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THE POWDER ROOM

— JASMEEN DUGAL

Anil Prabhakar, Vice President-Business Development at Gitanjali Gems Ltd. reviews Shefalee Vasudev's 'Powder Room.'

Not many books have been written on Indian fashion and there is tremendous curiosity among the masses for a glimpse into the lives of fashion designers, supermodels and celebrities. The fashion world is full of stories about gay men, drug abuse, exploitation of models and politics or rivalry among fashion designers leading to an entire chapter 'Walk, Don’t Talk' that takes readers on a behind-the-scenes journey into the lives of fashion models! Yes 'The Powder Room' will definitely whet the voyeuristic appetite of a reader! However many misconceptions about the fashion industry still persist... perpetuated by films like Madhur Bhandarkar’s 'Fashion' and fuelled by the chapter on fashion designer Raakesh Agarval’s drug habits and sexual orientation. Are such references necessary?
 
Fashion Weeks that are supposed to be B2B events garner more publicity than they generate business due to Bollywood celebrities walking the ramp. At times the clothes become less important than the celebrities showcasing them. There is a mad scramble for passes to attend a fashion show. To attend a fashion show by a leading designer is considered prestigious; unlike other ticketed events entry to a fashion show is by invitation... The book is written in a racy anecdotal manner covering many such facets of fashion in India. Of particular interest to serious readers will be the chapter 'In the Red' on the origins of the Patola sari and interviews with the members of the Salvi family of Patan. The price of a Patola sari ranges from Rs. 3.50 to Rs. 8 lacs and the waiting list of three years is longer than a Hermes’ Berkin handbag! Shefalee has interviewed 300 persons related to the fashion business and her interaction with the retail sales staff and models are insightful.
 
Many designers like Suneet Varma and Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla are celebrating silver jubilees. The market size of the fashion business however remains very small. Not many designers can claim to have achieved a turnover of Rs.100 crores. Designers are creative individuals and they need corporate support to make their business grow. Anita Dongre is one designer who has grown her business in India with the help of professional backing and the support of a business house. Her labels Global Desi and AND retail from 100-odd stores. The book has not explored this relationship or the views of sponsors who support the fashion weeks. An interview with Anita Dongre on her business model would have been interesting. The author has also not included veteran designers like Ritu Kumar in her book and while she has interviewed Sunil Sethi at length she has ignored Sumeet Nair and Vijay Singh! It would have been interesting to have their points of view too. Both Vijay and Sumeet are talented capable individuals who are focusing on the wedding market. Sumeet is an able organizer and his property Delhi Fashion Week had potential. He is now working closely with Tarun Tahiliani on wedding expositions while Vijay has created India Bridal Week: an annual event supported by Aamby Valley.
 
Couture is an abused term in India and many (not all) designers tend to confuse it with bridal wear. A definition of couture, haute couture and a research based on interaction with French fashion houses would have been apt. In France the term haute couture is protected by the law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris. The chambre syndicale de la haute couture is "the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses". Their rules state that only "those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves" of the label: haute couture. The book lacks depth in these areas.
 
Sadly there are typos that could have been avoidable. Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Christpohe Babin is referred as Jean Christophe Baba in the book!!! 'The Powder Room' also does not highlight the invaluable role of a choreographer in the fashion business. Most chorographers are retired models and a handful of them dominate the cut-throat business. Lastly though the book is on Indian Fashion the cover features a foreign model whose image has been sourced from Getty Images: the image can be found on an International title at book stalls! These minor flaws notwithstanding The Powder Room is worth its modest price of Rs. 399. Its kindle edition on Amazon is available at 8 dollars.
 
The Powder Room
 
Anil Prabhakar
 
21-AUGUST-2012
 
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11 Comments
 
23-AUGUST-2012 Chirag Bagaria
An honest and an unbiased review of the book. And, of course, it comes from the horse's mouth... a person who has unparalleled experience of the fashion and media industry.
 
 
22-AUGUST-2012 Oindrilla Ray
Hi Anil, I am a Mumbai-based stylist. You need not justify your review to a journalist like Viresh Verma. The industry is aware of his writings and slant towards friends. We appreciate your honest UNBIASED review.
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Anil Prabhakar
Viresh, Leena, Malini and Namrata, I thank you very much for taking the time to read the book review. Opinions by definition are subjective. No book is perfect and there is a room for improvement. Shefalee has sincerely made a very good attempt and needs to be congratulated. I am sure in her next book she will address the issues which have not been covered in 'The Powder Room'.
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 sonia rai
Does anyone know what Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla's book is about? I believe they launched something last night?
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Namrata
Viresh, you expect every review to be positive? That's not honest though you may score free books instead of buying them yourself if you are from the industry. Are you? Perhaps you do not agree with his viewpoint which is fair enough but he has reviewed the book HONESTLY instead of being politically correct.
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Malini Sengupta
Viresh Verma, it is definitely his opinion as he is reviewing the book!!! it does not have to be positive. Not everyone sucks up to the person they are covering unlike a few journalists I read about... seems you belong to that category?
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Viresh Verma
This looks more like an opinion of Mr Anil Prabhakar rather than a book review!!!! Interesting anyways!
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Leena Mahatani
Controversial review!!!!!!!!!!
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 malini sengupta
Well reviewed Anil.
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Laila Singhania
I could not read through it!!!!!!! If it's aimed as a pot-boiler leave the names out and give us a juicy plot.
 
 
21-AUGUST-2012 Madhoo
The book reminds me of 'Fashion'. Maybe Madhur Bhandarkar would be interested in Fashion-II?
 
 
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