ARE WE INSANE?

What sort of foolish question is that? Of course we are. Stark Raving Loony to be exact. There can be no denial of the madness that compels two people to put their lives on hold, their sanity on a sans safety netted tightrope and their liquidity on the line. Their only motivation for doing so, to bind their world and experience between two covers. In the form of a book.

The descent into Literary La La Land began last year. Abu and I were debating how we wanted to commemorate our 25 years in Fashion. We were bored by the idea of parties and shows. What we wanted was to chronicle our amazing adventure in a way which would reach as large and diverse an audience as possible. To mark this milestone in a non-transient way . It was a no-brainer. A book was the way forward. Books are wonderful things. They immortalise because they are accessible, tangible and permanent.

And so we embarked on what we called a “project’, only to discover that it took over our whole existence.

We wanted to shoot our Couture against multiple backdrops. Abu and I have always believed that India is International. We therefore shot the book across global geographies. From Rajasthan to Brighton to Morocco to Death Valley, California. The logistics were a nightmare. Schlepping clothes, our team and ourselves from land to land cost us cash and hair in equal measure. And left both our heads and our pockets bare. Our decision to use international models also stemmed from our core belief that India can translate into any fashion language. Our clothes and silhouettes can grace an American body as beautifully as they do an Indian one. There was also a certain beauty to using unknown faces, because it allowed the Couture to be the Star.

Its no secret that Abu and I are like oil and water. We don’t see eye to eye on most things. And the realisation of this project, or India Fantastique, as we chose to name the two books was no exception to that rule. We battled it out, hammer and tong, tooth and nail, to the very end. When you have two nitpicking, control freaks with often diametrically opposed viewpoints working on the one product, things can only get messy.

We could have kept it simple. But that would have meant giving up who we are. We don’t believe in shortcuts or shortchanging our dreams. It is alien to our psyches. If you seek to create the extraordinary, then the attitude has to be “whatever it takes”. And in that fact lies the method to our madness. Its worked for us because our sheer doggedness, our inability to be rational when it comes to our work, our blind belief in jumping sans parachute into unchartered territory is the very reason we are blessed enough to have always pushed the envelope in our field.

India Fantastique features our work in Fashion & Interior Design. We hope its a book that will be read by students, by our peers, by Indophiles and ultimately all lovers of Design.

It is the perfect tribute we could have paid to each other and to our design partnership. Its production has mirrored our own history. One that has seen blood, sweat and tears mingle with fantasy and flight to create not just a body of work but a life story we are very proud to share with the world.

India Fantastique will hit the bookstores in three days. Like any birth with its seemingly endless Labour, we finally have our baby. And she’s more than worth it.

Sandeep

India Fantastique is published by Thames & Hudson, UK and will be available at bookstores from August 1, 2012.
You can also order it online via the following links

http://www.flipkart.com/india-fantastique-050097036x/p/itmd7yrhknxbyj97?pid=9780500970362&ref=c6b3f5fb-121a-490a-b9f0-cd57944e4436

http://www.amazon.com/India-Fantastique-Vol-Two-Jani/dp/050097036X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343372791&sr=8-1&keywords=India+Fantastique

SIZE WARS-The Skinny on Fat

We are at war with our bodies. It’s Skinny versus Fat in this internal battlefield strewn with sweat, spanxs and super-diets galore.

As usual, we in India have entered the fray a little late. Whilst the West is already beginning to reject the whole Size Zero Culture, having recognised both the futility and foolishness of the notion, we have decided to adopt it as our new Mantra of Mantras.

The recent media blitzkrieg centring around Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her post-baby weight left me shaking my head. I wish we paid as much attention and newsprint to petrol prices and corruption. Things might actually change in the country. Endless discussion, debate and dirty hatchet-job yellow journalism all focussed on the gall of a woman who dares to allow her body to change after motherhood. Guess what Folks, here’s the thing. For some people their body isn’t their sole pre-occupation. Especially when they are revelling in the pleasure of a life-changing experience.

