Catch 22

All artists, writers, actors and others in the public eye, such as politicians, are inadvertently open to criticism if they open up and speak their truth (or voice their opinions). The same holds true for someone standing up and sharing their journey of hardship. I’ve often deliberated back and forth between going public with my infertility journey. I certainly do not regret sharing it publicly; but I do wonder how far I should go with it – how much of the truth should I tell? By letting my story out, I am completely vulnerable and can be a subject of matter discussed – open to judgement. By (over)sharing, it’s like putting myself (and my husband) in the firing line. But if we (as society in general) keep hiding and covering up reality, we will never move forward. Believe me – it is so easy to ignore a situation. It is the ‘safer’ option. But perhaps, in order to shed light and bring awareness to a situation, we have to bite the bullet. I have found that more than being vulnerable, our story has actually struck a chord with many and, hopefully, given others some strength in knowing that they are not alone. It is the first step at chipping away the stigma that is infertility.

By writing (or using any kind of expression as a form of delivering your story), I feel you have a responsibility to be truthful and take ownership of your views. And the truth does not always taste sweet. (Ah, the bitter truth.)

In her weekly column for the Daily Mail, ex-Vogue UK Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman’s post on Sunday was what I term to be ‘controversial’ journalism – it created a lot of debate but resulted in more readers being offended than agreeing to her views, and prompted Ms Shulman to delete her post on her Instagram page. (‘Good’ journalism, in my opinion, generates debate, where both sides can be argued with valid points and without name-shaming.) Her post was addressing the issue of not dressing ‘age-appropriately’. I personally tend to agree to a certain extent. Sure, everyone should feel empowered enough to dress however they see fit. But, there is a fine line between acting blasé and looking tacky.

I once attended an event a few years ago (I cannot even remember what kind of event it was – it was that uneventful), but it was full of culturally minded people – Indians. Anyway, there was a ‘mature’ lady sat at my table who was dressed in this absurdly inappropriate gown that showed a bit too much flesh.

(I know, you may be aghast that I, as a woman, am judging on how another woman dresses and whatever happened to letting each to their own and women empowerment? Well, I’m not one to shy away from voicing and owning my thoughts. I’m always up for a good, solid debate so I invite you to be a worthy adversary. To add; just as one aspect of women empowerment holds the flag for ‘freedom of choice’, another aspect celebrates differing opinions.)

Back to the above point of the lady and her choice of styling. I kept my initial thought to myself (I display some tact when necessary). After introductions, she found a need to voice her thoughts and proceeded to ask me outright, “Do I look like mutton dressed as lamb?”

(Full credit to her for being so direct.)

The question left me baffled for only a moment, after which I simply replied, “Yes”, whilst the other members of our table averted their gaze in, somewhat, confused fashion.

(Full credit to the both of us for being honest.)

Now, let’s refer back to the article by Alexandra Shulman. Where her argument fell short, was the fact that she specifically pinpointed Helena Christensen and her choice of a black lace bustier to a party. (I personally do not think the issue was about age appropriacy because Helena does look fabulous; the issue for me was wearing underwear as outerwear purely because, even if I was in my twenties, I would not dream of wearing that. Tsk tsk – fashion these days is just not that simple.) Name-shaming, regardless of how valid your view may be, just reduces your intention to pulp. Hence, this article generated a great deal of controversy. One could argue that without giving examples (i.e., naming), a more ‘general’ view may not be ‘juicy’ enough for the tabloids or for your story to gain traction. I think it’s safe to admit that any good journalism includes a bit of controversy – it’s only good ‘reading’ when the topic irks or resonates with you completely. Otherwise, we all tend to just bypass and ignore it. That’s why the politician with the most controversial viewpoints is discussed most and we pay attention to them most, whether we agree or disagree with their views. That’s why anyone who puts themselves out there is at the forefront of interest. Sideliners, unfairly, get forgotten. It’s the way of life. By putting yourself out there, yes you are vulnerable and open to judgement and objection. But it also gives you a platform to really open discussion on topics that are otherwise not understood.

