Monday, 17 March 2014

INDIAN SUMMER: COTTONWORLD

Spring is here and its only a matter of time before the sweltering heat of summer begins. There is only one thing that brings comfort to my mind (and body) when I think of hot summer days – cotton. Cottonworld is an Indian label that has concentrated on precisely what its name means. Though they started off as a fairly basic, no-frills retailer of cotton clothes, things have become better over time.

Cotton World Store, Bandra, Bombay.


For one, they often have really nice stores. I visited their Bandra store in Bombay which is housed in this lovely old building with a iron grill gate and a small garden inside. The store interiors are minimal yet warm due to the combination of wood and whitewashed walls. The merchandise has made subtle improvements over time in keeping with the below-the-radar and functional appeal that was always a signature of the brand. Earlier shirts used to be in basic fits with basic washes; now the fits are slim and treatments lean towards vintage – however this is the Cottonworld version of vintage, so don’t expect distressed garments.

Easy summer shirting from Cottonworld


What Cottonworld does well now is to tweak the basics; shirts come with detailing like contrast trims and fabrics have faded, comforting colours and soft handles. Cotton, linens and blends of the two more or less make up the entire fabric story. Some of their fabrics are the very essence of comfort – soft, thin, natural. They have tees but the wovens trump knits totally. They had neat formal linen trousers which were priced great though the linen felt a bit insubstantial. Their shirts are great: from hip polka dot prints to casual stripes, the variety is great and the colours are ideal for an Indian summer – eau de nil, indigo, pista, sand. Perfect for idyllic summer days!

Monday, 10 February 2014

WE CAN DREAM.....A/W 2014 MENS COLLECTIONS

The menswear season has just wrapped up in the capitals of the fashion world. While winter seems like it’s already over (summer clothes will be making their way soon on window aisles) the shows just prolonged it a bit by showing what we could expect six months from now. Or rather one can dream about what one could wear in future if one had bank balances of a third-world economy!

For me casual sportiness and off-beat colour seemed to be the main takeaways. Bottega Venetta does casual luxury like no body else – no matter how eccentric the treatments, the clothes always look like they cost a million bucks. This season, the sweaters seemed to be dyed half-ways into vats of colours to create intriguing effects (as if the dyer had made a mistake). The colours were dull greens and greys. The silhouette had a relaxed feel thanks to ribbed hems on trousers and jackets – something that looked right on models only because they were models and the materials must be so fantastic.

How many ways can you say 'drab green'? Bottega Venetta Man f/w 2014


At Dries Van Noten, colouring and mixing was in overdrive. Imagine Lord Byron as a member of a punk gang and you almost made it to the the ‘look’ of the show. The trousers with bondage straps or tie-dye effects or patchwork of fabrics looked modern and different. Semi-cropped jackets over frilly collared shirts looked cool. And fur scarves in great colours looked so very right only because.....yeah, they were worn by models and the furs were so luxe!


Punk or poets? Anarchic elegance at Dries Van Noten Man f/w 2014


Elsewhere odd combinations caught the eye. Polka dots and thin stripes of bright colour decorated formal menswear at Dior. Bright sweaters and shoes in clashing colours enlivened suits at Lanvin. Feral textures were also in vogue – at Valentino rich skins were worn casually, at Fendi furs were wild but sophisticated and hairy textures gave a darker edge at Kenzo. Guess next winter we need to be wrapped up in eccentric choices!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

LOCAL LOVE: PLAYCLAN


A new year and a new start; perfect excuse to buy new wares for the closet! With the dollar still playing spoilsport, foreign purchases (and all the cool imported labels) have become dearer. So what’s a fashion lover to do? Well, it’s time to go local! At the moment, in this country (or maybe in most parts of the world), there is nothing easier than opening a tee shirt shop. Lately online tee-companies are multiplying like bunnies and while with some sites there is some emphasis on original design and creativity, they are all playing in the affordable-for-all-tee-shirt pool.

One of the site that beats this race is Playclan. They have a handful of groovy shops all around India selling all kinds of merchandise featuring their distinct graphic style. Their visual style is largely inspired by the country but the feel is very arty and hand-drawn with a dash of humour thrown in. Inspiration could come from mythological figures or historical political icons or various cities of India – its all from a local source but given a rendition that could appeal to anyone around the world.



What sets Playclan apart is the great level of detail. These tee graphics are not just designed on the front but often on the back and sometimes even on a sleeve. After printing the graphic, additional detail is added through touches of embroidery. The tee I purchased is inspired by Benaras and its religious sadhus; their detailing is done with French knots. Each tee design features its mini-inspiration-story on the inner back just below the sew-in label.

Even the hangtags and the cute yellow paper bag are designed with attention to detail. Obviously all this comes at a price but wouldn’t you mind paying a bit more for something a bit more handcrafted and unique than your average slogan tee.



Check out playclan at: www.theplayclan.com

Playclan Store, Mumbai, India

Sunday, 1 December 2013

ALL NEON LIKE

I am back after a long hiatus but let me take it from where I left off! Neon colours have been on the runways for a past few seasons and the trend has been trickling down ever since. Not the easiest colours to embrace, its best to have a little bit of the bright stuff. 