This obsession with size is one of the many borrowed concepts that frankly have no place in our psyches or society. We are a culture and a body type that is made for curves. It’s Ajanta Ellora not Twiggy that floats our boat and our fashion. The Sari is made to be draped against rounded hips and the swell of a bosom. It sits better. Why on earth would we work ourselves into a skimmed-milk froth fighting our natural full-fat, full cream, shapes? Especially when it is a futile cause. Because even if we do starve and sculpt our way to angular boydom, is it really something that is even attractive? There is nothing sexier than the voluptuous. Nothing. Sonakshi Sinha in Rowdy Rathore epitomises this very fact. And yet the media have chosen to brand her with an XL label. How on earth does a woman become classified as XL just because she isn’t a bag of bones? Do we in India even know what XL means? I suggest a junket to Orlando for all journos. They need to grab an eyeful of Super-Sized Yanks at Disneyworld before they lump a perfectly proportioned woman with an XL tag.

There will be no victor in these wars. Everyone loses when they lose sight of the fact that beauty isn’t something that can be reduced to a dress size. All you end up getting is a nation of women consumed by self-doubt and insecurity. And no amount of luxe is going to disguise the unsexiness of paranoia. Its an unhealthy thing. We send out a dangerous message when we tell women that they need to conform to an arbitrary standard and vital statistics before they are can consider themselves physically attractive.

Abu and I work in Fashion and we’ve always chosen to design couture that works for a woman not against her body. Fashion is meant to flatter not cage. The idea is to enhance a woman’s existing beauty, not bamboozle her with impossible, invented standards of what is beauty and what isn’t. That’s too controlling for our liking. And a woman needs to be the one in control. So stop buying the crap you’re being sold. Its brainwashing at its most insidious. Stop the self-loathing. And start celebrating your curves. You have a right to look and feel beautiful at every size. Because you ARE.

Ekta Kapoor Rocks The VERVE Cover In Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla

The June Edition of VERVE sees Ekta Kapoor in a new super sleek and slinky avatar as she tops the power list of India’s most influential women.

“Abu and I wanted Ekta to ooze glam. She is the queen of tinsel town and deserves to look like a screen goddess herself

We chose a light as air, skin coloured georgette with dull gold lurex dots as the fabric for the constructed saree. And paired it with a stone encrusted blouse. The stones are abstract and in hues of smoky topaz, peridot, rose and grey. Its sensuous, sultry and befitting a woman at the top of her game”

-Sandeep Khosla

MADE IN INDIA -Taking Indian Fashion into the Global Space

Nurturing talent in any field isn’t really all that different from Gardening. The rules for both are identical. It is a mix of nature and nurture. The quality of the sapling or seed and the environment it is provided with in which to blossom.

Here’s the simple truth. Even the most perfect sapling cannot fully thrive without the correct environment. But even the most optimal environment cannot create a magnificent plant out of a poor sapling.

It all begins with the Designer. We will only grow whether it is in the domestic or the global market if our creativity is in place.

What makes a designer iconic? Its more than just beautiful clothes. it’s original design. The key word is ORIGINAL.

If you look at all the great names in global fashion each one of them has a sensibility all his or her own. They didn’t look at what existed and tweak it. They threw it out of their mental wardrobe and invented anew. Design when it is path breaking isn’t about giving people what they want. It is creating what you want and waiting for people to begin to covet it. That is the difference between an artist and a business. Artists don’t cater to a market they create an audience for their wares.

So I disagree with the notion that we must ‘lose’ our Indianness. What we need to shed is all forms of derivative fashion. Stop the borrowing. And give up wasting our time reinventing the wheel. We need to come up with something fabulous, free, unfettered. NEW. We need to stop aping, bowing, scraping. And tell the world. This is us. Love us.

I keep hearing the theory that we need to educate ourselves on what the international market wants. I don’t agree. Waves are created by those who break the rules. Not those who surrender to them. Stop following trends. Start setting them instead.

Abu & I received no formal training in Design. Creativity is in the blood. It cannot be taught. What can be learnt however is technique.

One area we as a fraternity lack in is tailoring and pattern cutting.

If we are going to make Western couture, we need to concentrate on these areas. It isn’t our core competency. The truth is that currently a jacket from Marks & Spencer fits better than any by an Indian Couture House. We cannot compete with a Dior, Armani or Prada until we incorporate this skill set into our product.

We’ve always been unabashedly Indian as a label. And our clothes have been worn by many non-Indians. -if we can adopt western wear there is no reason why the world cannot embrace indian silhouettes.

Once again it comes down to creating a taste for it among the global consumer. What else is the skinny jean except a revamped chudidar? How different is the kurta from the tunic?

Quality. We must be exacting in our standards. India must now be seen as it once was in the past. As the land of excellence as opposed to cheap and chic. More Hip less Hippie.

So that’s the role of the Designer.