I was quite surprised to find that Ms Shulman had taken down her post on Instagram, as I would have hoped that she ‘owned’ up to her views and stood her ground. Perhaps, it was a case of trolling? Whatever the reason, since the post is public on the Daily Mail, why let trolls or people with other opinions bring you down? (This is a topic to explore further … maybe in the future.)

It’s a catch 22 – by putting your views out there you should expect backlash.

(Because we all know that saying where we judge someone by what they read, etcetera, I better address the fact that I read the Daily Mail. On most days [not daily], this is where I get my information about the happenings of the world. That and flicking through the news on television. I’m not ashamed to admit this as it gives me all the information I want. I also read many books, occasionally read the New Scientist, follow many writers and artistically inclined individuals, and catch up on other worldly events on social media. That sums up my reading ‘material’.)

I had left a comment on Ms Shulman’s Instagram post (sadly since the post has been deleted, you nor I can refer to it anymore). Amongst other things, I wrote about how, in my opinion, celebrities only make up a small part of the community and the problems we face at large; they do not need more fickle exposure. She (Shulman) has the platform to actually write about something more valid and she should use it (the platform). If it has to be celebrity-centric (since she is of that ilk), why not talk about meaningful issues that we all face today?

For example, in an interview in February this year, the actress Selma Blair spoke about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis on camera for the first time. It is so brave and heart-warming to see someone in the limelight who is so honest about what they are going through. Did she think she would be vulnerable once she is opened about her diagnosis? Probably. Did it stop her from getting her story out? Nope.

I can probably count the number of celebrities (or women in the spotlight) who have come forward with their struggles with infertility; Michelle Obama, Chrissy Teigen … okay I can’t think of anymore at the moment, but there are a few names we all have come across.

Kudos to them all for raising awareness and for letting individuals like myself, know that we are not in this alone. That infertility is not taboo; it is real. And that is affects our lives profoundly. (Actually, my husband would probably disagree with me a little. You see, he bought Michelle Obama’s book ‘Becoming’ because he was interested in reading about her infertility journey. Turns out, she mentions it and that’s it. He [my husband], felt a little deflated that that was all to it [infertility]. He was expecting so much more to help and reassure him that, yes, there are powerful individuals who have had the same difficulty as we have. That we are not alone in this. [I cannot comment as I have not read the book].)

On the other hand, how many ‘Indian’ celebrities do you know of that have come forward with their infertility stories? You know, whilst doing the rounds at the various fertility clinics and meeting individuals in the same boat as us, you hear whispers from the grapevine about certain Indian celebrities who have had fertility treatments in the same clinics that we have visited; yet, this is all just ‘gossip’ since these celebrities have not come forth to claim the stories. Is it a cultural problem, to not address this head-on? I’m not convinced. Are we prone to more secrecy in our lives? I’m not sure. (I would refer to this attitude as ‘The Indian/Cultural Lie’ – a good title for another post, no?)

It takes a lot more guts to ‘confess’ and be open about something so deeply personal. But perhaps, it takes just as much strength to hold it in and not let the world see your pain. One releases your pain but relinquishes your privacy; the other maintains your privacy and keeps your ‘image’ intact, but you never get to share your struggle (at least not with the ‘public’). However, I have no doubt that either way you choose, you still live with the wound(s).

It’s a catch 22. You are damned if you do or damned if you don’t.

Coming back to the beginning of this post where I explained how I’ve often deliberated back and forth between going public with my infertility journey, and how any good ‘debate’ requires solid arguments from both sides, here is a take from another view. A couple I know had no trouble conceiving their first child. However, they experienced secondary infertility and had to go through IVF to conceive their second. Other than a select few people, they have not told anyone about this. Their reasoning was that, “We didn’t go around announcing to everyone that our first was conceived naturally, so why should we go about announcing how our second was conceived?” Truly valid points. It is actually nobody else’s business how they had their children.

Everyone chooses what aspects of their lives they wish to share with the world. My belief is that if you have the platform, you should use it to share because however raw, difficult and painful it can be for yourself and those involved, you may be able to help someone else.

