Best known for her rather quirky mode of dressing, especially when it comes to her choice of headgear, invariably a creation of her favourite milliner, Philip Treacy, the name Isabella Blow is held in awe in fashiondom. The lady has turned glossies like the US Vogue, Sunday Times, British Vogue and Tatler into livewire visions of stylish beauty with her creative touches. Godmother to designers like Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and model Sophie Dahl, Blow hopes to work her magic on Indian couturiers like Tarun Tahiliani and Varun Bahl, who she is promoting aggressively in the West. Her presence at Wills India Lifestyle Fashion Week last August had the media swarming around her. The diva of ultra glam, Blow had shared her thoughts in an exclusive for IMAGES Business of Fashion, just a couple of months ago.
I have been surrounded by fashion and style from my early childhood. My great great grandfather had built a very simple and extremely elegant house. For me, art and fashion are synonymous. After studying Ancient Chinese Art at Columbia University, USA, I have seen fashion grow from the Seventies to the present times.
A fashionable journey
It has been an exciting, colourful and interesting journey that offers something new and unconventional at every step.
The Eighties were an exciting period in western fashion, especially in New York. It was style at its ultimate best. England, on the other hand, at this time had some new blood emerging as milliners like Philip Treacy displayed their initial remarkable talent. In the Nineties it was Alexander McQueen who shook the fashion world. Hussein Chalayan’s collections of paper clothes are what fashion genius was all about in this phase.
The new millennium
In the 21st century, art and fashion in the West are coming so close together they are almost devouring each other. Big brands are looking at the art scene to strengthen their collections. Designers like Giorgio Armani are looking at modern art seriously. Nonetheless, the future of western fashion, which designers in the United States and Europe must understand, lies in creating for both the high-end buyer as well as the mass market in stores like H&M. 3
I love the work of designers like Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen – they are all very good. But like Victor and Rolf, who were very successful with their 200-pound wedding gowns at H&M, others should follow that route. The scene was so unbelievable that The Sun featured on the front page two women fighting over the last gown of these two designers.
I saw the Indian designers at the fashion week last year and they are all fabulous and creative. But I cannot understand their obsession to sell in the West. This desperation to go abroad and get endorsements from across the sea is quite unnecessary. I admire all the Indian designers. But when the whole fashion world is coming to India to dress the millions, why are they keen on moving out? They should consolidate their roots in India and sell to one of the biggest markets they have in their own country.
Where Indian designers are going wrong is in trying to divide their creativity into three streams – commercial, western and Indian. There has to be a firm, focused direction – one cannot just hit out in the dark and hope they strike it right. Stick to the curry. Don’t try to mix it with chocolate. A tree cannot have wool. I am eccentric English, I can’t become American.
There is nothing more beautiful in the world than a sari. It has symbolism, is very sensuous, and in less than three minutes you can drape five-and-a-half metres into an elegant garment. What can be more fashionable? Besides, there are the fabrics, the embroidery, and the embellishments that are the best in the world. When top couturiers of the world are coming to India for crafts and fabrics, why are Indian designers not using it all to dress the millions in their country?
Be more daring
I would suggest, try new silhouettes in a sari. Go to the extreme and be daring. Trying to create westernwear is where Indian designers are going wrong. Indians don’t know how to cut to fit the body. They have an Indian eye with a western view because of their desperation to go West. There are no trained pattern-cutters in India. McQueen was cutting garments from the age of six with a razor. Indians are masters of drapes from time immemorial and should blend it with art and contemporary modern forms, and bring about a change. The market is big enough.
Film and fashion team
Fashion and film should team up for power and success because Bollywood has made a mark in the world. Indian creators should dress celebs, which is the only way to get noticed. Dress up Shilpa Shetty and Liz Hurley. Foreign designers are doing that all the time to get noticed.
Celeb designers are ridiculous. Trained designers know the nitty gritty of fashion. At times, I am bored of fashion. It has become a sausage factory. That is why I prefer to wear a sari, which can be worn in so many different ways. I want to keep alive the beautiful traditions of countries.
Go East for fashion
The new fashion markets in terms of numbers are the Middle East and India. Many Indian designers are doing well in the Middle East – among them, Manish Arora, Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bal – with their exclusive stores. The huge Indian bridal market is an area that designers can concentrate on.
Foreign stores are just buying little bits from Indian designers, while your own Indian department stores with their large