Objects for the Body

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To Rei Kawakubo, she isn’t the trailblazer revolutionary designer since Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in the fashion industry. To her she is nothing but a business woman. One who started making clothes because she couldn’t find anything that she was looking for, went on to create a brand that since has changed not only how we view fashion, clothes and women with respect to each other but also changed how the industry approached doing business.

Looking at Kawakubo and her brand, Comme des Garcons’ legacy is almost overwhelming. Ever since the Met Gala for The Costume Institute’s Spring 2017 exhibition “Art of the In-Between” celebrating her work, I threw myself down the rabbit hole that is her work – pulling articles, interviews, past shows, what have you. I couldn’t stop, the more I read about her, the more information I wanted. In college, I barely knew of her work. I had come across it several times, but I didn’t know then how to appreciate her clothes. They weren’t wearable. They weren’t pretty. They definitely did not flatter the one wearing them. The clothes almost always devoured the wearer leaving only the impression of their outlandishness. I didn’t understand it. And that’s what precisely one of Kawakubo’s aims is. When her clothes translate their purpose easily to the outside world, be they critics or buyers or consumers, it irks her. She refused to include her Fall 2005 “Broken Bride” collection or Spring 2005 “Motorcycle Ballerinas” in the exhibition because she deemed it too “understandable”.  She doesn’t want to be understood. When understanding isn’t an option, all they do is stir up emotions. The clothes walking down the runway want to strike a chord deeper than merely understanding them cerebrally. Very few designers can move an audience to tears like in her Fall 2015 show titled “Ceremony of Separation”.

To me the appeal of Kawakubo is twofold. First and foremost, it’s her clothes.  What motivated her in 1969 hasn’t changed much from her motivation in 2017. Her drive to continue creating the new, approaching matters at hand in a new way, looking at things in a new way is primary. When I started to go through her old archives from the 90s and the 00s, it didn’t feel dated. Take a look at her Spring 2002 and you will find high street brands saturated with similar concepts that have trickled down from recent shows. Although they shocked the critics at the time by being nothing like anything that came before, her clothes from 30-20 years looks contemporary now. Her clothes, if I can call them that as she has stopped making clothes, still shock us, but they aren’t cheap thrills. She delves into concepts and gives it all she has to create masterpieces. Her Fall 2012 commonly known as her Paper Doll collection where she explored clothes in 2-dimension still remains an iconic piece of work of the 21st century. When she couldn’t fathom new silhouette, she created new bodies to drape dresses around, giving us the “Body meet Dress, Dress meets Body” of Fall 1997. She isn’t creating mere garments for popular consumption, not for the main Comme des Garcons line. She is creating what comes next, as she has always done. She is tuned with the future like no other. She creates what truly can be called “modern”.

Second, it’s Rei Kawakubo herself. Her clothes, shrouded in mystery as they are, are still open to interpretation. But Rei herself is an enigma. A titan of the fashion industry, having erected an empire independently, a figure revered and worshipped, but what do we know about her? She doesn’t explain her work, she stopped taking a bow at the end of her shows, her interviews come across as short, dry and deadpan. There isn’t another figure of her stature that comes across as guarded as her. To me, she feels like the quintessential Japanese. No pomp and show, her work creates the noise on their own without a peep from her. To me, she’s also a BAMF, a punk BAMF. There is a “fuck you” in her work that you can’t miss. She doesn’t do anything according to the establishment. Whether it is her clothes rebelling against the beauty standards or her brand refusing to associate itself with a celebrity in the name of having a face, or just her refusing to talk about her design process, she never did anything to compromise her own vision and truth.  That’s rare. That’s legendary.

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Photograph Courtesy: The New York Times

Where Fashion At?

I am obsessed with eras bygone. Particularly, how women dressed and what fashion dictated in the eras bygone. It’s fun and illuminating to study how fashion manipulates choices and how those choices ended up tweaking behaviors and outlooks, hence, bringing about a change. I am absolutely oversimplifying history here, but please don’t tell me that shift dresses of 1920s, miniskirts of 1960s and Bohemia of 1970s did not influence the Suffragette movement or the Vietnam wars or the free love going about. It probably didn’t, but they sure were there to witness it. That’s a long disclaimer and might lead me to digress from the point I want to bring up, which is, what is my era going to look like to a fashion dweeb in 2065?