With winter not yet properly in and the mercury still shooting up, I am still in a summery state of mind. (Upcoming winter getaways to the beaches are just reinforcing that!). So my boat shoes are getting unexpectedly more run time! These boat shoes from Sperry fit the bill with their bright orange accents – I have gotten more looks with those on the street than from anything I have owned!


There are boat shoes and then there is that great pair of boat shoes. Though the brand is not available locally as yet, there are several options available; alas, none have the punch that these have (Sperry does boat shoes better than most anyways!). The classic camel tone of leather is contrasts perfectly with the orange accents. The detailing is great: the orange laces, the branded eyelets, the orange ribbed band on top of the base, the inner orange stripe, the boat & wave logo on the outer sides of each shoe.....



Saturday, 31 August 2013

COLOUR THERAPY

I read a recent article in a mens magazine which gave tips such as introducing colour into one’s wardrobe. Colour has been a story in fashion for quite some time (Raf Simons particularly lauded womens collection for Jil Sander was the precursor of it all). But how many men – ahem, grown men can introduce colour into their daily wardrobes if that daily regime involves going to workplaces where orange trousers and pink polos simply won’t do.


So a great idea to re-energize the wardrobe could be through accents and accessories. While a jacket with an inside piping in orange would do the trick, that’s not the easiest thing to find. I have stumbled upon coloured socks and I think they are a sophisticated yet subtle way to creating interest. Socks are not the most visible garment but a sly pop of bright colour when you sit down will make the other person definitely reassess you! You can put a pair of matching shoelaces if you want to feel more giddy with colour! Bet those stolid dependable shoes would look brand new!

Colour therapy: Brightly hued socks

Monday, 1 July 2013

Flower Power

Floral mash ups at Dries Van Noten SS 2014 and Hawaii inspired florals at Prada SS 2014

Sometimes its difficult to find out whether the ‘street’ is inspired by ‘fashion’ or is it ‘fashion’ that is inspired by street. Case in point: the mens spring 2014 shows are awash with floral prints of all types. At Dries Van Noten, florals upon florals were piled spectacularly while at Prada tropical florals took a twist. Coming off a trip to New York, prints were all over the high street and why not, its summer! Appropriately there were lot of Hawaiian style prints with ubiquitous hibiscus flowers over shirts and shorts. There were wild tropical blooms on tees and shirts, which in my mind flowed off from a hit Givenchy menswear 2012 offering (this also flowed off onto womenswear on the high street). So were designers inspired by men on the street wearing florals? Come 2014, it will be the other way round; high street will definitely fall in love with all the heavy-duty flower power shown on the runways.

Tending to be minimal, I restrict my prints to my tees (come to think of it, I don’t even own any camo in my wardrobe!). But when change is all around, one can be tempted to change. Anyways, how does a normal man wear florals? Restrict it to a single piece and team it with typically masculine staples. Or choose a piece that ‘butches’ up the pretty print.  I bought a pair of floral shorts from Uniqlo – they are in a dull blue colour with a faded hisbiscus print in the most unfloral shades. They come in a comfortable cotton-linen bend and just end above the knee. I might get the hems folded to make them a bit more casual and wear them with a plain white shirt, sleeves folded and pushed up; add a pair of loafers or deck shoes and it’s a perfect weekend outfit.
 
Hibiscus print shorts from Uniqlo SS 2013

Zara had plenty of floral options but my recommendations include a tropical print sweatshirt (a very masculine item with a very un-masculine print). They also have floral shorts and floral shirts. More unusual treatments came at Ralph Lauren's Denim & Supply line where florals were stencilled or hand painted onto denim shorts.

Tropical print shorts or delicate tonal floral sweatshirt, both from Zara SS 2013
 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

CELEBRATING THE OLD



I am back after a long hiatus and what actually got me back here was not something new that I noticed in the shops (physical or virtual) but a comment made by someone. I have a pair of what I call 'my office shoes' which are not really formal shoes but they just come handy whether I have to put on jeans or trousers. I was wearing these shoes on an official trip and an Indian gentleman in the hotel lift who had a strong American accent asked me where I got my shoes from. Before I could reply he asked me if they were American. My shoes are very much local and not American and I told him so. He just remarked they looked 'very American' as he left the lift.

Bemused at this I wondered what he meant by 'very American'. I had been to Los Angeles last summer and this 'Americanness' seemed to elude me. Well, my shoes were really in a bad shape then, having been worn almost every alternate day for last three years. They are genuine leather shoes from a brand called 'Red Tape' and look as if they have been used. The most distinctive feature about the shoes at the time of this 'lift incident' was that the shoe-laces had really taken to the wear and were fraying terribly. This had also excited a couple of stylists I had once bumped into a swanky mall.

So in the end, I assumed by American, he meant the shoes looked old but in a polite, appreciative way. What I am talking about is the difference between something old and something vintage. So it is with a loving eye that I celebrate my trusty brown shoes. I have another pair now and the shoelaces have been replaced and I polish them more regularly now than I did before, but they still look very old, very broken-into and I guess they only get better with age!