counterfashion 5- indian brands for real people

As most of you (on my Facebook friends’ list) know, I plan to peter out soon, blog-wise. Egg Jams (my non-threatening word for exams, everyone should have a non-threatening word for nasty words. Such as pale ale for urine. Or bumpydumps for hard poop. Or dumpybumps for piles) loom large and if I don’t get back to my books soon, I might just have to do the book-under-pillow trick at night and pray hard that osmosis works for badly written NCERTs.

For those of you not on my Facebook friends’ list, this is what’s going to happen: I’m going to get increasingly panicky as April morphs into May (another month closer to Egg Jams) and despite Wifi really being the secret bottom to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’m going to cut down on online time, which means that eventually, Nerdydevi @ WordPress will look desolate and forgotten for a few months.

But what I’ve done is this- I’ve lined up a few posts plus an exciting new project that will make for excellent reading, ogling and sharing. Nifty forward planning means that I can put stuff out for you to read well into May, even with self-imposed Wifi abstinence. Huzzah!

And with that, on to Counterfashion 5! Hope you’ve read Parts 1 through 4. If not, they’re all linked here.

9. Nalli

Nalli is a strip club for married women. It’s where mummys and mummy jis (the two are distinctly different, mind yit!) go to orgasm. There’s a guy at the door that pats you down and offers you a refreshing beverage to calm your presumably overwrought nerves, there’s an all-male staff, there are shiny counters and marble-topped islands, there are floors selling different goodies, and there are men throwing down bolt after bolt of fabric only to hear said mummies and mummy ji’s go “More! More! Aur dikhaao!” And these women, all of them, are snatching said cloths greedily, like they’ve never seen fabric before, and are rubbing these swoonily against their cheeks, while the men do their thing patiently, yanking at more cloth to please, smiling all the time and occasionally whooping at each other in another language, and hi-fiving between customers. It’s terrible, and wonderful. I love Nalli.

Before you think Nalli is only for wedding shopping, for the mandatory kanjeevaram in your bridal trousseau, let me tell you it isn’t. They’ve worked hard at expanding their retail footprint, which means that every Nalli, whatever city it may be in, has to stock saris/ fabric sourced from across the country, not just from the Southern states. And that means a mindbogglingly large repertoire of saris available for cherry picking. It also means an equally mindbogglingly large number of permutations and combinations- my last Nalli visit, a mix-and-match-spree, resulted in me buying a traditional white Kerala sari (with a gold-and-pink border) and pink Banarasi fabric for a blouse to match. And a plain mustard crepe silk sari to go with a navy fabric on which tiny mustard flowers run amok, for a matching blouse. All of this set me back only by five thousand, which is deliciously inexpensive for two whole saris and matching blouses that get me a ton of compliments.

And oh- you can also choose not to buy a sari at all, and just buy lots of pretty fabric for a skirt tailored by your favourite darzi. Styling yourself and making your own garments is so fulfilling! On my birthday weekend, I intend to buy me some kalamkari fabric from Nalli, and have that made into a sundress I can wear with my worn tan sandals.

Since there are no decent pictures of people wearing Nalli online, here’s an adorable print ad they ran last year:

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And here’s a picture of a Nalli sari that has serious sundress potential-

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Did I mention they’re extremely reasonable price-wise, and have stuff for the skimpiest budget?

Delhi Nalli stores I haunt– SEX store is bast, yaar. Vot yaar, don’t be so shocked. SEX is short form of South Ex, stupid. Chee yaar, how ken you hev such dirty mind?!
What I mostly buy– Their budget saris, their fabric
Similar Delhi based brands I love– Are you kidding? There’s wonly won Nalli. Though there’s a tiny section at every Meena Bazaar (special mention – DLF Promenade) that doesn’t stock hideously blingy, stone-encrusted saris. I’ve scored some very decent finds here, actually

10. Raw Mango

Raw Mango was a serendipitous discovery. I was binge-reading Vogue when I saw a picture of Tina Tahiliani Parikh (she runs Ensemble, India’s first multi-designer luxury boutique) in a soot-black sari. Now there are saris, and there are saris. And this looked special, so I googled furiously for some of Tina’s other pictures, and then there was ligh..no, Raw Mango. More googling (I love that googling is now an Official Verb, by the way) led me to the email address of Sanjay Garg, the notoriously reticent designer of these gorgeous chanderi beauties, so I crossed my fingers and wrote to him, telling him that I was craving some kaccha aam for my trousseau, and requesting him to direct me to his work. He wrote back with a very sweet, very polite reply, telling me regretfully that he doesn’t retail at many places, only shows up at the odd curated exhibition. This punctured my balloon a bit, but I wrote back shamelessly, asking him where in Delhi I could find his work next. He replied with a ‘Good Earth’, and that was that. I didn’t know it then, but he runs a kaarkhana out of Chattarpur, a place you can show up at only by appointment.

So off to Good Earth, Khan Market I went- a place that teases you with so many decor possibilities for your imaginary home it’s heartbreaking. The prices are sky high and make you want to either smash all the beautiful china, or weep secret tears at its unattainability, depending on how your workday went. Their first floor stocks clothes by hermetic designers who don’t like to leave their lairs much, but let the world know they’re alive by the breathtaking stuff they design and manufacture. Sure enough, there was a rack of Raw Mango saris, chanderis and silks in unconventional colours, all patterned with cheeky motifs- a cow here, a parrot or a crane there- each a testament to Sanjay’s revivalist, cerebral aesthetic. Each sari has its own name, written in black ink in Devnagari script on the label. So there’s Paan, a mysterious bottle green with a scarlet border. There’s Bodhgaya, a pristine, ascetic white. There’s Gaushaala, a shocking pink teeming with gold cows. There’s Bageecha, a happy yellow filled with tiny gold trees. There’s so much beauty that you hear a loud thud every time you look at one of his saris. That thud is the sound of your jaw hitting the floor. Hard.

