Guests clap at the conclusion of Manav Gangwani's India Couture Week show. Photo credit: APH Images
“Ladies and gentleman, the show is about to begin...” The words boomed out over the speakers as my colleagues and I hunted for comfortable seats in the darkened hall. I was instantly reminded of Priyanka Chopra’s Bollywood blockbuster, Fashion. Soon, the show began, music played, and models started their slow walk down the ramp. Till then, for me, fashion shows were something I watched on TV or in movie halls. Now, it was happening live, in front of my own eyes. I was dazzled.
I’m no rookie in the rough, roaring world of Indian media. I’ve been a journalist for 8 years and have covered every possible beat during this period – whether it is a crime scene or interviewing stars who visit my hometown Ahmedabad for a film promotion. But I’ll be honest – 'fashion' was an unchartered territory for me until I started working for Fashion101.in, heading its Gujarati channel. And my first fashion week ripped apart all pre-conceived notions I ever had about fashion.
Like all good things in life, the invite was unexpected. One fine morning, I got a two-line email from my editor saying I was to visit Delhi for 3 days to attend fashion week and understand the world of fashion. Clueless, excited and nervous at the same time, I instantly began mulling over my hairstyle, clothes and makeup. I left Ahmedabad fantasizing about grand halls, the film Fashion's theme song, models walking dramatically on the ramp, and generally all things Bollywood and glamorous.
The day of the first show dawned and I was at the venue, Pragati Maidan in Delhi. While my colleagues got busy managing entry passes, I looked around and was startled by the scenario. The guests were dressed up no less than Bollywood stars – though I later found out these were journalists, bloggers and fashionistas, not film personalities. Do all Delhi journalists look so pretty and dress up so well? Do they earn enough to buy all these designer bags and shoes and accessories? I wondered. Even the Fashion101.in team was beautifully dressed – a bit of a shock to me since I’d never seen trendily dressed journalists before in my career.
In fact, the only ‘casually dressed’ people I came across were the fashion designers themselves! Fashion101.in panelist and top designer Varun Bahl sported a regular denim-over-denim look. I found him very charming.
Finally, we entered the hall and I was in for another shock. The seating arrangement was basic – a row of benches – and yet people were pushing one another in search of ‘good seats’. There was an invisible and somewhat arbitrary hierarchy at work – front row, second row, back row, ‘standing space only’ – something an outsider like me could never understand. Neither could I comprehend how perfectly well-behaved, well-dressed people could suddenly shove one another or loudly gripe about being given unworthy seats. But then the music began – it was a live band playing a beautiful symphony on drum, piano and guitar. And then the show commenced, and I was spellbound. All else was forgotten.
Model fittings in progress at Lakme Fashion Week
One of the most memorable elements of the day for me was a model who performed a little classical dance number on the ramp. I spent time walking around and asking her and other models about their life and work. I had always taken pride in my career as a journalist, believing it is the most challenging job in the world. And I thought those in the glamour industry were in it for the fun, money and luxury. However, on that first day at the fashion week, I thought my life was actually easier in comparison with these models, who could not even get 8 hours of sleep at night, who had to smile no matter what their circumstances, and who had to walk the ramp with their head held high no matter how they felt inside.
I’m now two fashion weeks old and I no longer gawk like an ingénue as I enter those hallowed dark halls. And my mini cocktail dress and high heels are pre-packed before the editor’s email arrives.