BE FASHIONABLY FLUID

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How gender fluid fashion is changing the discourse in the industry

Fashion has conventionally been divided in two broad sectors – women’s wear and menswear. But talking about fashion and convention in one line itself is an oxymoron. Fashion has no form; it takes shape of the time it lives in with influence from cultural, social and political-scape of the world. No wonder then that gender fluid fashion has been creating waves in seismic proportions across the fashion and creative fraternity.  The clear demarcation between menswear and women’s wear is blurring. There is a new breed of innovative designers who have become the torchbearers of gender fluid fashion. They create unisex line of clothing while promoting a cultural revolution addressing the fashion needs beyond the binary customers.  Labels like Anaam, The Pot Plant, Antar- Agni, Huemen and Anuj Bhutani are leading the gender fluid fashion in India.

So what is gender neutral aka gender fluid fashion?

This is the latest entrant in the fashion vocabulary that creates unisex collections for all; not just catering to men’s or women’s line separately. But has the gender non-conformity happened for the first time in fashion? No. Androgynous fashion for women was first started by Yves Saint Laurent in 1966 when he created the first women’s tuxedo for evening wear. As the second wave of feminism spread across the world, women embraced the tuxedo as a symbol of rebellious evening wear.

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YSL – First women’s Tuxedo Campaign in 1966

Women wearing pants and shirts have been accepted as a form of androgynous dressing but the reverse isn’t true. Men wearing effeminate clothing, be it skirts or crop tops or slouch pants or sari, hasn’t been very common in current times.

Though the history recounts it otherwise.

One can’t forget David Bowie in the 70’s. He tried it all, from one-legged cat-suits, voluminous tie-dye suits to embroidered dress coats. Clothes were used to define personalities and make big statements. Remember Boy George rocking the peacock punk style and everything outrageous in the 80’s?  Back home in recent times, Ranveer Singh has been the ambassador of gender fluid fashion flaunting his devil-may-care-swag with long skirts, quirky floral print suits and earrings.

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David Bowie – Stardust Ziggy

 

“Historically, clothes never had gender.  Our mythology provides us with ample examples in form of deities who despite being the icon for strength had effeminate dressing style.  Clothes worn then were not divisive on the basis of gender. Be it Dhoti drape, skirt, pearl strings, beaded necklace or earrings, none of these indicated that these particular elements were meant for only men or women. It is only after the invasion of Mughals and the British Raj that there was a clear distinction of menswear and women’s wear” shares Sumiran Kabir Sharma, Founder & Creative Director of Anaam Label whose style aesthetics are highly inspired by Ardhanareshvar avatar of Shiva, an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati.

Winner of the Woolmark Company’s Best Design Collection Award Portfolio 2013 and Woolmark Young Talent Award, Kabir’s labels’ ethos lies in its unique language — their silhouettes, drapes and detailing. Anaam as the name suggests, is a label that doesn’t adhere to any norms or rigid barriers.

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Janaaza collection – Anaam

According to Fred Davis in his book ‘ Fashion, Culture and Identity’, the dress of the European aristocracy changed in the 1800s when men’s dressing became a means of communicating economic success and women’s dressing continued to follow an elaborate dress code. As a result, men assumed a highly restricted dress code as the European aristocracy began to decline and the advent of industrial capitalism began.

George Bryan Brummell, better known as Beau Brummell was an iconic figure in Regency England in the 18th century. Known as the forefather of men’s modern style, Brummell was the first one to introduce the concept of bespoke dressing. He made slick tailored suits trending as opposed to elaborate dress coats of British aristocracy.

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George Byron Brummel

“The British invasion brought in the strict code of dressing divide. Erstwhile drapes were traded for modern day pants, shirts and jackets to fit in the working class in India” shares Himanshu Verma, Founder –Red Earth. He further elaborates on the history of menswear and adds ‘Before Mughals came to India, both men and women wore only drapes, either as dhoti or a sari. The concept of stitched clothing came in with Mughals.  Ornate Jamas and Chogas became a part of both men and women’s wear”.

Himanshu Verma, aka Saree man, has been the torchbearer of gender fluid fashion in India since 2006, almost a decade after David Beckham wore sarong and took the world by surprise. The Saree man moves around the country curating and showcasing saris from different regions, while being draped in his six yards. He wears handloom saris with eccentric shirt blouses while colourful nose pin and ear studs are his evergreen style companions. On the days when he doesn’t wear a sari, he opts for dhotis, almost always.

Himanshu Verma

Himanshu Verma aka Saree Man

Resham Karmchandani and Sanya Suri’s love for fashion aesthetics are not restricted to gender. Their label ‘The Pot Plant’ believes in inclusive and comfortable fashion for all, regardless of gender. Their ensembles explore the possibility of moulding supposedly feminine fabrics like chanderi, silk and bandhani into garments that are just that – ‘garments’; a non-gender confirmative entity.

