India's fashion designers get booked

Jul 25, 2012, 09:03 IST | Ruchika Kher and Dhara Vora

The past few years have witnessed a growing keenness among the fashion industry to bare all about the buzzing profession, particularly among designers who are armed with biographies or autobiographies of late. The GUIDE explores how the written word has caught the fancy of the fashion industry and publishers alike

Not many moons ago, fashion was not even considered a proper industry. Designers struggled to get their due and a platform to showcase their creativity. But today, things are different. More brands, increased knowledge about fashion, several platforms and an interest and curiosity about the latest collections and the names behind them, has catapulted the Indian fashion industry to newer heights.

Designer Wendell Rodricks  at one of his shows. Pic Courtesy/ Rupa & CO

While this focus on the fashion world has given rise to many new beginnings, biographies and autobiographies by Indian designers are also aiming to make people sit up and take notice. From ace designers Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla and Wendell Rodricks to fashion veterans like Pallavi Jaikishan, many designers are now ready to share their lives and their experiences with people through the medium of books.

Shabana Azmi and Dia Mirza grace a Ritu Kumar fashion show

Rodricks will be releasing his book at the upcoming Mumbai Fashion Week in early August. “Different designers have reacted differently to spending 25 years in the industry. I was very keen that this book comes out at the Lakme Fashion Week because this is where it all started; I was the witness and even privy of the happenings of the whole event. There’s a definite story to tell and I want to tell that story because so much is imagined, construed and distorted,” says Rodricks who had earlier this year authored a book called Moda Goa that chronicled the fashion and costumes of his home state.

Designer Pallavi Jaikishan who completes 40 years in the industry this year

No personal questions, please!
While he has no qualms in bringing his personal life to the forefront through his book, few designers like Ritu Kumar and Pallavi Jaikishan, would rather stick to the professional realms of their lives.

“I am writing a book on my experiences in the field of textiles and crafts. It does at some stage reflect one’s biography due to the nature of the project,” expresses Ritu, while Pallavi echoes a similar stance about her forthcoming book, “I would not like to call my book a full on autobiography. It deals more with the kind of work I have done for 40 years in the industry. It’s nothing personal. It will deal more with my professional life than my personal life because I felt that it’s more important to chronicle my work. It has another twist to it but I can’t reveal that right now.”

Designer and left Kallol Datta

Market benefits
It’s not just the inclination of designers that has led to them penning down their life and facts about their profession. The publication sector too is now keen on attaching their names to these books. According to designer Kunal Rawal, who wishes to write a book on his various experiences in the future, feels that because of the kind of attention fashion is witnessing in India currently, publishers too are backing projects which they wouldn’t have few years ago.

“It is important to get proper backing from publishing houses for such projects. The good thing is that slowly, they are showing a keen interest and that will help these book reach out to a major audience,” he says.

Kapish Mehra, Managing Director at Rupa & Co is happy with the trend: “It’s a good thing that books related to the Indian fashion industry are coming out in the past few years. In the past few years, the fashion industry has emerged as the apple of the eye, where people are keen to talk and listen about it. It's certainly a sign of the emergence and its raise, in Indian and globally.”

Mehra also reiterated that Wendell Rodrick’s autobiography (which is published by Rupa & Co) would really spur this trend because of “some pretty serious revelations in it”. “In fact, we’ve had to water down some of the content! Indian readers might have come across several books about the industry but this one is straight from the horse’s mouth,” he adds.

Reference for the rest
To this, Navaid Mehtab, Associate Professor, NIFT, Mumbai, adds an interesting point. He stresses on the relevance of such books for fashion students. “It is important that designers write books on their lives because established designers have seen the fashion industry growing, from a time when there were few opportunities for designers to now, when it has broadened. So, their experience, if shared, is beneficial to students. This helps them to understand the industry. It is a source a reference,” he feels.

However, while several designers are comfortable with the idea of disclosing their secrets, there are a few, who are not so keen. “I really don’t think anyone would be interested in reading about my life. Apart from that, considering I devour memoirs constantly, I find it ironic even if someone wrote about my life and/or my work, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it,” informs young Kallol Datta, who is waiting to read Wendell’s book. 

Yves Saint Laurent’s gowns were adorned by the who’s who of the Hollywood on their red carpet outings and is considered as one of the greats gods of in the world of fashion and Florence Chenoune and Farid Muller have captured the life of Yves Saint Laurent in their their biography by the same name. The book has preface by the co-founder of YSL brand Pierre Bergé and discusses his life right from his early days with Christian Dior. Another known biography on the designer was by Alice Rawsthorn.

Karl Lagerfeld’s creations have shocked and awed the fashion world for long. Lagerfeld is currently the head designer and creative director of fashion house Chanel. He’s written books like 7 Fantasies of a Woman and just released, The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited. An unusual book based on the designer is the The Karl Lagerfeld Diet, a result of his loosing 42 kg after following a diet by Dr Jean-Claude Houdret.

Marc Jacobs worked with one of the biggest fashion houses and went on to create one of the most successful labels, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Openly gay and voted as one of the most powerful designers, he impacted the industry at a young age (a recipient of Council of Fashion Designers’ Lifetime Achievement Award). Marc Jacobs (Memoirs) by Bridget Foley talks about his two-decade career.  

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