Here’s What Happened When We Sent A Straight Guy To Fashion Week!
On a regular day, I’d be shooting videos or hacking away at movie listicles for your favourite men’s website. Today’s not a regular day now, is it? When you spend an entire day at Lakmé Fashion Week, it seldom is. When Khaleesi Khan, my Editor, asks you to do something — you just do it. After all, like a baniya’s mom once said, “koi dhanda chota nahi hota.”
Here is what happened.
Last week, we decided to do a few interviews at LFW. I was incredibly nervous about what I’d wear. I eventually ended up just picking up my roommate’s canvas shoes and making a dash for the venue. (Despite the tiny hole in the sole that did a mini asthma-wheeze every time I took a step).
First up, we got a chance to meet Daniel Bauer, who is the go-to hair stylist for divas like Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt. He dealt with hair with the skill and deftness of an origami artist. A fine chap with a fascinating moustache. He didn’t make much eye contact with me, though. I presume it was either my wheezing shoes or my unkempt, overgrown hair. Amidst constantly firing blow-dryers and fussy assistants, he showed us a demo with his ace model Isabella. A surreal beauty whose perfectly flawless face had not a single imperfect skin cell. No matter how much I zoomed in. Look at the video below and see for yourself.
The sun was up by then. And my brain had finally woken up and aligned itself with the universe.
The Jio Gardens venue was a giant surreal quadrangle with the show areas and refreshment lounges set up on either side opening into the massive lawn. Giant telescreens relayed the shows and the designers headlining them. The speakers pulsed with the kind of bizarre music you’d expect at a major fashion event.
My colleague Snehal and I contemplated and decided that it was too early in the day for beer. After a quick glance at the drinks menu, we decided to settle for coffee. We spotted Alisha, our Features Editor, speed-walk through the crowd, zig-zagging through the tables and wine glasses before swiftly going out again.
The lawn had an open bar at the centre with roofs like giant mushrooms. Ahead of it was a weirwood tree (refer Game of Thrones) with blazing red leaves and curious glass balls hanging from it.
I met a lot of interesting people in all sorts of outfits. Wonderfully nice men and women, whose names I almost immediately forgot. It was an education in the who’s who of the Indian fashion blog-o-sphere. Everyone did seem to know everyone else. Or so I thought till someone came and took a selfie with us and disappeared back into the crowd.
Shooting interviews in the sun is hard work. Especially if you are lugging around your Canon 6D with its backpack bag, tripod stand, and a microphone, all the while trying to make sure your phone, power bank, and wallet don’t get misplaced.
One of the tattooed bartenders spun us a Capriosca Thai Orange. A man of epic integrity, nonetheless, who refused when a model offered a 500 bucks tip. (“Mera reputation kharab hoga,” he told me later with nonchalance).
The media lunch hall was a much less glamorous tent outside the ‘quadrangle’. Everyone who came there looked tired and underslept. The buffet served some incredible chicken gravy and chocolate mousse.
Wired up on sugar and dining table gossip, we headed back into the sun to shoot some street style interviews. I would point at possible ‘well-dressed’ candidates with the enthusiasm of a Nat-Geo photographer hunting exotic Amazonian pigeons. Snehal would then patiently explain to me which ones were ‘kitsch’ and which ones were dressed like peacocks on crack. “Plus they aren’t even influencers,” she explained further. At which point I’d shut up.
Our relentless social media team back in office could function 24×7 without food or water if we fed them enough pictures and videos. So we checked out the Media Centre for the free WiFi. The MC was basically a giant computer lab set up inside a tent. One of the few sights of the evening. There were fellow media men huddled up around their computers, their equipment strewn everywhere, transferring precious data in the short time they had between shows. There was a fridge in the corner with an infinite supply of palm-sized water bottles. And a vending machine that spat out caffeinated-sugar-water, run by a creepy guy who couldn’t stop staring.
“Where is the smoking zone?” I curiously asked a random event management person, sensing my friend’s discomfort. “Urh sirr…?”, he looked at me blankly for a moment, like I had asked him the square root to a pineapple. Then, as if answering an ethereal call from the horizon, he just walked off in a trance. Apparently, the Jio Gardens venue had a strict no-smoking policy, much to the chagrin of all the people who didn’t carry drinks money.
The DJ had switched to more peppy numbers by the time Aindrila, Managing Editor, AskMen India, showed up late afternoon. She guided us all into a tiny apartment looking room showcasing a designer whose name, for the life of me, I can’t remember. But there was wine and fried prawns. I felt like a bull in a china shop, lugging around all the equipment in the crammed room, so I excused myself before the refill arrived.
As I stood on the lawn, I saw an ad on the giant telescreen that looked vaguely familiar. It was about 2 people trying to communicate across a wall that had barbed wires. A guy breaks a hole in the wall with a hammer, goes to the other side, and kisses the first dude. Someone then spray paints the word “LOVE” next to the heart-shaped hole in the wall. It all had something to do with Diesel.
Just then a line of models marched out of one of the rooms and positioned themselves a few feet away from me in a line. Before I could decide if I should take my camera or run, a crowd gathered around me and started clicking pictures. One model held a placard that read “GKASQAHFSHKAJH”.
Next, I went down a crazy labyrinth of people and walls and went backstage. In the giant green room, I saw an army of models being decked up by an army of makeup artists and hairstylists, for a show later that evening. There were also male models with weird hairdos and blue eyeshadow. This would be the closest I’d get to a fashion show, I realised, so I tried not to drop my tripod and kill anyone.
I found myself sitting beneath the weirwood tree. Apparently, some of the red leaves had fallen to the ground. I picked one up. It was plastic. But good quality. The glass balls on the red tree lit up then. The music that blared incessantly through the speakers no longer seemed to be in sync with the telescreen’s stream of perfectly moving models. Maybe it was the exquisite wine. There was at least one lady in a multicoloured poncho with a feather in her hair, who was swaying from side to side, arms raised with a drink in each hand, reminiscing her last hippie communion.
I left my camera gear in her care and went up to the yellow Lamborghini parked in the corner of the lawn. And clicked a selfie with it. The models were all done for the day and were slowly leaving the venue. Tall perfect creatures, pulling their luggage behind them, disappearing into not-so-glamorous auto-rickshaws.
I posted my selfie on WhatsApp. “Maybe I do need that haircut after all,” I thought to myself as I booked an Uber home.