“For us working with gender fluid aesthetics has not been just about designing clothes that people would like to wear. We both have grown up with beautiful hand–me-down clothes irrespective of the fact whether they belonged to our brother or sisters or our parents. We wore our mother’s dresses and our father’s old shirts .So the idea of creating gender neutral clothes came naturally to us” says Sanya Suri on their ethos to create gender neutral clothes.

The Pot Plant

The Pot Plant

Reiterating the importance of hand-me-down clothes in Indian families, Kabir reminiscences his childhood and shares “I come from a middle class family from the hills in Himachal Pradesh. I was given clothes, be it skirts or floral pajamas, as hand-me-down from my elder sister. Since it was a part of my upbringing I never thought that these pieces were gender specific. Education and society conditions us to believe in these demarcations. My label Anaam is an extension of my belief in breaking these society generated barriers of clothing’

Kabir, who calls himself a silhouette artist, is influenced by his family in his style aesthetics. His mom was a teacher who proudly flaunted sari with sports shoes and wore his dad’s coat to protect from cold. It was a utilitarian approach more than a style statement. Gender conformity was never a question.

“If one may notice, kurta, Tee-shirt, Jacket and Jeans are gender neutral clothes. Shirts however have distinction in buttons. Women have buttons on left and men on right. Theories say it was because upper class women in Renaissance and Victorian eras were dressed by maids and hence for the ease, buttons were on left. At Anaam, we create clothes that are unisex. Buttons are on the same side for both men and women’ added Kabir on trivia of gender neutral clothes.

While the world is embracing this trend of gender neutral garments, there is still a resistance in customers in India. Bollywood celebrities like Arjun Kapoor have sported cowl-neck and draped pants by Antar-Agni, Sushant Singh Rajput has walked for Shantanu and Nikhil in a cascading draped kurta whereas Ranveer Singh has sported skirt. But beyond the celebrities endorsing the trend or models sashaying the outfits on ramp, labels see a marginal acceptance outside the fashion and design fraternity. Women have been acceptant of the androgynous fashion as a symbol of feminism in everyday life but men are still hesitant to try the drapes and unstructured silhouettes.

Arjun Kapoor

Arjun Kapoor in Antar Agni

“I think there has been a paradigm shift in the way people are now accepting fluid aesthetics. They are following the trend but we think there is still a long way to go in India. While there is more acceptance of women wearing androgynous clothing and men wearing draped silhouettes, I think we still have time when men will accept wearing dresses and women will wear ‘traditional’ menswear silhouettes” shared Reshma Karamchandani from The Pot Plant on market acceptance in India.

Kabir adds an interesting point on business aspect of unisex garments while sharing “In European markets, unisex clothes are very acceptable. There is an emergence of sustainable fashion believers who tend to invest in labels that produce garments with lesser carbon footprints. Unisex garment production is a sustainable way, both for designers and retailers. They do not need to invest in creating an inventory for both genders thereby reducing the amount of fabric used and resources spent. The acceptance in India is at a nascent level but I believe with Bollywood endorsing the gender neutral clothes, there should be a change in the scenario in future”

There is a rising population of youth that does not want to be identified in standard gender binary (male or female). They want to be gender fluid and not bracketed in one label. The society has become more acceptant of this Cultural Revolution. Gender Neutral trend is moving beyond symbolising its wearers’ identity or sexuality. World over it is now being accepted by the mainstream as more of a look both on ramp and high street. Will Indian fashion aficionados accept this as a mainstream cult or allow it to fade as a cyclical fashion trend is a million dollar question.

Until then, the silent mutiny of Gender Fluid Fashion continues; trying to be heard.

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Why is slow fashion on an uprise?

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If you have been following fashion news, there are chances that you would have come across buzzwords like slow fashion, sustainable fashion and ethical fashion. International designers and labels have been on the sustainable band wagon since about three decades now. In India, the movement is gaining momentum, albeit in the marginal elitist fashion aficionados.

So before you head out and make the purchase under either of three labels- slow fashion, sustainable fashion and ethical fashion, here’s a breakdown of what do these terminologies mean and why do they exist…

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Kate Fletcher

Kate Fletcher, an eco-textile consultant, coined the term ‘Slow Fashion’ in 2007. It was adapted from the concept of ‘Slow Food movement’ started by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986.  Slow Fashion draws a parallel with Slow Food movement by aiming to strike a balance in consumption pattern of fashion consumers by increasing awareness and responsibility towards environment.

Since last century, the entire process of fibre to fashion has been ruled by fashion trends being showcased through four collections in a year. Growing cotton in the farms to ginning to weaving the fabrics to dyeing – all these essential process in textile production creates a huge impact on the environment.  Whether it is the use of fertilizers and pesticides to increase per hectare production, disposing effluents after dyeing the fabrics or overuse of water in producing one pair of jeans, there is a sizeable amount of environmental damage that happens.

