In a meeting that concluded in four and a half minutes, renowned journalist Shefalee Vasudev, Sundar Raman, CEO, Reliance Sports and Jaspreet Chandok, VP and Head of fashion at IMG Reliance, launched The Voice of Fashion — such was their conviction on the need for an India-specific digital fashion destination. The TVOF website, which launches today, will function like an e-zine, featuring daily updates covering every topics ranging from crafts, handlooms and sustainability to glamour and collaborations with senior and under-the-radar designers. Editor Shefalee Vasudev tells us more.
ELLE: What about The Voice of Fashion attracted you to take up its editorship?
Shefalee Vasudev: This was a head-on collision. I was the one who went knocking on the doors of IMG Reliance with an idea whose time I thought had come. A digital destination, created with journalistic perspective and rigour that was attractively curated, had good writing, factual reportage and used the seductions of the digital age — videos, social media and live reporting on phones and devices. From where I stood as a print journalist with years of experience, IMG Reliance was at the top of my list to explore a dialogue with — as it understands fashion and media and has the right influence and wherewithal for such a project. Fortunately for me, precisely at that time, they had big plans to do “something digitally with fashion”. I am not sure if they would have hired me otherwise but then I arrived in the Mumbai office, (hand)bag and baggage in hand and said ‘I have a proposal’. They said they had a proposal too.
ELLE: What kind of content are you looking to create?
SV: Fashion first, and of course, beauty and design. You can expect good writing, well-researched pieces and visual columns on fashion which are so far an untried medium and other ideas that bring surprise, entertainment and information. The content will be created both in-house and in collaboration with freelancers. We will look at Indian fashion as well as global fashion that interests and concerns India. The story could sit anywhere in the world, be born and nurtured in any part — it must ring in with our content curation, market and consumer realities. TVOF is for everyone who is sparked by smart, non-academic writing and new ideas in fashion. Who understands that fashion is fun but not flippant especially when it is reported in the way it intersects with cultural realities.
ELLE: Would you say that the model of TVOF is similar to the Business of Fashion?
SV: We have had internal conversations wondering about comparisons that may be drawn with the Business of Fashion. I am personally a fan and daily reader of BoF and admire the work Imran Amed and his team do and their rigour with statistics and objectivity. However, TVOF uses the bridge of culture (and not business) to locate, report and tell stories. It looks at India as an independent centre inside the global fashion system. For instance, a huge section of our launch roll-out on crafts and handlooms has been created from and around the Northeast, both as a homogenous geographical and political idea and as separate entities in terms of states and people. We also have a separate section on sustainability that we will develop as a genre beyond the way it is currently seen in India, as synonymous with crafts. Waste and water management, green buildings, the ecological responsibility of fashion, gender parity at the work place, fair trade and how consumers can participate in this changing tide.
Forgotten bazaars, how weaving looms have helped rehabilitate women victims of insurgency and conflict, Mekhala collections, personal accounts of wardrobes that matter, photo archives, weaves that are sustainable and riveting to wear and watch, businesses that have grown out of nostalgia and design innovation and so forth. We have a visual column by noted graphic novelist and painter Amruta Patil on Shringar. This kind of content can only be created from India as it is of India. Comparisons with any other entity should fade away soon as the website goes up.
ELLE: The venture is backed by IMG Reliance. What would you say is the advantage and possible disadvantage of this association?
SV: TVOF is not a mouth piece of Lakmé Fashion Week. It is an independent entity inside IMG Reliance. It will cover all fashion weeks, including the FDCI-run India Couture Week and India Fashion Week that are held in Delhi with as much interest, objectivity and dedication as any other. We are not obliged to praise LFW as part of our job descriptions. In fact, one of the first interviews you will see the day TVOF goes live is with FDCI President Sunil Sethi. The real advantage of working with IMGR is the support and infrastructure of a company that understands fashion, entertainment and sports. The way it can wing in collaborations, sales and marketing efforts, innovative digital and on-ground ideas and employ this entire arsenal to aid a start-up, that is TVOF, is what matters.