If you prefer to keep it to yourself, that is okay too.

In the end, celebrities are just like all of us. Some are brave enough to shed light on important issues; some are brave enough to not let it affect them. But, thankfully, no matter the access to platforms or the bank balance in our accounts, we all have moments of fashion faux pas.

Critical acclaim versus playing dress-up

The long-awaited Fabric of India exhibition at the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London opened on the 3rd of October. It is the ‘first major exhibition to explore the rich and fascinating world of handmade textiles from India.’ Some of the finest and most fascinating textiles from the V&A and collections across the world have been used to ‘illustrate the processes, history and politics associated with these incredible objects’.

Following the developments of this thought-provoking exhibition on their blog, I had booked tickets online as soon as they were available. A week after the opening, we were eagerly waiting to enter the V&A, in anticipation of good things to come.

Rewind a few hours earlier and the mood was one of utter disbelief. I’ll explain. The first ever India Fashion Week was to be held in London the same weekend and excitedly we had also booked tickets to watch a catwalk show advertising three designers. Having experienced Lakme Fashion Weeks, we decided this was an event not to be missed. It is sufficed to say that this was the most disorganized event camouflaged as playing dress-up ever imagined.

As seen on the ramp - India Fashion Week, London
Poor styling, as seen on the ramp – India Fashion Week, London

The usual lack of seating arrangements, lack of informed personnel and a lack of certain expectations is not what I want to focus on. The focus should be on the garment; specifically, the sari. The drape, the way it flows, the way it is treated with respect bring out the full flourish of this symbolic 6 yards of joy. One would expect that whoever styles the models on the ramp knows how to drape a sari. Aye, you say, one would expect. Cue exposed shoes and ankles; cue models who look so uncomfortable that you could almost believe that this is the first time they are wearing a sari; cue ill-fitting blouses; cue disaster.

How not to drape a sari
How not to drape a sari

Last I checked, I am 100% sure you cannot pass Fashion School without knowing how to drape a sari. FACT.

Another FACT – you do not need to have attended Fashion School to be a designer. Hence, why the world is full of designers wishing to time pass and those that bury us under their piles of imitated and unoriginal sheets of cloth. A complete and utter waste of resources.

So you can imagine how eager we were to get away and head straight for the anticipated Fabric of India. The day could only get better.

The exhibition is divided into six themes: Nature & Making, How Textiles are Used, Splendid, Global Trade, Textiles in a Changing World and Textiles Cutting Edge. Having a new-found love and respect for the artisans and craftsmanship through my interactions and experiences as Co-Founder of S9 Muses, it was wonderful to discover the techniques not only involved in the dyeing, weaving and embroidering of garments, but also how the textiles are actually made. Cottons, Silks, Chintz…all painstakingly produced to form the finished products that we see and wear to this day.  Using the weft and warp to form the hand-woven textiles, using natural materials such as turmeric to produce dyes, hand-blocking to form exquisite prints, quilting to form textures, using assorted embroidery techniques such as gota work to add embellishments and fine thread work…the many stages and techniques involved in producing finished product can only be credited to the vast experience, skill and knowledge of the artisans. Something that the mass-produced, machine-credited garments threatened to destroy for good. Until that is, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s movement on Kadhi came to force in the 1920s. Gandhi promoted the spinning of Kadhi for rural self-employment and self-reliance. ‘The Khadi movement promoted an ideology, an idea that Indians could be self-reliant on cotton and be free from the high-priced goods and clothes that the British were selling to them. The British would buy cotton from India at cheap prices and export them to Britain where they were woven to make clothes. These clothes were then brought back to India to be sold at hefty prices. The Khadi movement aimed at boycotting foreign goods including cotton and promoting Indian goods, thereby improving India’s economy.’

Today, even though we are surrounded by cheap, mass-produced quick-fashion, there is a whole new movement emerging with many designers reviving old techniques, using and, more importantly, crediting local craftsmen whereby particular skills have been passed down from generations. The livelihood of these artisans depends on the appreciation of their talent and appreciating the quality of their work. The future of heirlooms depends on us, as consumers, changing the way we perceive fast fashion and quick knock-offs, and willing to pay the right price for these labour-intensive jewels.

