I’ve been quietly observing Chanel’s Paris Bombay 2012 collection. My knee-jerk reaction was “ugh, more exoticism”, but I thought I would take some time to try to understand the thinking behind it. But the fact is there are Indian designers with far more creativity and enthusiasm coming up with better collections of Indian clothing all the time. And, in fact, better collections of East-West clothing too. In EVERY WAY. The craftsmanship, the design, the creativity and even the fabrics. Of course, this is Lagerfeld so we’re supposed to indulge.
The other day, I read an article in female magazine (Singapore) about the jewellery produced for this collection and I was rather disgusted. It’s not often that I’m disgusted by anything to do with the fashion world. The article asked us to be so impressed by the cheap imitations of Royal Indian jewellery worn with Lagerfeld’s ‘creations’. That’s right. I said it. CHEAP IMITATIONS. Let’s think about that for a minute. The jewellery effectively copies the jewellery of the Maharajas of India using cheap metals and mirrors. No, not gold, diamonds, rubies. All smoke and mirrors. And all in imitation of Royal jewellery. This is not some reinterpretation of traditional Indian jewellery using some new material or exciting contemporary mode of production. Nor is it fabricated using precious gems and gold. Now imagine if it were reversed. Imagine if some designer in India, or for that matter China, produced some cheap imitation of Royal French or Queen Elizabeth II’s jewellery? (Yes I realise that some of her jewellery originates in India. But you get the point). Wouldn’t they become a laughing stock? They’d be ridiculed by all.
The article tried to explain to us how hard-working the people making the jewellery were stating that some of the jewellery took 3 hours to make. 3 hours? There are artisans/craftspeople in India who continue to make jewellery in that style but using real gold, diamonds and rubies and they’re not taking 3 hours. More like 3 days/weeks/months. And you would probably pay less for it.
And if you’re wondering how much time Lagerfeld spent in India researching the collection, here’s your answer. He didn’t go. He thinks “it’s much more inspiring not to go to places than to go”. Let’s call that refined exoticism.
If you actually want to find out what Indian royalty wore, Ritu Kumar has actually done the research and written a book. And she designs some amazing clothing too!