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A Tryst with Haute Couture

September 2004
A Tryst with Haute Couture

The 8th annual Festival of India (FOI) titled "Incredible India" and India's 57th Independence Day celebrations began with an inaugural dinner and fashion show at the Palace Restaurant in Atlanta, on Aug 13. Haute couture, dance performances and a special appearance by celebrated fashion designer Anand Jon were the highlights of the soiree organized by the Indian American Cultural Association (IACA). The guest list included high-profile members of the community like Consul General of India, Mr. S. R. Tayal and Republican activist, Mr. Narender Reddy. Miss India Georgia Sonia Seernani and Miss Teen India Georgia Rima Patel were seen with their recently won tiaras and eye-catching outfits.

The lovely Suchita Vadlamani, co-host of Fox 5's Good Day Atlanta was the emcee. Dressed in black slacks and a unique Rajasthani embroidery top that trailed all the way down to her toes, she looked very much a model herself. Suchita orchestrated the events of the evening with practiced ease.

The first performance was by Asha; a belly dancer versed with varied dance forms. Asha's fluid yet controlled movements evoked memories of Helen, the famous dancer who brought pizzazz to many Indian films. Asha danced sensually to DJ Ashu's music with diyas balanced on her head. Asha's flexibility left one wondering if her petit, pliable frame was held up by any bones at all! A belly dance set to an Arabic tune had many young women in the audience clapping double time. At the end of the performance when Khabar asked Asha about the response from the audience she said, "Middle Eastern men are very interactive when I dance. It is a part of their culture. Unlike many Indian men, they don't shy away when I look at them while dancing!"

Anand Jon epitomizes the new crop of Indians in America. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a white shirt and a straw hat ? Anand's attire matched his cool, creative self. He beat the Friday the 13th jinx to reach Atlanta almost on time for the event. Stranded at the airport for many hours, Anand displayed no signs of fatigue. He took center stage to introduce the most important women in his life, his mother and sister Sanjana. Anand also talked fondly about his deceased grandmother who inspired him.

Anand does more than design clothes for the likes of Paris Hilton and Tara Reid. This Kerala native holds dear a broader vision. "Our culture has become mainstream. We are on the cusp of something really amazing. Our generation has been given a huge opportunity ? we must take advantage not only in the areas of film and fashion but other avenues as well." Anand talked about a new project "Bollywood to Hollywood" (B2H), "There is going to be a mingling of Bollywood and Hollywood talent like never before. Bollywood is an opportunity for fashion and music as well, not just film." When one thinks of successful musicians like A. R. Rehman and stylesmiths like Manish Malhotra, Anand's words ring true. "The world has shrunk. Don't think about East and West independently, the combination comes naturally."

A graduate from the Parsons School of Design, the couturier has won much kudos in fashion hotspots around the world. He threads together Indian embroidery, sensual fabrics and edgy patterns as "functional luxury". A seemingly grounded individual who meditates and practices yoga, Anand, like his creations, is a balance of luxury and legacy. "Every collection is an opportunity for me to research my heritage." Though one would have liked to see his latest designs showcased at the event, the audience had to be content with just a glimpse. His sister Sanjana and two other women in his entourage were dressed in his creations. Sanjana's delicately embroidered coat would be a prized possession in every woman's wardrobe. The cynosure of Anand's ensemble often lies in the bottom half of the outfit ? as in a zardosi skirt.

Anand's sense of humor came through in the way he answered questions posed by the audience. He talked about everything ? his many muses, metrosexuals, M. Night Shyamalan, Ritu Beri, AJ jeans, his forthcoming exotic lingerie line and a bridal collection (to be launched in India). Suchita Vadlamani asked Anand about the biggest myth or misconception people have regarding Indians. "The biggest myth is within ourselves. It is limiting ourselves in our choice of careers."

Fashion designer Shally Venkatesh showcased "Raw", her premier collection. Venkatesh created contemporary mode with organic fabrics. Models, including the graceful Nagarajan sisters Meghna and Movina, strutted to the skillfully choreographed moves by Shezi Sardar (who was also one of the male models). A salsa performance by the Piel Canela Dancers was next.

An Indian fare proffered by the restaurant enhanced the ethnic spirit of the evening. Anand Jon circulated amongst the guests late into the night, giving everyone the opportunity to interface with him. The fact that the stylesmith did not showcase his skill as one would have expected was undoubtedly a disappointment.

-Reetika Nijhawan

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