That actress in Sabya boots

Designers have been using film stars to grow their worth. But objections have arisen to the freebies these Celebs crave

Bollywood has been the closest associate of fashion in India since the days of Meena Kumari, Nargis Dutt, and Suraiya. The 1960s gave us one of the most influential pieces of clothing – the Anarkali Kurtas worn by Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam. There were Sri Devi and Rekha, who also did their bit to inspire fashion for the masses. And Rohit Khosla, who set up his couture label in 1987, which spearheaded major contributions to the Indian fashion industry.

Fast forward to 2018, both film and fashion industry have grown exponentially. There are enough “Bollywood stars” to play dress up for the growing number of fashion designers in the country. Like Anuskha Sharma and Virat Kohli who sneaked out to Italy and got married in Sabyasachi ensembles. And Vogue magazine which played paparazzi to the national bride — Sonam Kapoor in Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla.

Then there’s Manish Malhotra, who is a go-to-fashion-designer for every celebrity and their star-stuck fans. The instinct of Rekha has been replaced by the wit of celebrity stylist, Ami Patel, who decides what will work better, between a Tarun Tahiliani Saree and a Raw Mango Lehenga for Priyanka Chopra at the Ambani engagement. There are celebrity stylists, PR pundits and bloggers, making the exchange of prestige (for designers) with complimentary clothing (for celebs) smoother than ever.

Kangana Ranaut is a “client”, every fashion designer would want to show off, while ten ladies rush to buy the same outfit they saw her in. Everyone seems to have found a happy place in the deep like-mindedness of the two creative fraternities — perhaps not Shahab Durazi, a fashion designer, having worked for thirty years in the industry. Recently, the veteran headed to Facebook, to vent out on everything he thought was wrong about the designer-celebrity equation. His 800 words post, later re-posted and made public by Rohit Bal, points at various examples of how he thinks fashion should function in India.

The designer, who once walked the ramp with the likes of Aishwarya Rai, questions the credibility of film celebrities when they accept free designer-wear in exchange of publicity. “Fashion and film are two distinct industries,” wrote Durazi in his post, who thinks a not so great outfit worn by a celebrity creates misleading preposition about the brand. He enquires “why can’t these celebrities pay for what they wear like everyone else?”, adding that the designer doesn’t secure any kind of attention for his own work, instead the celebrity and stylist get all the recognition. He also questioned Fashion Design Council of India, the official regulating body for fashion designers, for not watching over such exploitation.

Dhanshri Sharma, a public relations manager with Red Door Luxury shares her experience of how celebrity dressing has been boosting sales for the brands she works with. “Bollywood celebrities play a huge role when they collaborate with a designer. Forty percent of the yearly business takes place because of a brand’s association with a star”, says Sharma who recently had Dia Mirza model for a campaign with one of her clients, Resa, a fine jewellery label by Megha Malik. The entire exercise went on for four to five hours, where two distinct looks were shot on Mirza in exchange of an amount equivalent to a PR professional’s yearly salary.

Fashion media is another league that has been deemed responsible by Durazi, for favouring celebrities, and international labels’ editorial stories. He also thinks star kids have taken over the space that belongs to super models; this rage to score maximum readers has led to content being compromised. “Fashion is the loser in this tangled triangle of egos”, he adds.

Anushka Sharma’s wedding-wear line-up of Sabyasachi couture, is one of the best cases to understand how a top celeb can inspire millions to try and get hold of the same outfit, or at least a first copy. Look at how Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla took it to another level by dressing every Baraati from Kapoor and Ambani Khandaan in their opulent couture. They also were style partners for the film — Veere Di Wedding. The film did business worth R138 crores at the box office. The Kapoor wedding went on to become Vogue India’s July cover story with around 150 images from the coveted wedding for the world (with worldwide readership of 275,000) to revisit, and maybe order a few Abu-Sandeep favourites.

Debarati Roy, a digital branding consultant says, “a photo of a celeb on social media brings in visibility, that garners interest in audiences for a purchase.” Roy who has been consulting Ritu Kumar, the label, among other top fashion labels, for their digital strategies, suggests that a product would get business online only if it is priced mid range. “The expensive ones definitely would not amount to volume sales”, she adds. Her belief is influencers cannot be ignored, the biggest ones being the celebrities.

While a number of people from the industry shared their viewpoints on the issue through comments on Bal’s Facebook post, one such comment was from Sonam Kapoor — who has been one of the show stoppers for his couture show. Kapoor, whose recent wedding saw her wearing various designers for different functions, shared that everything she had worn was paid for. She finished with saying that actors and designers are both artists and should support each other and build each other up.
Bal’s reply to Sonam’s interjection was as gripping. He mentioned how celebs look forward to huge remuneration for being show stopper’s for the same bunch of designers who source them garments.
Try imagining a celebrity doing a free gig, isn’t it a rare thing to happen? While some may think that its an unfair deal, there are a bunch of fashion designers leading the game, all because they understand Bollywood’s closet and are able to use it to their benefit.

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