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Cotton Fields

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Dye Effluents from Factory

Once the textile is ready to be converted in a fashionable garment and produced in bulk, factory workers come in picture.

Biggest fashion conglomerates outsource their production from countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China and India as the labour wages are lower as compared to developed countries. However, most of these factories run in abysmal conditions where the workers are working overtime in cramped dim-lit environment. The machinery and venue safety is a perennial concern. While it might be passed off as ‘employment generation’ by these few governments, more often than not it is just outsourcing of cheap labour by the developed countries.

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Garment Factory workers

The Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, in which 1,130 people died and 2,500 were injured when a run-down eight-storey factory complex making clothes for Primark, Benetton, Walmart and other Western brands collapsed, highlighted the dangers of the industry in Bangladesh. Closer home, some Bengaluru factories keep women (the majority of garment workers) in hostels monitored by male security guards and severely restrict their movements. Most are allowed to leave for only two hours a week, usually on Sunday to buy groceries and other items, and only after registering with a guard. The rest of the time, women are expected to travel only to and from work, and guards record when they arrive at and leave the hostels.

Moving on from factory workers condition, these mass produced garments are then sold off at retail outlets at affordable high street rates. Mass-production and poor labour wages give the manufacturer/fashion house a huge scope to cut on the rates.

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Fast Fashion

However, the demand-supply economics works well in a competitive environment. Consumption pattern by the fashion conscious population has witnessed an upward growth in the past two decades owing to mass produced affordable fashion. We all have more than 100+ garments in our closet now as compared to an average of 30+ garments about two decades ago.

Quite a substantial increase right?

Top it up with the increase in landfill dump that is increased with the rise in amount of clothes being discarded every year. It is not just the energy-intensive process of making the garments from fibre to fabric that is causing environmental and human rights issues; the reality is that most of the clothes we wear end up in landfill.

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Landfill

So yes, while you flaunt around that bargain deal top that you just got from H&M, Zara, Stalkbuylove or Ajio, someone somewhere has paid the price for it.

This is exactly where Sustainable, Ethical and slow fashion comes in picture.

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Sustainable fashion focuses on environmental impact that a garment has; in laymen terms it means no use of fertilizer to produce the cotton used for fabric, using drip irrigation method for harvesting thereby saving water, using natural dyes to prevent the effect of toxic effluents on water and ensuring that minimum carbon footprints are generated in production of one garment. It means labour used is local and the garment travels very less from crop to final finish to avoid larger carbon footprints.

Ethical Fashion deals with advocacy of fair trade practices in fashion industry. It means right price is being paid to farmer, weaver, dyer, tailor and factory worker that is in sync with labour laws of the country.

Slow Fashion essentially deals with timeless styles that are unaffected by seasonal trends in fashion. It is a movement to promote cuts, silhouettes and colours that stay with the wearer always, regardless of changing seasons. It is an antithesis of fast fashion; the one where every week new styles keep coming up. It advocates buying quality garment that stays longer rather than buying 10 fast fashion garments that wear and tear easily…

Slow Fashion’s antecedents trace back to 30 years ago.

A revolutionary movement was started by Patagonia, outdoor retailer from USA, back in 80’s. It took the world by storm with its iconic ad – ‘Do not Buy this Jacket’ in a bid to promote anti-consumerism. It has played a strong role in environmental activism. It advocated buying less, repairing if needed and wearing the loved clothes more often.  It struck a chord with a segment of people who believed in this cause and its sales zoomed up by 47% in next two years. All through these years, Patagonia advocates buying less but buying good quality only.

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Patagonia

Eileen Fischer is another label that has spearheaded the slow fashion movement in last three decades producing quality organic work-wear for women.

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Eileen Fischer

India too is catching up with the slow fashion revolution indeed. There is an up rise of designers shifting to branding and re-branding themselves as the purveyors of slow fashion. With labels like Paromita Banerjee, Soham Dave, Shades of India, Naushad Ali, Three, Runway Bicycle, Doodlage and more, there sure are many options to check for a conscious consumer. Easy silhouettes, naturally dyed clothes, organic fabrics – all tick marks done while promoting sustainable and slow fashion in India.

However, is the slow fashion revolution truly democratic in India?

Is it all inclusive or is it catering to the niche segment only?

How does one promote conscious- fashion -consumer behaviour?

