From Aishwarya Rai being reduced to a jumbo candy wrapper to Masoom Minawala in diaphanous swathes of red satin at the Cannes Film Festival, the jury is out on what worked, and what didn’t

“Cannes Film Festival is a festival of films not fashion,” Nandita Das, Firaaq director and activist, rightly said once. After the outfit that Falguni and Shane Peacock designed for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the Devdas actor and the global star (for the 77th Cannes Festival that drew to a close on May 25), dressing her up like a jumbo candy with an oversized wrapper, I think one should stick to films. Frankly, I have never understood the Peacocks though they boast of several shows abroad: NY, Paris, and Milan. I once even met Paris Hilton when she walked for them in India, in 2012, but they remain a mystery. When they showcase at fashion weeks, I only attend their shows for endless entertainment: to look at which star they have paid lakhs to walk for them. The aesthetics is often overlooked for glamour and imposing sets. But maybe that is what sells!

They also run The Peacock magazine and many people, in hushed whispers, often confide their style is rather unpalatable. They may be successful, but the artistry and thought is often absent. Interestingly, Diipa Büller-Khosla (I don’t know why she is so popular), who launched Inde Wild, her skincare and beauty line, wore — mind you — an “armour”. The designer duo Shane and Falguni exclaimed: “It was a celebration of the beauty, and resilience of women.” It was a homage to an iconic moment by Diana Dors from 1956. I don’t know if Diipa knows that the blonde bombshell was exploited by her husband Dennis Hamilton; she starred in adult films and was also forced into intimate modelling. Anyway, no one is doing any research. Just names are thrown around... I wonder why everyone seeks inspiration from blonde Marilyn Monroe look-alikes, is there no one in India?

Miss: Diipa Büller-Khosla in an ‘armour,’ designed by Falguni and Shane Peacock

Paola Turani’s corset and Shahana Goswami’s draped sari

While writing on fashion, I have often asked this question: is it about “accessibility” to designers or the “ability” to pen a good copy with a unique point of view? The latter always wins. I often have questions which go unanswered in the maze of flippancy: why Chhaya Kadam of Laapataa Ladies and All We Imagine As Light chose to wear her mother’s saree, and a nath (nose ring)? Does no designer want to dress a seriously talented actress as she is not their usual hungry-looking model or big 70 MM box office hit? Though I liked Kadam’s choice of clothing, nath and sari — they come with her mom’s blessings.

The man who wooed Paris, Rahul Mishra, seems to be a red-carpet favourite. He dressed Punjabi content creator Vishnu Kaushal, dusky stunner Shahana Goswami and Bergamo (Italy)-born Paola Turani at Cannes 2024. Vishnu’s cherry blossom bandhgala with pleated pants was nothing to write home about. Goswami picked a piece from his Couture collection “Cosmos” which had interesting sleeves. Model Paola Turani’s hand-embroidered ‘The Marvel’ snake sequin corset dress was interesting as the craft came though the starburst in hues of charcoal. Isn’t this a great way to showcase what Indian artisans do best — hand work — and show our mastery over laborious techniques to the world?

“Each outfit created at the Rahul Mishra atelier represents a certain elevated quality of hand embroidery, created by master craftsmen in local Indian villages. The intention behind all our work is to create the kind of luxury that is mindful of the environment, while intending to employ Indian artisans to empower them. Each of our products reflects those values and is carefully placed on personalities, who are appreciative and respectful of the sentiment,” says Rahul Mishra.

Paola Turani, Shahana Goswami and Vishnu Kaushal in outfits designed by Rahul Mishra. Shahana also wore Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla’s draped sari (second from left) at the premiere of Sandhya Suri’s Santosh.

Shahana also wore the two larger-than-life designers, who are known to dress the Bachchans — Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla. Goswami flaunted their frothy peach champagne chamois satin stylised draped sari for the premiere of Sandhya Suri’s first fiction feature, Santosh. The actress did full justice to the outfit, with her personality not dulled by the brightness of Swarovski’s shimmer.

King the Rapper’s hand-embroidered jacket and Sobhita Dhulipal’s Cordelia jumpsuit

King the Rapper was dressed in Anamika Khanna’s menswear; the two boys of the designer seem to have inherited their mother’s attention to detail. Viraj Khanna, Anamika’s son, says, “I wanted King to wear something that celebrates India... craft, colours and emotion. I think that is what he does with his music, too.” Thus, a hand-embroidered jacket on a Western silhouette was just the right thing, with thread and beadwork, shells and metal coins. “King owns his style, and is confident. He was the best person to pull this off. The outfit was intricately hand-embroidered and took our artisans close to 500 hours,” says Viraj. He adds, “Honestly, we said no to most people for dressing menswear. I was speaking to Rahul (friend and stylist) and he said you can’t not dress King as he is candid about himself. I admire King as people made fun of him for his accent, and he posted it himself,” adds the designer.

Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland wore Anamika Khanna’s red, elegant gown that showed off her ample bosom without it looking seductive — rather, sophisticated. And I also like women who stand their ground; it adds to their character. When a guard at the red carpet at Cannes told Rowland to hurry up, and almost took her off the stage, she resisted and did not mind getting into a vociferous altercation.

(from left) King the Rapper and Kelly Rowland in Anamika Khanna’s outfits. Sobhita Dhulipala in Cordelia jumpsuit designed by Namrata Joshipura, and Masoom Minawala in an attire by Amit Aggarwal.

I have known Amit Aggarwal since we judged the WOW (World of Wearable art) ten years ago. He was quiet and soft spoken. I think success has somewhere made him lose touch with the need to be accessible. It happens to most designers though what he created for Masoom Minawala, the influencer with gravitas, looked as if she was floating in fabric, satin to be precise. The pleating techniques, combined with corsetry, were engaging; there was minimalism in terms of embroidery, and embellishment.

Sobhita Dhulipala was dressed by the designer known for his risqué style, Namrata Joshipura, a NIFT graduate, who has never shied away from bling or sexiness; thus, it was a match made in heaven, literally and metaphorically. The Cordelia jumpsuit in aubergine hue, with flared hems giving a hipster 70s vibe, was a perfect example of understated luxury. Namrata understands the fine balance of sexuality with gracefulness, and that’s why the actress looked seductive, but not bovine.

Hit: Delhi-based influencer and designer Nancy Tyagi in a self-designed gown

As a rule, I never write about influencers. I feel they have mitigated the purity of fashion writing, and academic understanding, but one girl stole my heart: Nancy Tyagi. The 23-year-old, minus any sudden spurts of accent on the red carpet or any frills (no pun intended) that were only limited to her self-stitched ruffled dress, won us over with her simplicity. I loved the fact that she spoke in Hindi, did not lose her identity in a sea of cameras, and wasn’t dressed in a Rs 10 lakh dress by a designer who would get his entourage of stylists and makeup artists, along with an avalanche of mindless attitude.

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