Runway trends have been kidnapped and we forgot to pay the ransom. Now, they are dead. What was it that lead us to here? Is it the power of the internet and the information age catapulting us forward than any other previous generation to only sit back to view photographs of eras bygone, nostalgic for something we didn’t even experience first hand? Is it the fatigue from a technological revolution outpacing our needs, world politics throwing us in a tizz that we crave for the simplicity of items, tried and tested by our mothers and grand-mothers and their mothers? It could also have been the financial crisis of 2008 that helped in the rise of fashion bloggers, DIY culture, shopping vintage and re-appropriating fashion. It’s very much is a result of all of these factors combined.

This leads us to the present where the fashion industry is going through major changes in the way it does business. The traditional model of business in fashion started from the couturiers of Paris dictating the “new” shape, color, texture and detail depending upon the technological innovation at the time in the fields of textiles, dyes, machineries to the Royalties of France, these “trends” would then travel to America from where it would trickle down for the consumption of the commoners. This model hardly changed over time, except for two factors. First, New York, London and Milan joined Paris as influential centers around which the fashion industry revolved. Second, the time span for a trend to be dictated and travel down the rungs of society to become ubiquitous kept becoming shorter and shorter primarily because of industrialization, innovation in mass production, availability of cheap labor in countries such as India (Hi!), Bangladesh, China, Mexico.  and now the internet manipulating consumer behavior.

The “see now, buy now” business model that designers have been adopting for the past seasons is a direct reaction to the power of the information age. You have images from the runway circulating on social media, blogs, websites within seconds, saturating all platforms and boring the consumer before the styles even hit the stores (not good for business). I am not even getting into the knock-offs produced at a lightening fast speed by high street brands. All of these in turn, have turned the fashion scene on its head. We aren’t chasing trends anymore. At least the consumer is not. This decade so far has been heralded as the era of personal style, where everything goes, no rules, you do you. It’s the era of the weirdos who have all of the options. They wear ruffles, sequins, athletic gear, psychedelic colors, holographic metallics, distressed tees, poplin shirts, slip dresses, sometimes all together. Coupled with the desire to not be homogenized, uphold the individuality. It’s the consumer who is pushing the boundaries by questioning the rules of style, questioning whether it’s necessary to wear a shirt like a shirt, because it can also make for a cute skirt or an off-the-shoulder top. It’s the consumer that the designers in Paris, Milan, London and New York are taking cues from. You can see it in Demna Gvasalia’s approach for Balenciaga, or Alexander Wang’s decade long career or Marc Jacobs since forever. It’s trickling upwards more so than any other decade. Bringing me back to the wonders of the information age, without which there wouldn’t be any personal fashion blogs, street style blogs, Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest. In other words, there wouldn’t be the democratization of the fashion industry.

So what does the dweeb of 2065 make of all these?