(Watch this space for the next article on the Series on ‘Slow Fashion and its evolution’)

 

 

Forever in Blue Jeans

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Money talks
But it don’t sing and dance
And it don’t walk
And long as I can have you here with me
I’d much rather be
Forever in blue jeans
Honey’s sweet
But it ain’t nothin’ next to baby’s treat

And if you pardon me
I’d like to say
We’ll do okay
Forever in blue jeans

Neil Diamond 

Named after the city ‘Genoa’ in Italy way back in late 19th century, Jeans have retained the cult status of ultimate style staple for any fashionista worth her salt. The versatile fabric has been used in all forms of garment construction – be it pants, skirts, tops, shirts, jackets, dresses, jumpsuits and even sarees. Fashion experts have gone ahead and embraced denims season after season while designers play around with waistlines, hemlines and embellishments.

We bring you the top picks to style the denims in six different ways.

  1. Embroidered Denim

The 70’s flare is back and how. Gucci’s collection of butterfly, snake and flower-adorned denim is definitely the must-have item for the quirky fashion lovers. Decorated with hand-stitched appliqués, the jeans are cut in a flattering flared silhouette – perfectly in tune with the label’s retro-inspired aesthetic.  Pair it with a plain white tee for the eclectic vibes. If you are the DIY kinds, get kutchi embroidery done on your old pair of denims and give it a funky new look.

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Denim Trends SS 2018

 

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Amal Clooney being the 70’s goddess

2. Jacket

Layering is one of the biggest trends for 2017. Buy a classic blue over sized denim as the staple for layering. For the boho chic vibes, opt for patch-work embroidered back. Lay your hands on the spiked jacket for the cool biker look. For the sustainable fashion lovers, there are brands that create upcycled boro denim jackets. Wear it over a dress or throw it on as a cape. For the stylish edge, wear your jacket backward front.

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Harper Embroidered denim distressed floral jacket

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June Chapters Denim Jacket by Nidhi Lodha

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Boro Cape

3. Jumpsuit

Started as a fashionable trend by Coco Chanel in 1920’s and having later gained popularity as the ‘rosies’, denim jumpsuits have a polarised fashion view. Some love it, some hate it. But we say, one can never go wrong with a denim jumpsuit. Style it with basic white tee for or wear it over a turtle neck cardigan. Wear a peasant top for the bohemian look or style it with crisp white classic shirt for a Friday dress-up.

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Ruffled denim Jumpsuit Sea Resort Wear SS 2018

Denim jumpsuit Ajio

Denim Jumpsuit – Ajio

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Denim Jumpsuit SS 2018

4. Dress 

Move aside LBD. Say hello to the denim dress. Opt for 50’s midi denim dress for the poised feminine look.  Keep the hemline short, crisp and suave for a dinner date. Wear the easy denim shirt dress for the weekend lounging. Long maxi dresses with patchwork are the new norm for resort wear. Dress it up or down depending on the occasion.

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Denim Midi Dress – co-resort-2018

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Denim Maxi Dress

Koovs denim dress

70’s style bell sleeved denim dress

5. Skirt

Denim mini skirt has been a classic wardrobe staple since decades. The lengths of the skirts have altered cyclically. The current trend is towards midi length denim skirts, a trend reminiscent of the 50’s. Style it with blouson tops with bell sleeves for the hippy look. Comfort fit lovers can get a long flared skirt for the extra twirl and be ready to rule over the kingdom of bohemia.

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Vionett Long denim skirt

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Olivia Palermo in pencil denim skirt

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Dakota Fanning in classic blue denim mini skirt

6. Saree & Shirt 

Textile designers are pushing their boundaries while incorporating the denim fabric while retaining the softness of the saree so that the garment drapes well. Go stylish by opting for denim saree and team with floral blouses or opt for denim shirts /crop tops to add some cool quotient to that six yard drape.

Denim Saree - Fashion Market LK

Saree from Fashion Market

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Classic Denim Shirt

(The Original article was written and published in Femina Gujarat magazine – October 2017)

How are you styling your denims ? Care to share in the comment box ?

8 ways to boost hair growth

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In the fast paced maze of urban lifestyle, one inevitably faces the dreaded issue of hair-fall and hair thinning at one point or other in life. Detailed introspection in terms of dietary intake, hormonal imbalance, drug side effects, pollution and stress levels needs to be done to deduce the causative factor for hair loss which leads to stunted hair growth. Whether hair growth can be boosted or not is debatable, but there are certain tried and tested ingredients that can aid in increasing blood circulation of the scalp thereby stimulating the hair growth phase.

Hair growth cycle comprises of 3 phase – Anagen, Catagen and Telogen. Anagen phase is the hair growth phase wherein hair grows by ½ inch every month. It lasts for around 2-6 years. Catagen phase is the transition phase lasting for about 10 days. Telogen is the last phase in which hair falls from the bulb. It typically lasts for 5-6 weeks. At a given point, each hair is in different phase of hair growth cycle. Thus losing 80-100 hair per day is considered to be normal; anything beyond that is termed as hair loss.

