Sue Mue: Of Royal Affairs, Rich Textiles and Legacy

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As Sue Mue celebrates 47 years in the business of luxury fashion, it talks about the fascinating journey over the years, the coming together of generations to reinvent the brand, the ups and downs and how they continue to bring the classic and the contemporary together.
It all started in mid sixties when Narinder Mohan started cross-stitching with wool strands and matty work for her young daughters and they were much appreciated by her peers.
Finally in the year 1968, her love for hand-crafting beautiful outfits and dress materials
for her young daughters, went beyond the homebound and the iconic fashion store was set up under the name Priyadarshini in the quaint Green Park market with much less
buzz as compared to now. In 1973, she gathered some housewives and young girls
and a couple of tailors and soon the brand was collaborating with the heritage stores in Delhi including the iconic Handloom Emporium now known as Heritage. She was joined by Neena Sharma who became an invincible pillar of support for the years to come. Customization and stitching went hand in hand and Narinder could totally call the upcoming trends, colours and patterns for the next season much before the idea of forecasting hit the
Indian fashion scene. After fifteen years of collaboration and sourcing out, Priyadarshini was reinvented by her husband and co-founder Late Surinder Mohan and he named in Sue Mue in the year 1984.

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It was Narinder’s flair for colours, and a natural understanding of different body types and aesthetic finesse, that turned Sue Mue into the go-to luxury house for wedding wear amidst the capital’s fashion connoisseurs. The brand has had a fascinating journey so far with three generations of the family working towards it. Over the years, the generation of clients as well as the workers have been committed to the store. During the 90’s, the family suffered a setback when Narinder lost her younger daughter who went to New York to study fashion. It was then when Narinder’s elder daughter Mohita took over and started rebuilding the idea and save the brand from suffering any losses. She gave up college and started helping out Surinder to evolve the brand and extend it further economically and culturally. In the last ten years, she has made it into a cultural savoir-faire and continues to work with the next generation of workers at the factory. Now she is joined by her daughter Mahima who helps her with the modern idea of branding and communication.The Sue Mue team functions like a big family and everyone seems to be much connected with each other and it all goes into the flourishing of the brand and the legacy almost fifty years. As the year 2000 saw a significant boom in the Indian fashion industry and bridal wear had just begun as a concept, Sue Mue was one of the first ones to take the idea forward. The fabrics like rubia, terricoat, lizi-bizi, crapes, georgette, raw silk, satin silk, Bhagalpuri silk and the famous binny silk from Bangalore with beautiful zardozi and thread work were available at the store following a strict code of customization. Luxury was backed up with emotion and personalization. Over the years, they grew and lived as one of the most sought after luxury stores in Delhi with clientele across India and overseas.

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Sue Mue is renowned for its prêt and bespoke options in traditional Indian and fusion wear. It seems to be clearly redefining the coming together of the classic and the new and it recently announced the launch of its couture line. The trousseau collection for the upcoming wedding season has drawn its inspiration from the magnificent opulence of Indo-Islamic architecture from the time of the Mughal era. You call it and you get it! A striking merger of geometric patterns with floral motifs and organic hues, textured fabrics like handloom raw silk, georgette and lustrous silk organza make a collection of crisp silhouettes. Anarkalis, Angrakhas and Peshwaz are interestingly paired with Mughal paijamas like kaliondar and garara giving a modern influence to these classic styles. Intricate zardozi and aariwork embroidery techniques have been widely used along with mellow resham and semi-precious metals. The colour palette is rich and subtle for the season ranging from Venetian red, Royal blue, Castleton green to a gentle Tea rose and Beige. The rich banarsis, the woven fabrics, the opulent gottapatti work, assorted variety of screen prints, the innovative digital prints, the ethnic block print, the Persian motifs, the beautiful Kashmiri embroidery, the enchanting florals bind the collection with timelessness and magnificence. The Autumn-Winter, 15 couture collection is indeed a royal affair, inspiring and splendid with the perfect synthesis of luxury, art and architecture. The classic angarakhas teamed up with patialas, the imperial motifs from the Taj Mahal settled with the refined meenakari work. The store’s interiors show the penchant for detailing and it’s truly an experience rediscovering the architectural inspirations of the Mughal era. Go live and love the Medieval opulence!

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Review: Dior Spring-Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear Show

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In the recent Dior Spring-Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear Show, it was all about the distinct naturalistic line of beauty, gazing towards the future through the anterior. Dior’s Artistic Director Raf Simons explored many non-essential elements to focus on the idea of purity of line and precision in technique to discover the effortlessness for the future.

