Together we are stylish
A new collection of everyday wear is about people, not clothes. Anand S Ahuja, wife Sonam Kapoor and designer Nimish Shah are plotting to create a community that wears together, stays together
When the maker of a clothing brand tells you, "We don't need more clothes," you sit up and listen. To the masses, Anand S Ahuja is well, actor Sonam Kapoor's husband. But to the fashion forward, he's the founder of Bhaane. The brand is entirely everyday wear and focussed on the personality of the wearer, rather than the occasion it will work for or the specific body type it will service. It caught the attention of stylish young Indians way back in 2012 when it ditched studios for streets to shoot the collection, and organised curated events under the Bhanelive umbrella that allowed people to come together over everything from coffee to video games. Self expression continues to be the goal of Ahuja's brand, and with a just-launched collection, it's even more apparent that he puts people before clothes.
What started as a clothing line conceived by Ahuja, then 26, and two designers backed by his family apparel business, Shahi Exports, is now a brand that he hopes will represent India—"a mix of what India has been historically and what it is today; about wisdom but also about confusion," he says. Designer Nimish Shah joined Ahuja last September as creative director, and the Cruise 2020 ready-to-wear collection bears his stamp. Available on the brand's e-shop site, it's alt-thinking and pooh-poohs conservative ideas of seasonal and gender classifications.
Bhaane is for personalities, not people, say its makers
"Our sense of Indian-ness is no longer passive. And we are not afraid to wear it on our sleeve. It's happening on every level…it's happening in our engagement with indigenous textiles, the environment, with culture and politics, and consumerism," says Shah. The Made in India value he is referring to is evident not just in the approach to design but also in the thoughtful use of organic cotton, khadi and cupro, a regenerated cellulose fabric made from cotton waste.
The men admit that having Sonam, a venerable style idol, attend weekly meetings brought to the line an informed perspective of the real customer. Shah says, "Sonam is so much more than the characters she plays in films or what you see for 12 minutes on Koffee with Karan."
He speaks of a new category of fashion—premium generic. They are looking to allow customers to put together separates rather than sell them a look. "I'm excited to see what personality customers are going to add to our clothes; I want to see their faces, their skin, not just their tiara. The choice and freedom to wear our clothes as you please is what makes us special, and also normal," Shah explains.
Anand S Ahuja
And so, the clothes are deliberately mischievous, especially the slightly oversized Elvis Jailhouse print trousers. A pair of jeans snipped above sneaker level makes you wonder if the model outgrew them. The Rising Son T-shirt sends out a memo to India's outdated hyper-patriarchal mindset — a propos Bhaane means The Rising Sun, or the collaboration with 100-year-old household brand Godrej to create Andy Warhol-like badges of belonging.
Ahuja also helms the performance-driven sneaker label VegNonVeg. It's a personal project of the self-confessed sneaker geek. While it's all very exciting, the businessman in him speaks of practicing patience.
"It's not just about creating another apparel brand. We want to build a culture of community via content, podcasts and music. Ten years from now, people will appreciate what our brand stands for. Sonam and I are hopeful about its trajectory. We are not in a rush."
A model at Manish Arora’s Paris Fashion Week presentation. Pic/Getty Images
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It was not a coincidence that Manish Arora served it with a side of his genius hedonism at the assemblage for Spring/Summer 2020, first at Paris Fashion Week, and then at India Fashion Week. Modelled in Paris by an LGBTQA+ army of dreamers who defy dogma and definition, the We Are Family show was a salute to the first anniversary of the decriminalisation of Section 377.
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Wear it like this: It works for formal and eveningwear, depending on the size of the bow and fabric. Make it oversized for a flamboyant evening; neat with a shirt and trousers for work, or flouncy and printed with jeans for a fun day out.
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Fashion is the second dirtiest industry, after oil, inflicting havoc on the environment. Eco-minded Indian designers like Ruchika Sachdeva are conscious of this fact. She puts sustainability at the centre of her brand, Bodice, and champions indigenous weaving and dying techniques in a label that reinvents minimal styles through fresh and relaxed tailoring. But she doesn't stop there.
She recently introduced the new Bodice shopping bag, an enzyme mediated LDPE one—compostable and biodegradable in landfills and home composts. She uses it for all her packaging. While scientific terminology around plastic pollution is baffling, here's a simple fact to convert you: plastic packaging takes up to 1,000 years to disintegrate.
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