So what are the easy remedies to boost the hair growth?

  1. Onion – Onion is rich in essential nutrient sulphur- a building block for keratin content of hair. Sulphur is known to stimulate the anagen phase thus aiding in hair growth. To try this remedy, cut a few slices of onion, squeeze out its juice and apply it on your scalp for about 10-15 minutes. Rinse it off with a mild sulphate and paraben free shampoo for healthy hair. Alternatively, one can try potato juice in the same way.

Can-Onion-Juice-Really-Help-for-Hair-Growth-300x225

 

  1. Hibiscus – This flower is rich in amino acids and vitamin C, both of which are essential for hair growth. It is one of the best home remedies used for hair growth. It prevents the pre-mature aging and improves the thickness of the hair. One can mix coconut oil or sesame oil in hibiscus flower paste and apply to hair. Rinse the hair with mild shampoo after 15 minutes for to get the bouncy locks.

hibiscus1

 

 

  1. Fenugreek– It is an age-old kitchen remedy for hair growth issues. Fenugreek contains proteins and nicotinic acid which is known to encourage hair growth. Additionally it also adds shine to the hair owing to lecithin. Add a tablespoon of soaked Fenugreek seeds and water in a grinder till a smooth paste it formed. Mix coconut oil to it and apply the paste on your hair and scalp. Wash it off with a mild shampoo after 30 minutes. Repeat this process every week to see results.

fenugreek-or-methi-seeds-beauty-benefits

 

  1. Amla – Amla or the Indian Gooseberry is rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants. While Vitamin C accelerates hair growth, anti-oxidants keep hair follicles healthy by fighting off the damage-causing free radicals. One can mix 2 teaspoons of amla powder with equal amounts of Shikakai powder and mix it with water to form a paste. Apply it to the scalp and hair and let it dry for 30 minutes. Rinse it off with some warm water. Shikakai acts as natural cleanser whereas amla aids in hair growth.

Cures-A-Sore-Throat

Despite there being kitchen remedies, most women opt for salon treatments either due to lack of patience or lack of time. The salon treatments give quicker results and bring about a sense of relaxation. No wonder high frequency treatment, Mesotherapy for hair loss, keratin treatments, Organic spa and Moroccan spa are ringing the cash registers at salons.

  1. High frequency therapy – It is a type of intensive hair treatment to cure dandruff, hair-fall or alopecia, carried out by treating your hair with high-frequency infra and ultra rays. A comb that emits infra red rays is used on various portions of the affected scalp. This is process is done for two-three minutes, followed by a thorough oil massage for about 20 minutes, followed by hair mask, steam and UV ray exposure. If done for 5-10 sittings, this treatment gives considerable results while boosting hair growth.

 

  1. Mesotherapy – It is a non-invasive technique based on superficial microinjections. Mesotherapy is a treatment that stimulates the mesoderm – middle layer of skin, approximately 1 mm deep.The solution injected can contain a wide range of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, nucleic acids and co-enzymes that can be tailored to each patient’s individual needs to boost hair growth. The treatment itself takes between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the area being treated. Usually minimum of 10 sessions is required to stimulate hair growth.

Contrary to the popular belief of selling innovative hair treatments to increase hair growth, Hair research expert Saloni Mehta shares, ‘Hair re-growth is debatable topic in hair industry. It is not possible to re-grow the hair; it is possible to stimulate the scalp, improve blood flow and nutrients. It will aid in pushing more hair follicles in growth phase. It is important to maintain a healthy PH balance of scalp between 4.5 to 5.5. Healthy scalp means healthy hair follicles and better hair growth. It is also important to watch the micro-nutrients in your diet and get your dose of vitamins to maintain a healthy mane’.

She adds,”Start by getting yourself checked for vitamin B12 and D3 deficiency. In case one is suffering from thyroid imbalance or PCOS, hairfall is bound to happen. In such cases it is important to first solve the systemic disorder. Second step is to check on the stress levels and dietary inputs. It is important to maintain healthy diet full of micro-nutrients and essential amino acids to have a healthy scalp and hair growth.”

There are other salon treatments available in market for boosting hair growth and softness. Frizzy hair leads to lot of breakage and hair loss.

  1. Deep conditioning treatments are done with an aim to increase blood circulation through massages while hot steam aids the penetration of products in the scalp. Loreal, Schwarzkopf and Matrix have a range of deep conditioning spa that boosts hair nourishment and in turn improves hair growth. In the premium segment, sulphate and parabene free products are on an up rise.

 

  1. Organic Spa from Amsterdam based brand like Keune is the latest craze in the hair industry. 911 Quinoa from Biotop Professional is another product that is selling like hot cakes for the ones interested in organic hair treatments. Quinoa based products are like life-line for dry, damaged and lifeless hair as they contain natural protein.

quinoa+shampoo+500

Last but not the least, stay hydrated always. There is no better remedy than a healthy meal and happy sleep.

