At the end of February this year, we celebrated our annual inter Collegiate culturals. As a part of the celebrations, each department was supposed to put up a Fashion Show based on the Theme of the fest. This year’s Theme was Tribe Transpose. On behalf of my department (Fashion Communication), I put up a show titled – No Labels with the support of my students.
The Concept Tribe Transpose originates from a WGSN forecast that focusses on blending of identities. As Demographics change and psychographics alter, we are no longer categorized by age, gender or cultural instincts. As we move around, travel and settle down in lands alien to our own, we change and adapt local practices. We are no longer the tribes of the past that holds on its traditions. We wear the “No Labels” tag proudly. Rather, we are a multi – local tribe whose new aesthetics are defined by a need to stand apart while following a trend.
Decoding the theme
Since this is a theme that I am all too familiar with, it was easy to decode it. We focused on the lifestyle of millennials – College students at NIFT and took inspiration from them. Students come from all over India and bring with them their own culture and practices. But over the course of the four years, they all graduate with a blended identity. Not only cultural identities but even gender identities become fluid.
The Interpretation was loosely based on the post on Ideals of beauty I wrote in 2016. In the days of the yore, fashion was largely used for differentiation. Today Fashion is used to blend in. From wearing jeans to using Whatsapp, to grooving to the same music we tend to follow the same macro trends. This proposes the question – In a scenario where everything is the same, how are we unique from one another. Does standing out matter? If so to what lengths would we go to ascertain our positions?
No Labels – Transfiguration
Our concept was the Transfiguration of the mundane. We wanted to portray mundane, everyday objects and clothing in a fashionable way. We ended up picking four elements that almost everybody wears at NIFT. They were blue jeans (denim), Vesthi (Indian dhoti with zari borders traditionally worn by South Indian men as a lower garment; angavastram is the top cloth worn along with it), white sneakers, and gold jewelry.
The jewelry making part was easy. I transformed prayer plates and offering bowls into statement rings. Pendants and bangles became earrings, necklaces became body cages and tiaras. A large safety pin became a hairclip and a bracelet became a brooch. Afterall, wasn’t transfiguration the concept?
The copper leaf necklace finally had its share of spotlight. Made three years ago for a show that never happened, it came out only last year for an exhibition at NIFT. Lengths of chain served as connectors and gota rings that I made for my Cousin’s wedding made an appearance. Along with the Cloud wire earrings, and a grunge necklace that never got sold, items hiding in my cupboard came to life. It a was a surreal “night at the museum” moment.
Running the show
We chose simple items keeping in mind that we do not make clothes or accessories in our department. Even then, actualising the show was very difficult. I was the only one who knew how to sew or make jewelry in that group. On top of that, few people turned up to help. Have you heard of just 2 people producing a fashion show with the models ironing and hand sewing their clothes themselves? Well, that is what happened.
Including eight models and 2 stagehands, we were just a group of 14 people -13 students plus me. Others pitched in for small tasks but it still seemed impossible. However, it was a great teaching-learning moment for all of us. I learned that I could do makeup for seven people at a stretch. I could pass on my knowledge of everything from sewing to choreography to my students. Since all of them are design students, there was no shortage of ideas. When something didn’t work, we found solutions instantly. My student Ankita who was the backbone of this whole operation later remarked that pulling this off has given her loads of confidence. The students, some of them modeling for the first time in their lives, learned not only to walk gracefully and pose in 3 days but really slew the ramp. As my (beautiful) ducklings became swans, I wept with joy.
No Labels – Concept Note
As luck would have it, the show just before ours had the same music as ours. Atleast, the first half of it was the same. We were heartbroken the moment we heard it blaring. As a consequence, I had to spin that flaw as the concept as I was reading the concept note at the show. Here it is.
In a world of no labels – what is beauty? Who is beautiful?
When we are wearing the same brands, singing the same songs, wanting to be equals, how do we assert our individuality?
History teaches us that there is no one yardstick for measuring beauty. With the passage of time, different cultures have borrowed from each other. They have amalgamated their ideals with those that contradict them, thereby leading to rich traditions. Concepts of masculinity and femininity have undergone changes at the turn of every century. Our societies, our nations and hence our practices are in a constant flux. There is no place for labels in this melting pot of cultures.
Today we celebrate the transfiguration of the mundane, the uniform – our denims and our dhoties with ostentatious gold jewelry. As a tribe, we believe that we do not have to conform to a particular way of looking to be considered beautiful. We are a sum total of our beliefs, influences, and our aspirations. We are FC, period.
If you are looking for a sports movie style story where the underdog wins in the end, you will be disappointed. We were not the best but we did our best. We had the theme spot on. The models continued to walk when the lighting got stuck so when the spotlight eventually came on (and at the right moment) it looked beautifully choreographed. Without a doubt, it was an incredible learning experience for everyone involved. My belief that hand skills will always help you in life was once again, reaffirmed.
I had invited my parents to come see the show and they did. Later that night, I was packing my bags to travel on official business while simultaneously finishing jewelry orders. Though I was exhausted, my mom and I were dissecting the show for its flaws when my dad (who is total non – fashion/design person) interjected. He said, “I liked the show. You took an ordinary everyday garment like a vesti and showed how fashionably unique it can make you look.”
My exhaustion disappeared. One person in the audience had understood what we wanted to portray. I would make peace with myself and live to face another day.
Photography – First three photographs by Utkarsh Srivatsava. Group shot – Chaitanya Kumar, last four – Divya N
Models – Kasarla Mukti, Gaural Pundir, Poornima Nair, Rehna Anna Oommen, Gautam, Stutee Shukla, Nidhi Joshi, and Richa Ekka
Styling – Ankita Jain
Makeup – Divya N & Ankita Jain
Hairstyles – Prachi Pearl Baptist, Viditi, Nidhi Joshi and Divya N
Show Sound editing – Poornima Nair & Divya N
Concept, Choreography & Jewelry (well most of it) – Divya N
I hope you find it interesting