Simons wanted the collection to have a sense of purity to it. He said, “To simplify and concentrate on a line that expressed an idea of femininity, fragility and sensitivity without sacrificing strength and impact; there might be a sense of simplicity in how the collection looks, but it is extremely complex in terms of technique. There are literal layers of the past, from the Victorian-style underwear layered under the transparent bias cut dresses and the Bar jackets and rough knits, but for me it still all feels oddly futuristic and strangely romantic. Like this woman is about to travel through space and time.”

The corporeal and disciplined, the feminine and masculine, the classic and the contemporary all merged together to discover and structure an original, softer, model of futurism in the collection. Remains of the past stroked with the present linking the historical patterns and peculiar techniques engaging to the utilitarian and unisex garments. The feminine tailleur leagued with masculine tailoring to find new configurations of three piece suit with horizontal pin striping and a more opulent cut of military inflected jackets; the traditional, complex pleating techniques of the flou proliferate, finding outline not only in dresses but in the ruffling hems of tailored jackets and parkas transformed into horizontal striped duchesse satin; sinuous, bias cut transparent organdie dresses reveal delicate cotton cami-knickers and chemise that can also be layered with cropped, rough hewn, Shetland knits; the defined geometry in the cut of customarily heavy historical sleeves, is highlighted in feather light transparencies set against flesh.

The assortment moves from the self-contained, cultivated garden of the ‘femme fleur’ towards what could be seen as a new terrain, at once more naturalistic and unknown. A flowered landslide was seen in the Cour Carrée du Louvre, absconding the conventional bounds of the show venue and pouring inside and out; a soft, fluid landscape of the future.
Simons wanted to look at something rougher and more natural than the garden. He adds, “At the same time, and just as in nature, I wanted to find a new kind of precision, purity and ease. A fragment of what is to come.”

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Review: Conversations at Coast x Secret Socrates- Schopenhauer’s Porcupines and Tom Ford

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Conversations at Coast began again at the quaint Coast Cafe in the blistering Hauz Khas Village with a tie up with Secret Socrates,a philosophy club and a Secret Cinema offshoot based in Delhi hosted by Ogaan’s Aashti Bhartia and Secret Socrates’s Avantika Sujan. An interesting initiative around talks and discussions on the philosophy and appreciation of art and design, the first of the set was about the agonies and ecstasies of intimacy titled ‘Schopenhauer’s Porcupines and Tom Ford’ that shed light on the challenges of human intimacy, complex relationships and confrontation with familiarity.

The enigmatic Schopenhauer’s Porcupines, also known as the ‘hedgehog dilemma’, a notion concerning the challenges and interrogation of human intimacy described a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all aim to become close to each other to keep warm during cold weather, though still have sharp spines and must also prolong to linger distant. So, even thought they might intend to create reciprocity in relationships, their inherent characteristics decline the effort and despite goodwill, intimacy cannot sustain without shared harm leading to a fear of connection and a state of cynicism. Avantika who moderated the talk, discussed the concept further by analyzing the different aspects of intimacy and human condition and how introversion and isolation at times define interpersonal relationships and how the philosophy of intimacy conditions the idea of love and loss. Some fascinating clips were shared during the talk from fashion designer Tom Ford’s directorial debut, ‘A Single Man’ that exemplifies the journey of love, loss and intimacy leading to compensating connection and how mind fixates around heart in desolation and seclusion.
The consuming talk ended with some interesting questions around philosophy, closeness, closure and clarity along with a restless demand of a follow-up. Looking forward to many more contemplating ones!

Review: Dior AW 15-16 Be Dior Accessory Campaign

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For Dior’s new leather goods campaign, Photographer David Sims created a series of portraits of House Muse Jennifer Lawrence celebrating a new urban philosophy. Even though Jennifer Lawrence is now the face of Dior Beauty, she will also continue to face our accessories campaigns every season. Her alluring charm in the modernistic  monochrome coats and the neutral colour-block dresses transformed into the perfect backdrop for the Be Dior and Diorissimo bags inspired by animal motifs and bold colours. The fashionable “Be Dior” bags exude an urban spirit and vibrant classiness redefining the brand’s attitude. The easy cuts, the finesse, the rich luxurious detailing and the multiple ways to carry it makes it “the cosmopolitan bag” of the season.
The “Be Dior” flap bag, with its modern silhouette that is both supple and structured, expresses a new and chic urban attitude. The overpowering matt python micro bag makes a splash with its striking metallic mirror finish.The other micro version from the collection reinvents patent leather with an ultra-stylish crinkled feel. The entire range celebrates a variety of patterns in patent leather, Rose Poudre Bullcalf leather, Fuchsia satin- finish calfskin, embroidered, two-tone, three-tone calfskin, Black smooth calfskin, its Jaune Sun details and the Gris Dior handle. This small model in pale pink smooth calfskin creates contrast with its Plum deerskin details and ultra-stylish ceramic effect.The solid blue small bag combines the luxury of exceptional glossy python with the depth of its Bleu de Minuit colour. In black bullcalf leather, it features a daring two-tone effect with its luxurious Rose Indien leather interior.
The collection with its structured and modern silhouette celebrates a new urban demeanour and with it, the Dior woman radiates more power than ever.