( This article first appeared in Femina Gujarat)

Musafiri – 5 Essentials

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Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And bury them beneath the sea
I don’t care what the people may say
What the people may say about me
Pack Up your troubles get your old grin back
Don’t worry bout the cavalry
I don’t care what the whisperers say
Cos they whisper too loud for me

Eliza Doolittle

Monsoon has become synonymous with vacations and travel, for the urban working class. The thought of travelling through the greens while its still drizzling makes one start planning for the weekends that fall between June – Sep. Whether you are headed to north eastern- scape of the country to escape the city bustle or are travelling to the lesser explored beach destinations, you will always need to learn the art of packing right and light. It is important to select your bags carefully for travel while bearing in mind that it is utilitarian besides being fashionable.

So we bring you the list of 5 essential bags that you should buy for keeps.

  1. Weekender bag

Packaging is important, isn’t it? So why compromise on the bag that carries all your fancy summer wear. Weekender duffel bags are the perfect carry-me bags for those spontaneous weekend getaways. They are your best bet when you want to travel light and avoid baggage check-in.  There are various travel accessories label that design weekender bags in different materials like leather, nylon, canvas, denim and organic fibres.  We recommend weekender bags from The Burlap People and October Jaipur for the urbane travel look.

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Weekender Bag from The Burlap People

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Weekender Bag from October Jaipur

  1. Backpack

If you are a 90’s kid, you would have definitely carried these back packs to school and college. Guess what, Backpacks are back in vogue again. They are here to replace the mod purses and make preppy look cool. What more, besides looking hip, they can hold all your essentials like mobile, passport, make-up kit and shades in organised compartments. The creative nerds can add a customised patch to make their own DIY designer back pack.  The classic lovers can select from denim & leather backpacks whereas the eclectic ones can pick up the ones with boho chic embroidery.

Mohawk Bags and The Burlap People have covered your back for your stylish back pack needs.

Mohawk Collection - Backpack

Backpack from Mohawk Bags

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Backpack from The Burlap People

  1. Tote Bag

Come summer, come winter; what can never go out of style are the quintessential Tote Bags. They are very much like the denims of the ‘bag world’; one can have multiple trendy options, but ought to have a classic piece. Invest in a smart brown tan leather bag and wrap a bright summer scarf to amp up the style quotient. For the fast fashion lovers, there are stunning canvas tote bags available with hand painted art work, digital prints and tassel embellishments.

If you are going for the beach holiday, don’t forget to carry the ‘mermaid tote’ by Cyahi and if your are just going to explore the cities, grab this luxury travelling piece from Nappa Dori.

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Tote from Cyahi

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Jhola Bag from Nappa Dori

  1. Cross Body bag

Several travelling experts recommend one travel bag that can not only help you stay safe from pickpocketers but also look stylish– the ubiquitous ‘cross body satchel bag’. Opt for the bags with broad straps as they distribute the weight evenly across the shoulder. It is available in cotton, leather, denim and nylon fabrics.  Do you recall the ‘Jhola’ bags that come in bright traditional silk fabrics? They are an interesting take on bohemian cross body bag. Check out interesting ikat and leather satchel bag from Nappa Dori and classic leather bag from Chiaroscuro.

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Satchel Bag from Nappa Dori

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Satchel Bag from Chiaroscuro

  1. Woven Bag

Be it lazing on an exotic beach or walking down the French promenade, a woven straw bag is a must-have for the easy breezy summer vibes. The idyllic picture perfect postcard setting of a straw bag, a leather brimmed hat, pastel scarf and retro white shades is enough to prompt one to start planning the vacation ahead.

Woven straw bags have become a fashion staple for the fashionistas, be it summer or fall. Pick up the one with pom poms, tassles, coins or shells to stand out from the regular.

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Straw Bag from Camelcraft

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Get these travel ready bags now and get going, will you?

( Images from the respective websites)

Note – This article was first published in Femina magazine.

Make way for Gender Fluid fashion in India

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Fashion reflects the times we live in. 

The perennial changes in style, be it a puff here and a nip there, flared hemlines or tapered cuts, are more often than not influenced by the social, economical, political and cultural changes in the society. The 20’s flapper dress was symbolic to women’s liberation and the first wave of feminism, the 60’s bohemian prints and bell bottoms were indicative of the counter culture movement whereas 90’s was focused on relaxed jeans and basic tee shirts- a sign of minimalism(Oh , don’t roll your eyes )

In the current times, gender fluid fashion is on the up rise. The menswear shows in London last fortnight have witnessed fashion brands clamouring for the co-ed badges. Be it men wearing silk dresses at Vivienne Westwood’s show, puff-sleeved gowns at Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, and hooped floor-length skirts at Edward Crutchley’s, gender neutral fashion is here to stay. High street brand Zara has capitalised on the market for clothes that can be worn by men or women, offering a gender-neutral fashion range.

