Released in 2008, this year marks 15 glorious years of Fashion, the highly acclaimed Madhur Bhandarkar gem chronicling the vicissitudes of the glamour industry. Known for reigniting Priyanka’s career and highlighting the inner workings of an industry tainted by vices aplenty (debatable), the movie also gave real models and industry insiders a platform by casting them in the same. Kanishtha Dhankhar, Sucheta Sharma, Alesia Raut, Daman Chaudhary you name it, the faces we see toil backstage to this very day, were an integral part of the movie and nothing makes me, a fashion journalist happier than this.
And so I hopped on a re-watch marathon, revisiting the movie after years to evaluate its standing today. Spoiler: I wasn’t disappointed. So, here are 15 things I think Fashion got right about our industry, now that I’m a part of it and qualified enough to formulate an opinion about.
1. Bias Towards The Profession
15 years may have passed, but the taboo still persists. Even in metropolitan cities. Modelling as a profession is very much frowned upon in 2023 and trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience. I too, have butted heads with my parents during my teenage years when my YouTube history boasted only and only of Victoria’s Secret show recaps.
2. Front Row Squabble
The PR team tasked with making sure people get their rightful seats at fashion week have my deepest sympathies. I’ve seen petty altercations unfold at almost every show with some also leading to delays if the people involved happened to be certain hotshots with inflated egos.
3. Making Your Presence Known
Meghna’s first big ‘industry’ party with Janet made it clear that footage is the biggest currency. Getting papped at parties sure can catapult your demand. Just steer clear of predatory men disguised as agency owners who slide in their visiting card. And since I’ve had my fair share of dealing with them, courtesy the plenty invites extended towards me due to the nature of my job, would highly suggest scowling and uglily scrunching your nose. Works 9/10 times.
4. Attitude > Talent
Love her or hate her, Anisha Roy, the profiles head of Panache iterated this twice: “Attitude often trumps talent.” And well, we saw how things transpired when the attitude terrain got shaky for both Shonali and Meghna. A fantabulous way of spotlighting the relevance of a good work ethic.
5. Transparency In The Supply Chain Is A Myth
The Bangkok – Indranagar comparison when a designer seemingly lies about the in-house manufacturing of her garments sure ruffled some feathers and rightfully so. Notorious for cooked up stories about their inspiration and quite often the process, Fashion highlighting this bit was a masterclass in throwing delicate shade.
6. Paps Know It All
Had me in splits, this one. When a formerly popular actress subtly coaxes the paparazzi to print a specific picture of hers, his colleague nudges him to delete it. These human drones have the biography and horoscope of everyone socialite, celebrity and influencer memorised to the nines and it stands true to this very day.
7. Discourse Around Eating
Turns out Rahul Arora and Janet were batchmates and post rubbing shoulders later in life, Janet’s physical transformation leads to a comment or two about food, dieting and weight-loss being thrown into the mix. And as much as we like to parade the flag of inclusivity and representation today, we’re still unfortunately set in our ways and there’s hardly any change on those grounds.
8. Models Being Treated Like Hangers
Cue the altercation between Vinay Khosla and Meghna when she tries to adjust her scarf. While he’s right about wanting the clothes to look like the way he envisaged them to be (he’s the designer), the condescending tone witnessed here is distressingly existent and goes to say how much we value our models.
9. Nepotism Lite?
Janet, a relatively lesser known model walked for big-shot Rahul after their re-encounter years down the line. While she was excellent at her craft, it strengthens the notion that contacts and relations matter.
10. Substance Abuse And Addiction
Be it the dispiriting portrayal of Shonali’s struggle with drugs and Meghna’s fall from grace, we saw two of the biggest models fall prey to their inner demons and thus, turn to psychotropic substances and uncontrolled alcohol use. Mirrors not only the fashion industry but life in general, regardless of one’s profession.
11. Mental Health Struggles
Post the unforeseen termination of her contract, Meghna’s trip back home and frequent visits to counsellor sure did propagate the message that it’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to receive help.
12. Models > Celebrity Showstoppers
Mic drop moment indeed. We all know it, we just don’t say it. Whilst celeb power is crucial to invite more press and coverage, the true backbone of the industry, aka the models have unfortunately taken a backseat in their own careers and Rahul’s deterrence to hire a celebrity showstopper truly won hearts.
13. Comeback Culture
A comma rather than a hard full stop. Be it the fashion industry or otherwise, it’s very much possible to strike back post a hibernating stint and the movie tastefully portrays that, minus the frills. Meghna sure faces her set of hinderances but the journey makes it worthwile.
14. Performance Pressure
Models aren’t robots you know, despite the poker face and all. Freezing mid-ramp, wardrobe malfunctions, a little tumble here and there is a part and parcel of the job and let’s not make a huge deal out of it. It sure does take a toll in the cutthroat industry but your reaction to it determines your future trajectory.
15. Rife Plagiarism
Albeit a small window into the workings of our industry in real life, the scene where Vinay accuses Zulfi of copying his designs manages to propel an imporatant conversation to the forefront – that of incessant copying in the industry. Well, this deserves a story in itself.