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“More archiving of Indian fashion please. It’s important.”

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1111As fashion travels from one subculture to another, flowing through almost everything in a purposeful manner, making and waving changes, chronicling it in the process is very important to save the past, resonate the present and predict the future. Anthropologist and luxury lifestyle journalist, Phyllida Jay in her latest book, Fashion India that celebrates the art of a varied range of Indian designers, explores the correlation between Indian and Western fashion and how the new Indian designers are redefining Indian fashion and gaining attention globally. Fashion India investigates the mixed bag of modern-day Indian design whilst analyzing the antiquated notions of Indian fashion.

Phyllida Jay is an anthropologist specializing in contemporary Indian fashion, luxury and sustainability with a doctorate from University College London. She also works as a business and luxury lifestyle journalist in UK and India.  She talks about the developments
in the Indian fashion industry, the changes she noticed, her favourite Indian designers and fashion publications and a lot more.The book is releasing on September, 21st published by Thames and Hudson, UK; distributed in India by Roli Books. Some excerpts from the interview:

Q: Why you chose Indian Fashion as a subject for your book?
A:
I came to work on Indian fashion initially as I was interested in ideas of ethical and sustainable fashion and their connection to luxury. Given the rich heritage of craft and hand weaving as well as the role of khadi in Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi Movement, I felt India was a key focus for understanding fashion’s relationship to ethics and aesthetics through craft.

Q: You mentioned that “not least fashion can be understood as a metaphor with which to analyze society, culture, economy and even politics.” Kindly elaborate.  
A: For example, the growth of the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ with its lavish bridal and ethnic formal ensembles demonstrates how fashion is an important marker of class, aspiration and status. Look at the way the different political candidates in the last general election chose to express core messages and values through dress, and how much media coverage focused on Modi’s traditional Kurta-pyjamas or Rahul Gandhi’s fresh pastel kurta/blue jeans ensembles.
The way some designers integrate craft in their design work is implicitly political in commenting upon the Western dominance in the field of luxury and proposes home grown Indian brands with a unique heritage and sensibility of Indian luxury. Sabyasachi, Rahul Mishra and Abraham and Thakore are interesting examples of this. Then there is the recent emergence of designers and brands like Bodice, Druv Kapoor, Huemn and Josh Goraya who reflect the growing market for minimal design, contemporary streetwear and fashion with very global influences.

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Q:  How challenging was the idea of covering such a diversity through fashion?
A: With a burgeoning middle class and growth of the retail market, fashion provides an ideal lens to understand the huge transformations occurring in India today. I began my PhD fieldwork in 2009 and over the course of 6 years of research and writing, I read extensively on European fashion history and theory as well as historical, ethnographic and sociological studies of dress in India ­­- integrating all of this into my doctoral thesis. My book Fashion India looks at the aesthetic diversity of Indian fashion and provides some background context to how these different aesthetic niches developed and existed in dialogue with one another.

Q: On that note, kindly elaborate on the developments you witnessed in the design space and the market of Indian fashion.
A:
The industry is rapidly changing. There’s been a real emergence of Gen-Next designers in the premium day-wear category that isn’t ethnic in look at all, that’s been a significant shift from say 2009. That goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of online retail platforms such as Pernia’s Pop Up Shop or Exclusively.In that give these young designers unprecedented exposure to a broad consumer base. Social media is of course another facet of this. There’s been an emergence of new interpretations of the aesthetics of opulence that characterize the bridal market. More restrained approaches have emerged in the work of designers like Sabyasachi and Anamika Khanna. Another development is seen in the works of designers like Kallol Datta, Little Shilpa and Arjun Saluja. Their designs really break through the  prescribed conventions of beauty and gender and create exciting new propositions for dressing in the process.