We are living in interesting times, aren’t we?

Closer home, away from the stiff upper lip London Fashion week scene, a saree-clad desi man has been initiating dialogues around gender neutral fashion. Himanshu Verma, aka Saree man, has been the torchbearer of gender fluid fashion in India since 2006, almost a decade after David Beckham wore sarong and took the world by surprise, dare I say pleasant?

The Saree man moves around the town draped in his six yards with an enviable nonchalance. He wears handloom sarees with eccentric shirt blouses while colourful nose pin and ear studs are his evergreen style companions. On the days when he doesn’t wear a saree, he opts for dhotis, almost always.

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Himanshu Verma aka the Saree man displaying Saree Summery at Options, Ahmedabad 

Himanshu Verma was recently in the city to display ‘Saree Festival‘ at Options, Ahmedabad for the very first time. For the non-initiated, ‘Saree Festival’ is a unique saree exhibition curated by Himanshu wherein he brings together about 10 indie fashion designers from across the country and displays it in various cities across the country, spreading the love for rich Indian textiles far and wide.

In an exclusive interview with Ciceroni and Appleblossom, he opened up about his penchant for the gender fluid fashion and what influenced his sartorial choices.

Here are the excerpts from the interview.

  1. What is your earliest memory of wearing saree?

Though I graduated in English literature from Mumbai, I found that probably language wasn’t interesting enough for me to pursue career in it.  Back then, I was in love with Hindustani classical music and I aspired to be a vocalist. The classical music, poetry and its accompanying aesthetic sense had a strong influence in my formative years of career.

I formed a company ‘Red Earth’ under which I dealt with interesting initiatives in art, music and poetry. During one such art exhibition in 2006, where the theme was Changing Masculinity in India, I decided to explore and dress thematically by wearing a saree.

That was the very first time I wore a saree.

It was my mom’s embroidered saree in magenta pink colour. I was enamoured by its intricate detailing and how its drape felt on me. Since that day and now, I have consciously worn sarees as I firmly believe; saree is gender neutral apparel. It’s only about 150 years since there has been a clear distinction in men and women’s draping norms.

  1. Which is your favourite kind of saree?

I am a big fan of ilkals from Karnataka and Maharashtra. I personally like fabrics that are thick since they hold and drape really well. I am sucker for the masculine sarees – the ones that have solid coloured plain body and a big border. If I were to evaluate my fashion style, I have indeed graduated. Starting from fashion novice’s fascination with bling and jazz to gradually transitioning to connoisseur’s choice of timeless handlooms in neutral tones, I have come a long way.

For now, I am onwards on my journey towards minimalism.

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  1. Do accessories play an important role in styling?

Accessories form an integral part of fashion styling. They help in creating individualistic styles. I often wear full sleeves blouse and style it with brooch, chaabi-challa, nose pins and ear studs in old silver.

My personal accessory collection is memorabilia of my travel sojourns. Antiques and old silver are my go-to options when in dilemma. I generally scour for vintage pieces in small jewellery shops located usually in the old cities.

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Saree Man aka Himanshu Verma with Falguni Patel , Appleblossom in Ahmedabad

  1. What led to the inception of ‘Saree Festival’?

The first ‘Saree Festival’ was conceptualized in 2014. We did the first festival in Delhi, our home territory. The idea was to curate indie- designers who worked on creating handloom sarees from different parts of the country and educate the locals about the different weaves while making the products commercially available through the Saree Festival.

Since we are particular about the quality, we always work with only 10-15 designers at one go. We have exhibited in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Jaipur and Lucknow till now. To get the saree lovers interested in different weaves, we designed knowledge based workshops and talks around textiles while offered styling advice for the trend enthusiasts.

Saree Festival has grown by leaps and bounds in last three years. Various online groups that are dedicated to saree appreciation have been following saree man and his saree festivals very diligently.

In their maiden festival ‘Saree Summery’at Options Ahmedabad, Himanshu displayed a magnificient collection of kala cotton, chanderi, bamboo saree, santhal saree, linens, begampuris , ilkals , khadi and kutchi worked sarees to woo the Amdavadi saree lovers. One could lay their hands on rich linens by Nadiya paar and Galang Gabaan, Khadi sarees by Love for the loom, concept sarees by Tuni Textiles besides the intricate and festive Benarasis.

As a part of the festival, Saree Summery in association with Options Ahmedabad also organised a ‘Saree Gossip’ where I finally met Rushika Gadani, a practising dermatoligist and saree enthusiast , Neha Sharma, stylist and blogger at The Stylewali and Vaidehi Shah, entrepreneur and saree enthusiast as a part of the panel of saree discussions. Thanks to the enterprising Janki Patel, Founder – Options Ahmedabad, that Ahmedabad city witnessed an event like this.

