Windows shopping


Windows shopping

New Delhi : A Burberry is shipped to Bargarh in Orissa. A Naga teen blogs about DIY in Kohima, and a Delhi girl about thrift stores and tutu. Online fashion — where people post pictures of themselves, track trends and shout out their opinions about who wore what — is democratising chic.

It is a chilly winter afternoon and Rukman Dhawan is wearing Parisian chic at a cafe in Delhi’s Hauz Khas market. Pink, checked trench dress over a black Benetton top (“bought on sale”), cinched with a broad black belt and worn with black stockings, ballet flats, knitted beret and nerdy wide-framed glasses. The 21-year-old sipping cappuccino could be straight out of a fashion magazine. But she and her style belong somewhere else — on her blog, where she appears every day, her face often removed from the frame, the focus always on the look of the day: boots with plaid pants, tutu with black tights and ruffled scarf, electric-blue tights and Charlotte Russe ankle boots. A student of fashion management at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Dhawan was “always, always” interested in dressing up. “I am a girlie girl, I want to be myself,” she says. On livelovedressup. where she posts the pictures her mom takes, Dhawan mixes her lace love, details about thrift stores in SoHo and a history of houndstooth checks.

Like Dhawan, Lesly Lobeni is a walking talking fashion lesson on She is another Indian member of a tribe waiting to welcome you into their small and big lives, dotted with fashion as well as unresolved dilemmas, trials, triumphs, little this and that. Websites like,,, and are just a few in a universe where people post pictures of themselves, track fashion movements and trends and shout out their opinions on who wore what.

Online fashion is nascent, especially in India where portals that sell luxury brands, street fashion and handpicked vintage items are rather new. Most fashion blogs are barely a year old. Even so, on the internet — an equal platform in an unequal world — fashion has been democratised. Anyone is welcome to wear socks with sandals or Little Black Dresses under housecoats.

Until now, fashion has a been spectator sport in India, an elitist pursuit that cordoned off the Great Indian Middle Class. Often, only celebrities “did fashion”. Now, online, it is accessible, cheap, fun and funky. As much Bipasha Basu’s and Shah Rukh Khan’s as yours, mine and ours. You can take celebrity style and make it your own by editing out what you don’t fancy. Princess Grace Kelly may have inspired the Hermes Kelly bag but now nothing stops Namrata Ganju from Bhatinda to get one too: fake, inspired or original. Unlike mainstream fashion, online fashion makes space for the big brand and the thrift store, for the plump and the slim, for platinum cards and modest pocket money. “I have seen ordinary people get numerous hits on their blogs and a fan following, because they have taken the initiative to put their personalities and lives out there through fashion,” says Latha Sunadh, former editor of

While Indian designers mostly stay off these, fashion portals take big brands to small towns and the style chatter of 20-somethings to their new-found fans. You don’t know what to wear to work today? Check out “Pop tart. Can you envision. A free world of clear division,” is how the blogger who doesn’t reveal her face or name introduces herself through a song. Location: India. Want to stun guests at a high fashion party? Try Fashion 911, billed as a fashion emergency page on Facebook. A fashion campaign? Get inspired by the pinkchaddi sisterhood on the social networking site. Too serious? Look at Esprit’s “Style with Sonam”, which was a 50 per cent discount announced on Facebook and the internet in November. For the lowdown on foundation garments and why a corset is a girl’s best friend, check out Republic of Chic, a blog devoted to Indian fashion trends. Blogger’s location: Bangalore. Feel like bitching about what Malaika Arora Khan wore to the Dior party in Mumbai? Go to This blog on celebrity style and fashion news by Payal and Priyanka, with the tagline “tadka laga ke”, buzzes with pictures and gossip and is one of the most popular in India, with a loyal fan following in fashion circles. Want to be a Munni yourself in Victoria’s Secret? Fill the order form. You and your boyfriend want to create a clothes album? Manen and Ari of will tell you how. Some thrift shopping this weekend? Try a black wrap for Rs 1,000 from Ten on Ten, a label that networks on Facebook. Rent a bag for a kitty party? Go to Cookie Singh’s Want to sell stuff you don’t wear anymore? See a Youtique video and a stylist will guide you how to sell fashion online. Branded stuff delivered home? Try 99 Labels.

That’s what Binod Sharma did. An unlikely fashion victim from Bargarh in Orissa, he sports a D&G chronograph and CK denims, his fragrances include Burberry and Versace, and for the special evening out he has his Armani shirts. “I have always enjoyed being well-dressed, but in a place like Bargarh it’s difficult to get even top Indian brands, forget a Gucci or an Armani. So, when I came across the website 99 Labels, it seemed providential,” says the 30-year old. Frainy Singh of Chandigarh agrees. “Earlier, I would travel to Delhi twice a month to buy branded stuff. Now, half an hour in front of the computer and I am sorted for the month,” says the 26-year-old who won the Mrs India crown in 2006 and has now given up modelling for motherhood.

Ishita Swarup, CEO and co-founder of 99 Labels, is only too happy. “Back-end customer services, delivery, exchange policies and promptness of service will mark the good players from the average ones in the long run.” Last year saw the launch of and — portals that sell luxury goods and are generating brisk business in India. Pearl Uppal and Harish Bahl, founders of, another luxury brands portal that offers style suggestions and super discounts, say they sell about 1,500 products every day to members who add up to six lakh. They have seen a 30 per cent spurt in business since they opened in January this year.