Q: Share some significant moments of your journey. How it evolved your perception of Indian fashion?
A: So many! All of the wonderful conversations I have had with designers across the spectrum of Indian fashion. Nothing makes me happier than an afternoon spent in a designer’s studio understanding their creative process and vision.
Attending Lakme Fashion Week in the early 2009 was memorable. I remember seeing khadi garments that were really incredible. They were by Aneeth Arora who was then working under the label Gaba. It’s been amazing to see her develop her brand Pero and how successful she has become in such a short span of time. Going to visit Sally Holkar who runs the NGO Women Weave in Maheshwar, MP was a life changing experience for me. I learnt about weavers’ lives and how different initiatives like Women Weave and The Handloom School can support them.

Q: What is your take on archiving fashion? Where does India stand now in that realm?
A: That’s a very important question to be asked at this point of time. The issue of archiving can be separated into two main aspects: Images and material objects. The need for archiving images was apparent when I was writing the book and researching images from collections to portray a chronological time line of different designer’s work and design progression. In India there isn’t one place to find archival images of catwalk shows (for example, style.com now vogue.com).
Sometimes, it’s possible for designers and their team to search for old collections, but not all designers have comprehensive archives of past work in digital format (and also stored as high res images). So then, it’s a question of searching through various sources, chiefly the internet and print magazines including Indian editions of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia (I have a huge collection of these) as well as contacting the PR teams for the big fashion weeks who hold some catwalk show images on file, then chasing up myriad different sources for the archival high resolution image, copyright permissions to reproduce it in the book, etc. That makes for a huge amount of work.

Q: Some suggestions on the archiving front?
A:
It would be really helpful if designers maintained a chronological record and access to at least the key looks from collection shows or lookbooks on their websites- and not just because researchers would find it of benefit – but because it’s an important part of their brand story: how certain signatures and recurring concepts develop over time. That can be essential to developing a sense of connection to consumers as much as anything.
The other aspect of archiving is in the material object, be it the finished garment or the textile-especially when certain designers do an enormous amount of textile development and innovation. The forthcoming exhibition, ‘The Fabric of India at the V&A’ focuses at the importance of retaining archives of textiles, and the incredible stories they can tell about cross-global flows of commerce, imagery, techniques and culture. So yes! More archiving of Indian fashion please. It’s important.

Q: Fashion India is one of the significant works that has been done so far in India regarding the socio-economic and cultural backdrop to the surfacing of current Indian fashion. What do you think it will change?
A: My goal was to contribute to an emerging body of work that charts and analyses the rich diversity of contemporary Indian fashion design. In terms of what I hope it will change, it’s my small contribution to a much larger picture about the growing importance of non-Western fashion centers and sources of creative talent. I wanted to dispel some misconceptions and stereotypes about Indian fashion, and provide a map to navigate the wide spectrum of Indian design.  I also grounded that diversity with some social, cultural, historical, economic and consumer market analysis. My book is aimed at students, journalists, buyers and other key fashion industry representatives, people who follow contemporary fashion as well as those interested in Indian design and culture more generally. If someone picks up my book and gains a greater insight into Indian fashion then that would make me very happy.

Q: What is your take on the Indian fashion press?
A:
I see the Indian fashion press much like I view the fashion press in say Europe or America. There is a lot of hyperbole and writing that treads a thin line between editorial and advertising. This focuses on celebrity and consuming trend led cycles of clothing, rather than considering the relationships between fashion, design, art, culture and society. That’s fine as that kind of writing does what it does, entertains and helps sell the products.But of course, there are also areas of real excellence in fashion analysis and reportage.

Q: Your preferred publications and the fashion journalists you admire?
A:
In the United States, there is Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times and in India, Shefalee Vasudev is someone I admire deeply for her consistently challenging and thought-provoking articles on the Indian fashion industry.
When some of the political weeklies such as Open magazine or The Week cover fashion and luxury, it tends to be very good. There are a lot of young upcoming journalists who when given space to do so, produce excellent work in the arena of fashion journalism.
I like Motherland and Platform magazines.  I also really enjoy Indian editions of Harper’s BazaarVogueElle and Grazia. I like the way they constantly provide innovative ways of thinking about the sari and handloom garments in terms of reinvention through fashion styling. Some of the editorial conceptualization, styling and imagery are really inspiring.

Q: Whats next?
A: I am just completing my book on khadi, fashion and luxury which was the focus of my PhD research. I have plans for more books and ideas in the pipeline.