Raw Mango is expensive. A sari for your trousseau will set you back by well over twenty five thou. I’ve managed to buy three, working at a place that was secretly a sweatshop. No it wasn’t- I’m exaggerating- but you get the drift. These cannot be impulse buys, not unless you’re Tina Tahiliani Parikh, or Arundhati Roy or Kiran Rao or Sonia Gandhi, all of who wear his saris. I once ran into Sanjay at Good Earth on my way to Ritu Dalmia’s cosy little restaurant on their top floor. He was telling the staff where to place each sari, and I ran over to him, all swoony and brainscrambly and fangirly, to tell him how much I love his work and how grateful I am that he cares so much for the Indian hand loom tradition. It came out wrong. I think I said “I love you, Sanjay. You make beautiful Indian.” His eyebrows shot up a bit and he smiled shyly and asked me if I was keeping my saris well. I told him I have them wrapped up in dried neem leaves, and he said, “Well, you have to store them on varnished bamboo stems, rolled up and suspended in a dry, airless space.” I don’t think I was listening much (this is what Husband told me he said), I was only watching his mouth move. It was a ridiculous moment I’ll remember for life.

And before I forget- his saris look great on dark skin. I’m the colour of cheap milk chocolate, so that’s how I know. 🙂 And he showcases his work on real people, flaws, warts and all. There’s a happy rawness here that references a child’s unselfconscious, unapologetic favouriting of colours in his box of crayons (everyone knows that the more Grown Up you get, the more boring, muted and pastelly your choices become. Children prefer lemonchaly, Grown Ups, melancholy). And that’s why he features in Counterfashion.

Here are my favourite Raw Mangoes, images sourced from their website.

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And here are my favourite images of people wearing their Raw Mangoes, sourced from their Facebook page.

Chiki Sarkar, Chief Biggie, Penguin Random House (how I wish the merger’d been called Random Penguin! Thanks for the joke, Samira Sood!):

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Kareena Kapoor Khan, refreshingly free of makeup or jewellery:

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Beautiful Lady Whose Name I Do Not Know But Whose Tattoo I’m Digging:

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A Gorgeous White Haired Fairy Whose Name I Also Do Not Know:

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Nandita Stunning Das:

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A series of images from one of his lines:

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And the Man with his Babies, via The Hindu:

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Delhi Raw Mango stores I haunt– Good Earth @ Khan Market

What I mostly buy– The saris. The florid-er, the better! Also, he does beautiful whites and ivories

Similar brands I love– Rahul Mishra’s chanderis come close, but not quite. He’s stocked at Aza (South Ex and Crescent @ The Qutab) and Ensemble (DLF Emporio). Kimaya (DLF Emporio) may also stock him, but I’m not quite sure

 

11. Bailou/ ByLoom

You may disagree with their politics, but you can’t not covet their saris. The Gandhi women, a mysterious, tight-lipped lot wear elegant, understated beauties that speak volumes for their choices. I’ve been stalking Priyanka Gandhi’s wardrobe for over three years now, and am happy to report my findings. She wears a lot of traditional weaves, and she wears a lot of Byloom.

ByLoom is a Kolkata-based sari house that does an excellent job of throwing together colours and patterns in delicious, just-right combinations. At first glance, the saris don’t look special. But spend some time poring over the details, and you will realise how carefully they’ve been conceived. These are saris for the thinking woman, the sort of woman who doesn’t let her clothes wear her.

I love how they show off their work on regular women- women with tiny potbellies, big wrinkes, upturned noses and wild hair. If you’re in Kolkata- lucky you! Drop whatever you’re doing and scoot to their Hindustan Park place.  And if you’re not, curse your Delhi-based fate and sullenly ogle their wares on their Facebook page, at which you can also place your orders.

Here’s Priyanka Gandhi in a campaign shot from this year: (all images stolen from ByLoom’s Facebook page)

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And a very Un-Dirty Picture of Vidya Balan:

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And Real Women in their saris; this is Dr. Bessie Cecil- isn’t she beauteous, and has’t she stepped out from a Raja Ravi Verma?

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And this is Dithi Mukherjee, a painter whose face Sarah Jessica Parker has stolen. Via Blahnik-wearing ninja minions carrying laser guns, cameras and expensive face-copying equipment. Poor, beautiful Dithi was asleep and did not know.

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And here’s Shrirupa Ghatak, a very elegant woman I’d like to look like when I’m old. I also want her dog. And oh- also her house.

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The saris cost anywhere upwards of a thirty five hundred.

Delhi ByLoom stores I hauntArre pagle, rulaayega kya 😦 ByLoom, why you no have Delhi store? 😦

What I mostly buy– Regularly stalk their saris on their Facebook page. Sadly, they get snapped up real quick, and I’m left heartbroken.

Similar brands I love– Anavila Mishra’s linen saris, stocked at Bungalow 8 (Mumbai) and Le Mill (Mumbai) are gorgeous. (What is it with the Mishra second name and serious sari-designing chops?). Lookit these hoardable Anavila saris inspired by the Santhal women of Jharkhand, and featured on vogue.in:

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Shizz yaar, teen baj gaye. It’s 3 AM and I have to be up early tomorrow. I hope your dreams are filled with saris fluttering in the wind, singing siren songs to your bank account. 🙂 ‘Night, y’all!

 

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