on a film. It is being in air conditioned splendour for two or three hours. And seeing places he will never visit in his life. This is the reality of the middle and lower class millions that comprise this vast country. What is the basic difference between fashion in India and let’s say in Europe or America?  For the West, fashion is about creating desirability for a new season. For the most part we Indians have no seasons. So for us, clothes are purchased more prudently based on how long we can wear a garment piece. That is more important than investing in the 'it winter jacket' to be worn for four months. If you had a magic wand, what is the first thing you would do to the world of fashion in India?  Take us back to wovens that have an impact on weavers’ lives and not mass made cloth from China, Korea and heaven knows where else at a cheap price. We need to support our weavers and farmers who are committing suicide thanks to alien marketing concepts based on the cheapest available product. On another note, you are one of the only fashion designers in the country to have been awarded the Padmasri. A few months later, the Supreme Court of India criminalized what it deemed was unnatural sex. What are your comments on this?  The Padmasri is given by the President. The Parliament makes rules which criminalises people based on archaic colonial laws. I may be a sinner (with Pope Francis I am not) in some people's eyes. Fair enough. But a criminal? Wake up Indian Parliament, lawmakers and judiciary! Chitra Subramaniam brings to you a series of conversations and interviews with national and international business, political, cultural leaders and innovative thinkers.

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