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The evening went by exchanging notes on the first memory of saree draping, favourite kind of saree and blouse and what would one prefer – linen, kota doria or chanderi while sipping on the kadak masala chai served by the very hospitable Options Ahmedabad team.

As I left from the Saree Summery exhibition, I wondered about what I had been a part of just about some time back in there…What stayed with me was the panache with which Himanshu carried himself in the gender fluid drape and how the fashion world was evolving here in India, thousands of kilometers away from the thriving fashion scenes of London, Paris and New York.

Changing perceptions of the society; one drape at a time.

 

 Creative Team for Saree Man Project – 

  Photography Collaboration – The awesome Kavan Solanki  of Design Shoots 

  Make-up & Hair – Kamleshbhai from VLCC Ahmedabad ( See this is where your ex-work place comes handy , Thank you Vishal Mudgal  )

Location and Accessories Courtesy – Options Ahmedabad 

I am wearing a Kala Cotton saree by Three Threads

 

 

If you did like this story, then do come back to check the next story on Old world Charm and love for slow life on Saturday.

 

 

Budget Shopping – All under 5000

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Haven’t we all fashion lovers drooled over the latest runway looks while secretly wishing for a genie to grant us the wish to own all of it? If it was a movie, Richard Gere would have come to the rescue in best case scenario or on not-so-sunny days, one would have gone broke like Rebecca Bloomwood from ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’.

But real life is a tad different. One struggles with the dilemma of avoiding the credit card bill nightmare while consciously pushing away the nagging feeling of being unable to shop that ‘Oh so Diva-esque’ look.

What if we gave you a cheat sheet to shop smart and look glamorous – all under 5000?

Yes, under 5000 only. 

It is actually easy to build a stylish wardrobe without spending a bomb.

First step is to divide the budget into five categories that create a complete look – Top, bottom, shoes, bag and fashion accessories.

  • Tops

Most of all online fashion portals have a section dedicated to products under 500. While you may need time and eye for details to find the right one, you can definitely purchase a classic piece under 500. In case the top that you are eyeing for isn’t under 500, we say wait… The stocks recycle every quarter and you will be able to buy the same top at discount after a month.  Penny saved is penny earned, isn’t it?  Buy from trusted portals to ensure the fabric quality though.

Check – Stalkbuylove, Bhane, Ajio

  • Bottoms

Women have multitude of options in bottom wear – be it a denim, jeggings, slacks, cotton pants, long skirt, denim skirt, flared pants or culottes. Trust us, all these can be bought under 999 if you care to search it well. Fashion Retail sector works on discounts in India – there is either a festive discount or seasons discount or long weekend discount. Wait for one, always.

Alternatively government handloom stores are the best bet for high quality handloom fabric and affordable rates. You know where to buy your next cotton skirts, culottes and flared pants from now, don’t you ?

Check – Gurjari, Rajasthan Emporium, Cotton World, Fab India

  • Shoes

The point about shoes is that they ought to be comfortable besides looking chic. Multi-retail format stores offer the best range of footwear in budget range. Opt for the rad white sneakers or comfy espadrilles, boho chic kolhapuris or classic ballet flats – all under 899. Certain online fashion portals offer 2 pairs under 899, quite a steal deal, right? If you choose to order online, do measure your foot size correctly to avoid returning of products.

Check – Streetstylestore, Ajio, Keri , Westside

  • Bag

Bags are best bought during your travel trips to different destinations. Udaipur sells the quintessential tan leather satchel bags under 1000. Streets of Delhi and Mumbai offer quirky embroidered jhola bags under 700. For the suave ones, check the clearance section of high street stores like Promod, H&M and Zara. They have mind boggling deals. Our shoestring shopper advice – pick them in all colours, if on discount, certain product are for keeps.

Check – Colaba Causeway, Janpath, Promod, H&M, Zara

  • Accessories

The best way to buy accessories in budget is through smart street shopping. Head on to the old city and be prepared to rummage through the treasure trove of the street vendors.  Do bargain, always. Also, there are interesting Facebook groups like Urban Tribal where sellers from across the country share their products along with price. Owing to competition, prices are very modest. One can buy the latest design statement neckpiece in german silver along with nose pin, earrings and finger ring, all under 1500. For the quirky ones, always check out flea markets in the city. You will bump into a new designer every time who is creating interesting jewellery.

Check – Pipa Bella, bylanes of old city, flea markets

If you dont believe this, check out my Instagram page here for daily style inspiration in budget fashion ( Well that one is almost always less than 2000) – Falguni Patel ( TheF_world )

( PS – This article was originally produced for and published in FEMINA Gujarat Edition. This is the unedited version)