Now we come to the Soil, Sun and Water that we need as a Fraternity. Environment.

There are three key areas when it comes to building an environment for growth.

Education. Infrastructure. Funding.

EDUCATION.
We need more institutions that focus on design. More NIDs more NIFTs. Places that can incubate natural talent and infuse it with technique. This is a role for both the Public and the Private Sector.

INFRASTRUCTURE.
No Label can grow to its optimal size without ramping up infrastructure. And this can only come through Funding. The Fashion Industry in India will not make a global impact unless we are able to ramp up manufacturing and retail and promote and market our wares. All of these require big bucks.

FUNDING.
Contrary to what many might think, the kind of money, designers no matter how successful do not possess.

Its not rocket science. In the West, Designers have grown across the globe because of the Arnaults, PPR’s and Richemonts.

We need Indian corporates to show the same belief in Indian designers as they do in Western labels. Instead of bringing International Labels to India, how about taking India to the World? Even before we go global, why not tap the huge market potential in India. Why can’t we produce the indigenous Zara’s and the Mango’s? Look at Couture. Why are Canali and Zegna selling the Nehru Jacket or Hermes and Cavalli, the sari? Because they see that Indian wear means big bucks. That the domestic market itself is a huge well waiting to strike oil.

We are uniquely positioned thanks to the mind boggling craft, textiles and raw talent we possess. But we are crippled by the lack of cash.

Cash to produce. Cash to flog our wares through retail outlets. Cash to build and create global hype through advertising and marketing.

It is time for the Patels to become the Pinaults.

We cannot fly without wings. Angels in the form of Investors. Its only a matter of time. If Indian corporates don’t get clued up and invest in us, International ones will. And how sad that would be. For Design India to go Global but be owned by non-Indians. That isn’t the ideal kind of Success. Our people need to recognise the wealth of talent and put their money and faith behind it.

We need to look no further than Japan as an example of how belief and backing can take you global. Japanese designers, headed by Miyake stormed the Bastions of global fashion with an entirely new ‘product’ alien to the western palate. And left them smacking their sartorial lips.

Fashion like all Luxury goods is ultimately about aspiration. And perception. If we are to woo the globe we need to have a presence across the globe. Once again it comes down to Money.

We need retail outlets in every key fashion capital. London, Paris, Milan, New York. You cannot conquer a market unless you penetrate it. People cannot buy your clothes unless they are available.

This brings me to the other Mantra for Success. Visibility.

We need editorial in international fashion bibles. And we need advertising.

If you look at what is taking place in Indian editions of international publications, there is a bombardment of editorial and advertising by international brands. We need to be able to afford to do the same thing across the globe. If you tell people something is in Vogue long enough and strong enough, they will begin to buy it as the Gospel Truth. If you look at content in all the premier design publications it is growing less and less Indian. International brands. Western silhouettes. How on earth can indigenous talent bloom if we are constantly telling the consumer that Indian isn’t as stylish as its western counterpart? This is how peculiar things like ballgowns at indian weddings have come about. So why don’t we use the same modus operandi and flood media across the world with the wonder that is Indian creativity? How about we make people wear lehengas in Churches across the world? The only thing stopping us is that we cannot afford to do so. We just don’t have the bucks.

Finally I want to touch upon us as a Fraternity.

As an Industry we need to stand together. This means lobbying government, it means ceasing the multi-fashion weeks, which only serve to fragment the impact. It means an end to infighting and the beginning of Solidarity.

Its all possible. The Dream is within reach. All it takes is will and dollars.

NOW PLAYING IN MY HEAD

The thing with me. I have an opinion on just about everything. Everything moves me. In many directions. Passion is something that comes naturally to the creative mind. If we weren’t ‘affected’, we wouldn’t have anything to channel into life.

People often wax lyrical about what inspires a collection or a single outfit. The truth is that Life in all its madness and mayhem is The Inspiration. Its a constant bombardment of the senses. Stuff we hate. Stuff we love. That which angers us. Other things that leave us cold. Life is what I get high on. From Politics to Cinema, Food to Fashion, all of it leaves an imprint on me. Mind, Body, and Soul. And from that convoluted mass of imagery and emotions comes everything.

To feel is to be alive. To be alive is to create.

I’m not a writer. But I’m here to tell my story. Its going to get crazy. Controversial even. Because that is who I am. I’ve never held my tongue. I’m not about to censor my pen.

Welcome to my Life…

Sandeep.