In the last decade, aspiring India has got new gods to worship. These gods wear good clothes, are often spotted partying, and in short, live their lives to the hilt. We call them the fash frat — or the fashion fraternity to be more precise. After Bollywood stars, fashion designers and models are the most sought after now. Everyone from the media to the mass chases them.
It is a feel good world indeed. Here everyone is happy, everyone is always spotted catching up [read air kissing] another, telling good things about others to the media [well, mostly]. However, once you are part of their clique, it is all a different story altogether. The air-kissing faces turn back to roll eyes, bitch. The feel-good quotes turn into stories of bickerings, turmoil and the incessant politics that happens out there.
And all this becomes media fodder, thanks to the mass’ increasing craving for ‘news’ about their new gods. However Shefalee Vasudev’s book Powder Room goes far beyond this. As the former [and first Indian] editor of Marie Claire, Vasudev has most certainly had access to all this, and more. But she chooses to tell a different tale through Powder Room which is divided into various chapters and looks at fashion from more than one angle. So if you are looking for gossip, steer clear, this one’s not for you. If you are looking for snarky comments and bitchy tales, this isn’t for you at all.
By her own admission, Vasudev is far removed from the fashion world having grown up in a ‘middle class, liberal Sindhi family in the small town of Gandhidham in Kutch’. ‘I was raised simply,’ she writes. Somewhere Vasudev takes pride in that. She is proud to be a non-conformist, happy that in her traditional saris she doesn’t fall into the cliché of fashion journalists. Vasudev is aware that she stands out, and she does that intentionally.
It is this stand of hers that makes an interesting read. Vasudev has clearly done her research for the book, interviewed more than 300 people, travelled all the way from Nagaland to Ludhiana and met almost everybody remotely associated with the world of looking good. From models to salesgirls at luxury international brands and from owners of tailoring units to uber-rich ladies from Ludhiana who form the major clientele for designer labels — Vasudev has them all covered. And then of course, there are fashion designers thrown in for good measure. Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal, Raakesh Agarvwal, Imcha Imchen — they are all there.
Vasudev has not left the media out of her critique. So you get to read about those who work in the haloed world of fashion magazines and how they try to grapple with the world of fashion. With many having come from humble backgrounds and earning ‘peanuts as salaries’, their desperation to fit in and ultimately feeling disillusioned [not much difference with salespersons at luxury boutiques there] and giving it all up comes across perfectly. The author has also not missed out on the ladies who lunch. But it’s not gloss there either — their individual sorrows come out pretty well.
In all, a well researched book but there are more tales that remain to be told — and not just bad ones.