Fashion | The Pursuit Of Hauteness

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The Pursuit Of Hauteness
Text by Nisha Jhangiani
Published: Volume 19, Issue 9, August-September, 2011
100 designers. 21 photographers. 40 models. 19 make-up and hair artists. India’s fashion fraternity really came through for Verve, and how! We have been overwhelmed, touched and awed by the support they have shown us in the making of this spectacular style spread. Nisha Jhangiani recalls some special moments from the joyride...

November 27, 2010. Lonavala. Bacardi Breezers, nachos and sev puris, blaring music, poker breaks, frequent dips in the pool. Amidst the weekend’s bonhomie, Verve’s 100th issue was conceptualised from the first to the last page, including the ambitious fashion idea – get a 100 designers on board to choose from a selection of India-inspired themes and accordingly create (or tweak from an existing line), a one-of-a-kind, exclusive ensemble or product for the biggest photo shoot in the history of the magazine. As if the maddening chaos that would result from executing this plan wasn’t enough, we also decided to rope in a multitude of photographers, all of whom had an admirable body of work as well as a constant relationship with us.

December 10, 2010. Our first call was to Namrata Joshipura, who immediately chose ‘Foil’ as a theme and promised to send us her design within two months. When there was no sign of it by March 2011, we cornered her during fashion week (WIFW) in New Delhi, to find that she had forgotten all about it! By mid-April, she had disappeared from our radar, only to re-emerge a month later with a promise that we would receive a fabulous piece in 10 days. We did.

James Ferreira was hell bent on being undecided. On any given day, he would veer from ‘Sari’ to ‘Vintage’ to ‘Khadi’. He settled on the last after a final ultimatum call and generously also sent across a dozen braided hairpieces that we could use on all the models for the themed shoot.

Manish Malhotra, Falguni and Shane Peacock and Suneet Varma promptly organised their contributions despite being hardly in Mumbai during all our conversations. Raakesh Agarvwal’s heavily studded lehnga got itself stuck in octroi for weeks until he personally came down from Delhi to retrieve it for us just in time for the ‘Crystal’ shoot. Arjun Saluja, Manish Arora, Vizyon, Pria Kataria Puri and Mayank Mansingh Kaul sent multiple options, all never seen before, for us to pick from. Some surprised us with their unexpected choice of themes, given their fortes – Rimzim Dadu applied her strength for textured graphics on to traditional gota; Alecca Carrano used her free-flowing forms to fashion a modern organza sari and Suhani Pittie sourced an heirloom, pearl-encrusted Mughal topi to put together a jewel-like vintage handbag.

March 5, 2011. Abu Sandeep’s mul-enveloped, exquisite chikan embroidered eggshell kurta, churidar and dupatta arrived and kick-started the unwrapping excitement in the fashion room. By the time we inaugurated our first shoot with Joy Datta, the burgeoning pile of garments and accessories had already made it difficult for us to navigate our way from window to door.

The photographers tested, exasperated and enthralled us in equal measure. Prasad Naik insisted we call every modelling agency to check whether a pair of Chinese twins would be available for his shoot. After days of fruitless scouting, he finally adjusted his request to procuring a brand new editorial face and we happily complied. Colston Julian could not fathom why we had reservations about shooting in a crowded local train compartment without permission or security; his jovial confidence helped us sail through an eventful ride from Churchgate to Bandra while he went trigger happy with his camera.

Each one took the excruciating time and effort to make every aspect of the shoot flawless. Vishesh Verma waited patiently between shots to personally supervise the oiled effect on the mannequin-like models. Manmeet Bhatti painstakingly recreated a miniature painting backdrop for her ‘Mughal’ theme. R Burman bounced off his lens on every light source to form the illusion of sparks emanating from a gold mini dress. Ejaz Khan suffered a personal tragedy, asked whether his theme looks could be sent to him in New York, and got a production crew together to do the needful. Jatin Kampani focussed equally on the model and the lone peacock feather he so artistically shot. And Rafique Sayed swayed precariously on a tall, rickety ladder to capture the four girls he had placed on an even more wobbly wooden beam close to the ceiling.

Our models stepped it up and accommodated all our demands. Lisa Haydon flew into the country at 3 a.m. and arrived for her shoot a few hours later, eliciting the promise of another “holiday” (which is how she describes the location shoots she does with Verve) from us. Rachel Bayros cut short a trip to return on time to be a part of the 100th issue. Preeti Dhata banged her forehead on a pole, causing an alarming bump, but went on heedlessly to pose and preen. Kanishtha Dhankhar came in at dawn to finish by 10 a.m. and head for her daily gruelling routine to prepare for the Miss World pageant participation. Esha Gupta battled a bad virus throughout her day with us and Adhiraj Chakrabarti, the sole male model in the entire 68-page spread, waited calmly and comfortably, draped in a wispy loin cloth, with leaves wilting in his hair, while Nisha Kutty rushed to fetch her little daughter from school before returning to shoot her Adam and Eve styled ‘Vintage’ story.

The looks for most themes were detail-specific and challenging but our make-up artists grinned and bore the burden of getting two to four models ready in record time. Bianca Hartkopf designed sticky glitter hairdos to duplicate the sheen of ‘Gota’; Meghna Butani used silver mithai varaq to echo the feel of ‘Foil’. Venus Ferreira got the grasp of Anushka Menon’s ‘Kitsch’ concept to precision – she even coincidentally pulled out the exact replica of the brief that the photographer was planning to send her.

Shaan Muttathil, on the other hand, could not fathom the Shiv-Parvati-Laxmi mythological trio, but went on to create picture perfect visages post Vikram Bawa’s patient and visual explanations. Atul Kasbekar amusedly complained about keeping a spacious room in his studio free for Subhash Vagal to work in comfort, only to find, as usual, that the make-up guru had improvised within a less “claustrophobic” spot by the entrance door, where he happily stood, plying his tools and brushes to execute his concept.

Lamya Bhatri Ebrahim, Sohiny Das, Nirali Mehta and our four interns – the Verve team – was upbeat in its enthusiasm, dogged in its pursuit of that almost elusive 100, meticulous in its planning and coordination of sometimes three shoots a week and uncomplaining of the backbreaking schedule that this has been. Happy hours at the Manchester United bar, 9.30 p.m. retail therapy at Zara and some late night dancing at Tryst have definitely helped us pull through though.

Our 21 themes all have an intrinsic connection with Indian crafts, times or trends. We hope you enjoy the spread as much as we have relished putting it together for you. This, truly, has been a labour of love.

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