It's not just the Christmas tree that's wearing trimmings this year. We traced the trend of the ruffled dress, that's made its way from Paris' catwalks to Mumbai's tailors and small boutiques. This Yuletide, finds Yolande D'Mello, there's no room for a no-frills outfit. So what will you be wearing to greet Santa?
He sits in a small bylane on Hill Road in Bandra, surrounded by silky fabrics that shimmer and shine in the afternoon sun. Dog-eared fashion magazines from the eighties are carefully stacked in a corner of his four-by-five-feet store. His nails are stained with blue chalk and he wears a measuring tape around his neck. You don't need to know his name to realise that he only answers to 'masterji'.
A model presents a creation by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen
during the Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection show, on
October 4, 2011 in Paris. PIC/ afp photo
Mohammad Siddique, a self-taught tailor, has been dressing Bandra's churchgoers for the last 30 years. He named his shop La' Mod "because it sounded fashionable" and is busiest during "the season" that lasts from November to February. "I also used to deal in costumes for the film industry, but I later realised that it's more profitable to cater to ladies from the locality. I only do western clothes," explains Siddique as he chops up a cobalt blue fabric and bundles it with the rest of the cut pieces. His business card says specialist in school uniforms, but he brushes that off saying he hasn't had time to update it.
Frills and the woman
We don't blame him -- the maddening rush a week before Christmas is bound to make the most sanguine tailor go a little batty. Less than two weeks before Christmas, and well into wedding season, La'Mod is still approached by new customers who are desperately searching for a tailor who will squeeze them into an elegant gown. "Hum Goa ko jata hai, please dress bana ke do," pleads a middle-aged woman in a loose-fitted lacy blouse. But the Masterji turns her down with a stern nod.
Ashita Khurana who owns God Made Me Funky, a 3 year-old boutique at
Pali Naka in Bandra, talking about this year's Christmas trend.
pic/ Datta Kumbhar
Evidence of this year's biggest trend -- frills and ruffles -- in completed dresses line the walls of his store, varying in length and modesty. "The young girls want the micro (mini dress) with frills. I make it fitting but leave a hem so they can make adjustments. I always follow the latest fashion trends," he smiles, pointing to a magazine dated to 1995 where a Japanese model in an A-line dress holds a pose that accentuates the garment. Meanwhile, bright shades of crumpled frills peep out in between somber suits in pastels.
Siddique is also ready to follow a pattern if you help him out with the printout of the couture dress wanted, though he might just call it a 'frock'.
"The older ladies prefer skirts and blouses with heavy beadwork. Gathers, pleats and smocking is intricate work so I make sure I stop taking orders by December 1," he says. Masterji has 15 assistants who work from an adjoining workshop in Bandra where specialised work is divided between them. They churn out 20 dresses a week and charge a minimum of Rs 500 depending on the pattern.
From Paris to Hill Road
Across the street, at Elco Arcade, that some years ago would be flooded with irate shoppers in the weeks building up to December 25, is silent except for the occasional store attendant who will try to convince you to buy a 'fancy salwar suit' as you walk past. On a pleasant Wednesday afternoon, Suresh Ramchandani, owner of Suresh Textiles, is busy tallying the figures for sales. Winter stock makes it way into the store by June, while the monsoon lull is still on, explains Ramchandani, who along with his wife Romy and family friend Aradhana Wadhwani design all the clothing in the store. Ramchandani, who comes from a business family, decided to set up shop in 1986 and has regular customers (mostly Christian, he points out) who visit every year to source their outfits for Christmas and New Year.
Here, we observe, as with other city stores, vibrant shades, soft fabrics, off-shoulder dresses and cascading frills are taking over, akin to their inception in Spring 2012 Collections at Paris. Designers like Badgley Mischka, Anna Sui, Chanel and Emilio Pucci stole the show with ruffles that added drama and fluidity to light pastel-coloured fabrics.
But Wadhwani is quick to add, "Our designs are not inspired by fashion weeks around the world. Those designs are made only for women with model figures and can't be worn on the street most of the time. Our sizes range from medium to XXXL and we also do custom-made fittings."
Instead, Wadhwani says she advises drapes for those who aren't too comfortable with those few extra kilos. Drapes are elegant, comfortable to wear and they hide any unflattering flab, she says. "I won't sell someone a dress that won't suit them," asserts Wadhwani, who says, matron-like, that she has told girls exactly what to avoid with their body type.
It's all about tough love this festive season but while Wadhwani doesn't attempt to adhere to the rules of ramp warlords, the influence of Carolina Herrera and Alexander McQueen still sneak into the Ramchandani's family-run dress-making business.
The catwalk, on the sly
Vidhi Shah, owner and designer of B: kind, that retails across 200 stores in India, says the Indian buyer is a sneaky trend follower. She says, "They may not follow trends from fall winter fashion week, but as soon as a celebrity wears it and is snapped on page 3, they will want to wear the same thing."
After studying fashion business in Milan for two years, Shah decided to start a casual clothing brand for women. Each collection is carefully planned out after studying international trends and Indian attitudes towards it. "Most customers in smaller towns are not completely comfortable with sleeveless clothing and neon colours. We try to find a common ground between the two extremes, so neon colours in print are designed as tunics in our autumn winter collection," says Shah. She predicts that sequins and bling will be making a comeback; colours will revolve around purples, blues and orange in viscose fabrics.
"Red is the new blue," says Ashita Khurana, who owns God Made Me Funky, a 3 year-old boutique at Pali Naka in Bandra. Cobalt blue was the hot colour a few months ago, she explains, sitting in her store that already has its Christmas buntings up. The dresses are simplistic in solid colours but come with feather broaches to embellish the outfit. "Full-length flowing gowns are back in fashion and delicate fabrics like georgette and chiffon are doing well along with shimmer materials," says Khurana, who studied fashion for four years in Los Angeles.
Fashion trends have such a short life span that 65 year-old Maggie Fernandes doesn't bother herself with such intricacies. The grandmother of six, who began tailoring Christmas clothes and bridal gowns to add to the family income 40 years ago is in big demand. Orders start pouring in at the start of October and Fernandes delivers one dress a week till wedding season ends in February. On Thursday she was up till the wee hours of morning working on a bridal gown that a blushing bride would pick up from her Vikhroli house that afternoon. "If people wanted what everyone else was wearing the would just pick it off the rack. I work purely on word of mouth and have many clients who come all the city," says Fernandes who designed and tailored dresses for her three daughter-in-laws. The wedding package includes the bridal gown, flower girl dresses and bridesmaids gowns while making sure nothing clashes with what the other is wearing.
Thanks to the frenzy of wedding season, Fernandes admits that she is left with no time to do her own festive shopping. "I don't like it but I end up buying something readymade for Christmas for lack of time," she smiles.