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I haven’t been able to write. Somewhere during the end of 2015, I couldn’t stand what I was writing. I was taking a moment of sadness and spinning away with it. I was sick of being sad and writing about sad. I was sick of the aura of sadness that enveloped me. I needed to go a different way. I started painting again. It was the therapy I needed. The colors, the brush, the wet color on the brush sliding on a paper making a happy picture. Anything you put on paper with color is happy. I needed happy. It worked. I got out of my funk, got a job, got my perspective back, got over. I kept painting almost on a daily basis for the rest of 2016. Things changed with the passage of time and I have a painting for almost all of the days. Painting that makes me happy, even though I might have cried on the day. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing. My writing made me sad, and I didn’t want to be sad.
But here we are. This is 9th April, 2017. A lot has changed since the beginning of the year. The change doesn’t matter. Change messes me up, it has always messed me up. On 9th April, 2017 I know it will eventually work itself out like it did so many times before. But what bothers me about the past few months is that I have stopped communicating. With myself. Or with anybody else who matter. The saddest moment had been crying on the bathroom floor wanting to tell anybody who cares how wrong and shitty and bad it is but also wanting to tell nobody. What would they even tell me that they haven’t told me before?
It will be okay. I know.
Be strong. I know.
Focus on your work. I know.
You are luckier than you think. I know.
Instead of reaching out, I cried harder because I felt I hadn’t made a friend I would want to go to at 2 AM knowing that they would comfort me. I was under the impression I did and I no longer had them around. Looping back to square one and crying harder. At moments of despair such as these, I always think of killing myself. Which makes me cry more because it’s a cop out and all the faces I would hurt immensely float around in my head. A lot of things makes me cry when I am crying on the bathroom floor at 2 AM. I don’t know how to continue on with this thread of thought.
I will start anew. Things are looking up. I still have difficulty facing a Sunday. For some odd reason, Sunday depresses me the most. But as I said, it’s looking up. I am smiling more. I am reading up on things I love. I have the inner unrest to do something with my time again. All good, healthy, happy things.
I want to write again. About thoughts that pop up in my head. About things I love with passion. About people I meet. Books I read. Days I live. Maybe a sad story or two. Balanced with a happy painting.

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I am Too Busy For This Blog

Don’t you hate it when a blogger isn’t regular? No? Cool.

So I have my finals in the next week and I am swamped. And like always, I have not one iota of will to actually work. There’s something about a deadline approaching that just gets my brain to shut its store and walk away in the sunset. And then there is procrastination. You know I want to sleep 12 hours a day and re-watch Friends when exams are just a week away.You just know it. I don’t have much to say on this weekend other than, “OH! GOD! NOT THE EXAMS!!!!” so I just thought I’d show you guys some of my previous illustration work.

This was one of my early works when I clearly did not know that shoulders ain’t supposed to be that big and also I was really digging dominatrix wears.

This one was for an assignment where one had to take up one of the ancient civilization and derive inspiration. I took Egyptian folks.

I am really proud of this because of the way the face and the hair turned out. This was for an assignment for which I took inspiration from the Art Deco movement.

I like this one because I could wear all the clothes I designed in this one. I really could.

And these are my zombie kids!

So. Yep. That’s all. Have a good week ahead!

Lessons That You Need But Don’t Deserve

I made a Dark Knight reference up there. And it may or may not have any significance in this article. So sometime back, I stumbled upon a realization, and by sometime back I meant to kid you there, I talk about it all the time – that it has been exactly half a decade that I have been single. Hell, right now, I could run for Mayor if single people had their own city. Seriously though, 5 years – half a decade, however you put it, it still sounds ominous. I will go sit in the corner for a while now.
I’m back, and ready to turn the situation upside down and dole out the only thing I have, pseudo sense of having wisdom. Woohoo! Ain’t that an upside? So gather around and I will walk you through the nitty-gritty of how to not be noticed by anyone and remain secluded and single. For-EVER.