In Hyderabad, Meghna Pradipak Reddy, a doctor, came up with in August 2009. She offers designs by Shantanu and Nikhil, Neeta Lulla and Swapnil Shinde, among others. Reddy says, in the first few months she was overwhelmed by response from places like Coimbatore, Vizag and Ludhiana. Most of these portals charge minimal shipping charges, often between Rs 75 and Rs 250. Several by-invite-only sites offer attractive incentives if you get them more members. Uppal says that soon will come up with paid services in the form of a high-end concierge.

Concierge or not, Latha Sunadh says she is in it for the long run. Now content head of fashion and lifestyle with Jack in the Box, a content-for-brands arm of Mumbai-based Bang Bang Films, she says fashion on the Net is everything for her. The fashion network is not just about fashion bloggers, portals and their followers. It is a web of opinions on a variety of issues, ideologies and other lifestyle likes and dislikes. “It can amalgamate everything — shopping, blogging, opinions, celebrity-speak,” she says.


Ostensibly, online fashion is about blogs and clothes; DIY looks and haute trends; Madonna, Marc Jacobs and Manish Arora; about front rows in Milan and Paris and backbiting in New York and Mumbai; gigolos in pink panties and girls in high heels. But alongside fashion, what spill out of the closet are relationships, rebellion, gossip, sex, self-indulgence, addiction and campaigning.

Al Walling is a Naga teen. His is about DIY and Indicoolness in Kohima, where Indian-wear-only days in schools see saris and salwars accessorised with bold Naga jewellery, as it is about teenage angst. These bloggers form a community — like satsangis or soccer fans — united by fashion. “It is a support group also; we help each other out,” says Rukman Dhawan. So when they are in trouble, whether it is shopping dilemmas or boyfriend blues, or disagreements with family, they counsel each other. Once in a while, some even meet up and chat, forming a friends’ circle.

Premium fashion brands, meanwhile, have woken up to the influence these groups have on spending habits. They give them clothes and accessories and these are flashed on the Net the next minute. Instant advertisements lead to infectiously instant orders. The brand FCUK, for instance, frequently uses bloggers to write about their products.

Facebook has predictably changed the face of fashion. Design stores like Happily Unmarried (over 22,000 likes) and Chumbak (over 4,000 likes) use it as an efficient customer service interface. As does Ten on Ten, a label that sells flirty, feminine clothes, launched last year by Mumbai-based Ritu and Soumya Gupta, a mother-daughter duo. They now have more than 500 friends and sell over 50 pieces each month. For some, Facebook has worked better than a blog. The Purple Sack, an accessories label by Delhi-based Tanvi Gupta and Pratiti Bansal, which went on Facebook four months ago, already has about 1,500 members. “After they found us on Facebook, we’ve worked with a few designers too at the fashion weeks,” says Gupta.

The plebeian participation has ripped the label of snobbishness off fashion. It may be a comedown for connoisseurs, but a delight for those who are now free to experiment. If there is one place to give your style and your unedited vocabulary a free run, it is the Net. The names of sites and blogs are revealing of our life and times. Sample some: Lolita, Gnarlitude, Garbage Dress, Bleach Black, Fake Karl, Stuff No One Told Me.

It is on a blog that Tsundue Phunkhang, a final-year student at the Delhi College of Arts, has experimented with a classic product: the Bata canvas shoe. He collaborated with photographer Parikhit Pal, designers Varun Sardana, Gaurav and Ritika and, to produce images featuring reinvented styles of Bata shoes. The same site has an entry from a girl called Nidhi Jacob. With a gross disregard for fashion’s uppity rules, she says granny-chic is her personal style. “I’ve this strange love for faded florals and heritage hand-me-down pieces. I also like tacky, shiny things, like hookerish sparkly dresses, fake Indian gold jewellery and Beyonce. I’m a weird mix,” she writes.

God bless her kind. Fashion on the Net too is a weird mix — and that is how it mirrors our times. It brings hauteur many pegs down, making it inclusive, not exclusive. Fashion pops up in 15 avatars in sidebars, alongside treat-your-depression websites and best-of-Belgian-chocolate ads. Green fashion, watch-your-weight sites and bargains from Sex and The City are all on the same screen. You are asked to save the earth even as you save your wardrobe. Social networking sites pick up key words from our fashion vocabulary and then offer us a red carpet of choices to walk. In a Rohit Bal gown or without it.

Indian designers, though, aren’t as Net-savvy as brands like Burberry, Louis Vuitton or Ferragamo, which seduce potential customers with contests, games and prizes. “Most successful Indian designers are snooty when it comes to interacting with fans and customers. I’ve come across a couple of them who have Facebook accounts that are managed by a PR firm. That simply doesn’t work,” says Harilein Sabarwal, who forecasts trends on her Facebook page.

Naga teen Walling is right when he says “underneath the rebellious surface lies a naive love for all things beautiful and well-crafted….” Rukman Dhawan, Lesly Lobeni, Lahlah, Payal and Priyanka, Latha, Meghna — they have shown us fashion in the nude. Without its frills, flounces and pancake. Raw, real, unafraid to perform even though every spectator is in the front row.

Paromita Chakrabarti and V Shoba