He’s called India’s fashion guru and with good reason. Prasad Bidapa understands the warp and weft of fashion like very few and has worked his midas touch on some of the leading ramp scorchers of the country like Deepika Padukone, Dino Morea, Vidisha Pavate, Lara Dutta and Anushka Sharma, most of whom are Bollywood biggies now. But that’s hardly the most amazing thing about him. What is, is his fantastic sense of humour coupled with humility that makes him a favourite among everyone from discerning fashionistas to the light boy at a ramp show. Here PB, as he’s known in the fash frat, chatted with me about all that makes up his fashion DNA and the need to preserve our rich textile heritage.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is intensely personal and a way of life for me. It has nothing to do with labels or trophy acquisitions. It has more to do with my personal interpretation of true style. It defines me and translates into how the world perceives me. I dress only to please myself and nobody else. It is my personal fantasy and my armour. I can create a particular mood with the way I choose to dress and it’s the way I celebrate my life and personal space.
How and when did you realise your robust love for fashion?
As a child I was fascinated by style and glamour. I was a voracious reader and loved to read anything and everything from novels to fashion magazines. In my head I lived in the fashion capitals of the world. London in the Swinging 60s was influencing the world and the Beatles were my style icons. I had a Beatle haircut and owned Beatle boots! The tightest pants and a skinny jacket were my uniform and at 12, I was a fashion expert advising my friends and cousins on what they should wear. That’s when I saw my first fashion show by the incomparable Jeannie Nowroji for Calico Mills and instantly knew that this was the life I wanted.
Why is fashion important?
I think fashion defines a civilisation much in the way it is defined by its Art, Music, Dance and Literature. It symbolises what a society feels about itself and forever creates a visual reference to the era it was created in. When you think of a Cleopatra, a Marie Antoinette or a Jawaharlal Nehru, it’s as much about the clothes they wore that appear in your memory as the personalities themselves.
How effective a mode of non verbal communication is it?
To me, it communicates just about everything to do with the wearer in a flash. I can figure out education, background, status and bank balance and sexual orientation from the way a person dresses.
Why does it help to be well dressed?
In the way you judge a book by its cover, society judges you by the way you dress. Fashion is important when it translates into personal style that is individualistic. No amount of designer clothes can make you stylish. You can only be a fashion victim if you are led by labels.
Who’s the most well dressed man and woman in India you know? Why?
Delhi-based designers David Abraham & Rakesh Thakore are my all time favourites for their minimalistic and pared down approach to fashion. I love their non statement style of dressing and the fact that they mix the world’s best labels with high street fashion to create a look that is timeless and classic.
In women my vote goes to Shobhaa De for having elevated the sari to a fashion must-have and for the incredible collection of rare saris in her wardrobe. I also love that Sonia Gandhi wears only hand woven saris that reflect the rich traditions of India’s textile heritage and for her support of weavers all over the country. My ultimate style icon though is Mahatma Gandhi. Talk about minimalism! He had the guts to walk into any situation clad in his trademark ‘Naked Fakir’ look and brought down an Empire with the purity of his vision!
What is that one iconic brand you would like to own before you die? Which item from the brand would you want?
I saw my friend Parvez Damania wear a beautiful Breguet watch. It was the Reveil du Tsar ( I was later told that both Putin and Sarkozy have been photographed wearing this watch). It was all I could do to prevent myself from stealing it right off his wrist, amputating it if necessary. This stunning creation is a family heirloom you can pass on to generations unborn.
What would you like to die in?
A beautiful kurta from Bibi Russell in her trademark Dhakai muslin, a simple cotton dhoti from Gariahat in Kolkata, an exquisite silk shawl in Kantha embroidery again from Bibi Russell, a timeless black Bandhgala from Rajesh Pratap Singh, sexy underwear from Aussiebum and Peshawari sandals from Pakistan to round off my death bed look as my elegant toes point heavenwards!
What are the five must haves in a man’s and a woman’s wardrobe?
Common to both – a superbly fitted pair of jeans from Diesel that show off your toned butt, a classic white pin-tucked muslin shirt from Rajesh Pratap Singh you can wear with anything, a fitted black jacket from Rohit Bal made the way only he can, a great pair of shoes from Todds and a beautiful watch that will last forever.
A fashion faux pas you committed that you will never get over?
Well it was more an embarrassing incident. I went on stage clad in a beautiful chunat dhoti that I had not realised had come undone. I went on stage with three meters of dhoti trailing behind me like Princess Diana’s wedding veil. It was an entrance I would like to forget in a hurry.
Books on fashion that you have loved and would recommend.
The last book on fashion I read was The Powder Room by Shefalee Vasudev. I wouldn’t say I loved it but it was an interesting read that tried to sum up fashion in India and succeeded quite well but it overdramatized the characters a la Madhur Bhandarkar. Wendell Rodricks’ The Green Room was a fun read. Read both for an insightful peek into the world of Indian Fashion.
Your favourite celluloid fashion moment.
Audrey Hepburn being given a makeover in My Fair Lady, transforming her from a Cockney Flower Girl to a Grand Lady at Ascot, dressed in the fabulous creations of Cecil Beaton. This counts as a major cinematic style moment for me, especially in the way she was transformed by Prof. Higgins into an icon of style and luxury.
What’s the best fashion advise someone has given you?
Almost 40 years ago I had the good fortune to meet the great Pupul Jaykar, who had dedicated her life to reviving Indian textile and craft forms which had been annihilated by the rapacious British. Jawaharlal Nehru had charged her with reviving this moribund sector. She said to me that our heritage would only survive if young people of my generation espoused the cause of the handloom and handwoven textiles of India and made it fashionable to wear them. It is an advice I follow till date and pass on to as many people as possible. This is something each of us just have to do. Just buy ethical often for our one-of-a-kind saris are true representations of rare and unique luxury collectibles and has much more value than a handbag or a pair of shoes.