The queens of Indian fashion throwback to their favourite ELLE moments
by Kavita Mohandas Rao
These party starters have given us a lot to celebrate over the last 20 years. Our associations with these designers have evolved with the trends and the faces that graced the pages of our issues over the years, so here's a trip down the memory lane to celebrate our fashion family.
Ask Joshipura about her first association with ELLE, and she responds as a reader, eagerly recalling the cover of the very first issue, shot by Farrokh Chothia. “ELLE is a beautifully put-together fashion magazine that goes beyond just fashion. If you read ELLE, you’re covered,” she says.
Soon enough, the designer went from reading ELLE to featuring in it, working alongside stylist Mohan Neelakantan in her first few shoots. As someone who got her start in the late ’90s, she feels strongly about ELLE’s role in supporting the country's emerging designers. “Everyone embraces success, but few encourage young talent, and ELLE is a big positive in an industry that’s still developing.”
Her design sensibility has sharpened since then, becoming more edgy and glamourous. The designer takes to colour like a chameleon, and crafts each individual element till the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The marigold trench coat that Kajol wore on our August 2015 cover is signature Joshipura, and is, unsurprisingly, one of her favourite pieces ever.
She was named ‘Designer of the Year’ at the ELLE Style Awards in 2013, making it her favourite ELLE moment. Archana Akil Kumar bagged Model of the Year, and the cover photo of her in one of Joshipura’s creations was a match made in Indian design’s rarefied stratosphere.
Soon, Joshipura’s designs will be making the leap from the party circuit to the training circuit. She’s gearing up to launch an active wear collection, which combines her two great loves: design and running. Like we needed another reason to hit the gym.
In Ramani’s first outing with ELLE in December 1998, she wasn’t playing designer, but muse to Manish Arora. “I was wearing a gold tinsel dress by him. It was fully kitsch and fully fun,” she says.
It wasn’t long after that she made her debut as a designer in 2000, creating pieces that were an extension of her: vivacious, bold and always party-ready. Her collections carry forward her own personal style, which finds regular mention in best-dressed lists. The one for which ELLE photographed her wearing a cowboy hat in front of a cactus garden is a particular favourite.
Her approach to design, she adds, “has changed dramatically over time. I guess it’s matured with me.” What hasn’t changed is the sense of freedom that’s packaged into each collection, borne out by names like ‘Summer Soul’ and ‘Gypsy Holiday’. Her silhouettes are always undemanding — think kaftans, maxi dresses and easy drapes that don’t confuse femininity with a size-zero figure. It appeals to the well-travelled woman, who can tell apart Maori prints from Aztec motifs.
Free soul that she is, her transition to designing a line of yoga and lounge wear, Yogalini, seems natural. It’s a launch she’s awaiting with an infectious enthusiasm. But then, Ramani has never had to try too hard to get us excited.
Remember the voluminous gowns and fairy-tale endings we dreamt of as little girls? Jaising makes at least one of these possible, and in such exquisite detail, that we’re quite happy to forget about the other. She never scrimps on the glamour and sheen, creating sublime sequinned gowns, heavily embroidered sarees, embellished shift dresses and brocade pants, season after season.
Each collection is unabashedly luxurious, and brings together global influences and Indian craftsmanship.That sounds a lot like ELLE, and the designer finds regular mention in our pages. “Thanks to magazines like ELLE,” she ventures, “People are more open to experimenting with fashion, trying out all kinds of new stuff, which is a great thing. Fashion’s moving faster and everything is changing very quickly.”
Jaising’s penchant for drama and luxury can be seen in its full glory in our December 2014 editorial, in which Lisa Haydon dominates an otherworldly landscape in edgy couture.
In Jaising’s words, “The gown goes perfectly with the theme of the shoot: it was raw, yet high on fashion.” Speaking of which, Jaising’s prepping for a ready-to-wear collection that makes her fashion more accessible. Looks like we just might have our
happy endings after all.
Dhaka is a name that seems like it’s always been around, one that you can’t quite trace to its origin because there is so much surrounding it. She started her label in the late ’80s, and our paths crossed soon enough. Dhaka was one of our very first collaborators. It’s an association, she recalls, “that began with the magazine’s conception, when its founder Hari Bhartia introduced us to the ELLE team.”
Her star has only risen since, chronicled in the magazine’s pages. Famously called ‘The Gaultier of the East’, Dhaka is one of India’s most recognised designers internationally. She scores big on every count: her client list includes Naomi Campbell and Uma Thurman, she’s held shows at The Louvre and New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and retails out of 20 boutiques across the world.
Put that down to an aesthetic that’s razor-sharp, current and individualistic. Dhaka always surprises, sending out collections that are beautiful but never predictable. It’s been her compass through a career that will soon clock three decades, and it’s evidenced by a slew of ELLE features that Dhaka sums up as truly magnifique.
Her favourite, though, is the one with Naomi Campbell that was scheduled to happen in Rajasthan but eventually shifted to the sands of Dubai. It’s one for the time capsule, for sure