  1. Kill your social life. Mingling with the outside world, pfftt, who needs that? In fact take it to a whole new level where you make yourself a myth, your existence is called upon question and people can only ever confirm sightings – in the virtual world.
  2. Think that you are ugly because, self-esteem sucks. This may be a little difficult first, but then with constant practice anyone can achieve this. Think it enough and you will believe it. Remember, tearing down your self-esteem is the first step to bringing down the self-confidence. Confidence is supposed to be sexy; you need to avoid that to attain the goal here.
  3. Have a list of qualities you look for in the sex you prefer and would like to mate with. Make it as precise and lengthy as you can. Though this may sound easy to you on the get go, but it actually isn’t. You think “Smart, funny, chivalrous” is a hard combination to crack, you must be kidding yourself. You need to go deep to ensure proper protection – think “Can survive the Hunger Games, needs to be a high-functioning sociopath with looks befitting a self-satisfied Adonis also with farts that smell like lavender and baby cream.” Ha! Try breaking that, person of opposite sex I would like to mate with.
  4. Another no-brainer, don’t ever put on display all the awesome qualities you think you possess. Think you are funny? Think you are really intelligent and charming? Think you need to boast that you know everything about Harry Potter and indulge in raunch-filled fan-fiction? You think wrong. Stay quiet and don’t try to pull any stunt. That might draw attention to you.
  5. Do not meet new people. This is crucial, I know this sort of comes under the first point, but this is so important I have to stress on it particularly. Meeting new people will give you a chance that you may fancy someone, worse, someone may fancy you. If we wanted that to happen, you and me wouldn’t be here discussing this and going through it point by point and making lists, ok! So, no new people. Ever.
  6. In case you do, first thing, have a mental image of me shaking my head and just walking out the door. You are a lost cause, it’s like you don’t even want to be here. But suppose you couldn’t help it and it was somehow forced upon you to come into such contact, I understand. I will walk you through it so that you can come out of this miserable situation. First, work yourself up a little bit. Tensed you will always perform better in situation such as this. This takes care of the “first impression.” With the situation under your control, take out your mental list of qualities we discussed in point 3. Obviously, this mere mortal can’t stand up to it even if they give up their left arm. Laugh on their face, do your best evil laugh and walk away. Just walk away.

So, this should cover you fair and well. If anyone still has a problem and seems to attract someone, call me up, man. We can plan how to get you out of it or get them out of the scene. If you know what I mean.
I meant to take them down or kill them off from the story.
Whatever fits.

Image courtesy: Cyanide and Happiness, you fucker.

Age is Just a Number of Candles on the Cake

It all started with the Queen in Snow White failing to grasp that aging is inevitable, you can’t go on a killing spree of teenage girls to call yourself the most beautiful. I believe it was her mid-life crisis that drove her to become a distributor of poisoned apples. The fear of growing old – everybody goes through it, and the Mad Men of the world take advantage of this very fact. They shove more fear down our throats and we in turn, give them all our money trying in all our might to try to stop something that is inevitable.

But why fear it? But more than fearing, why make it a taboo? Why consider crow’s feet or wrinkles or your sagging body the end of the universe? These are the marks that tell the world you have lived and seen this world a little longer – and that is exactly what we have come here for. Where is the shame in it?

I want to grow old. And I want to have white hair and wrinkles and laugh lines and I want to be hunched back and poke kids on the road with my walking stick. And I most certainly don’t want to be in my twenties my whole life. I also want to rub my experience over others and demand respect just because I am older than everyone else.

Everlasting youth is a fable that is being told to us day in and day out, and somewhere there, we are buying into it a little by little. But anything that overstays its welcome stops being fun. Edward Cullen did not get that shovel face because everlasting youth was treating him well, consider that. And if we start considering everlasting youth and immortality in all its seriousness, it will just mean scrolling down more of your newsfeed and more Nicki Minaj videos. Because be serious, what do we actually do with our non-arthritis stricken limbs and non-Alzheimer ridden brain? And is this what humanity needs?

Old age will mean that I will turn weak, fragile and wretchedly ugly, but then again, I came in as weak, fragile and wretchedly ugly. Might as well go in my natural state.

Photograph courtesy: Anastasia Pottinger

Guest Post: The Butterfly

She is like a butterfly,
A butterfly that sings,
Who came out of her cocoon,
And spread her lovely wings,
In the shadow of her lovely lady wings,
Is where I saw the beauty of little things.

Her flight is simple and yet it is divine,
And it’s in her eyes where I see the love flow like rhine.
It’s her little dance that makes one ponder
And makes thoughtful men wonder.
It’s not flowers where she sits,
It’s the dreams of many lads which every night she visits.

She needs to be treated gently,
As she is too delicate,
While expressing one’s love for her,
one fails to be eloquent.
Her absence is malady,
Her presence is remedy

She doesn’t live on nectar,
It’s love that she craves.
Not lives does she rescue,
Its souls that she saves.
I don’t know why they call it a butterfly,
While she actually flutters by….

This post is written by Isan Basu. Biker, movie buff, rock fan, happy go lucky, loves acting etc etc.
Artwork courtesy: Cheyenne Illustration