Pallavi Datta, an advocate for reviving the age-old sari, specifically writes and highlights the issues surrounding this garment on her blog, Pallavi’s Style Diaries. I love her style of writing and detail; worth a read when you have a chance.

The Fabric of India exhibition runs until the 10th of January 2016. Do go and have a look; it certainly is worth spending several hours over.

*Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed to be taken of the exhibition at the V&A, and being the obedient being that I am, I complied.


Noida (short for the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority), is located in Uttar Pradesh at the fringes of Delhi. Compared with Mumbai, Delhi has a vibe and energy of its own. Everything appears to be more methodical, cleaner, less populated and more urban. Mumbai has an unmatched energy that wraps around you like a hurricane. You get sucked in to it and after a while, it can be exhausting. Delhi’s energy is different. It can be compared to London, whereby even though life is on a constant move and rush, the pace can be altered to suit your needs.

Noida is where the brand ‘Ilk’ resides. Design duo Shikha and Vinita formed Ilk in 2011. Ilk, meaning clan, is rooted to the culture and tradition of its belonging. The label’s forte in handmade textures adds a novel, youthful and detailed aesthetic to the garments.

Vinita & Shikha - Designer duo of Ilk
Vinita & Shikha – Designer duo of Ilk

The Ilk studio was a delight to visit. Known for their unique ability to mix textures and drapes, it was wonderful to explore their latest collection on the racks, fresh off the ramp. Filled with an array of western apparels – as well as saris and kalidars – in pastels, aquas, corals and some pops of colour, the racks provided us with an insight into the labour of work that goes in to each garment.

Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list.
Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list

Their workshop is also located on the same floor as their office and studio. Here, we were lucky to see their new collection ‘Love me not’ in the making. Floral embellishments and appliqués, beads and quirky cuts formed the basis of this collection. Various garments were taking shape before us, with embroidery, stitching and cutting all happening at different stages of the process.

Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list.

IMG_7413 (1)A studio and workshop visit always heightens my excitement of working with that label. It gives you an access into the design world, how garments are actually produced and the different stages each goes through before the finished product that we usually get to see in a shop. It also gives an insight to the incredible talent of the designer as well as the craftsmen executing their designs. It is with gratitude to the designer and the craftsman that we can drape and adorn ourselves with such pieces.

Ka/Sha – aiming to create heirlooms

We made a day trip to Pune. The 3 hour journey flew by quickly. Mostly because our driver drove like a maniac, and having sat at the back of the Innova (a brand by Toyota popular in India), I had this disturbing feeling that some of my internal organs felt slightly displaced.

Anyway, the journey was worth it to meet the über quirky and peppy designer, Karishma Shahani Khan, whose personality completely reflects in her label Ka/Sha. As S9 Muses, we have been curating this label ever since we launched and had our first pop-up shop in January 2014.

To give you an insight into her label, aiming to create heirlooms, Karishma’s ethos matches our own, focusing on giving each garment its own uniqueness, either through storytelling, upcycling, adding a wondrous weave or an atypical stitch, and as multi-coloured and diverse in its material and techniques. There is evidence of love in details; love for choice. With the use of different exquisite Indian crafts, she transforms an unsuspecting everyday textile into a modern, experimental garment that is a delight to wear. Completely out of the box, yet totally accessible. For those who dare to dream.

IMG_7352 (1)
Every bit of garment counts. Once scraps, now upcycled.

As soon as we reached Pune, we met with Karishma and her team and devoured a perfect lunch of chaats and pani puris all downed with ‘chaas’ (or buttermilk). We then headed to her studio where we saw her beautiful collection in the making. Known for her layering, each look in her lookbook consists of numerous items of clothing, displaying a seemingly complicated yet purposely compiled collection.

IMG_7363 (1)
Karishma caught off-guard 🙂

Being a part of the audience at her Lakmé Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk as well as her recent 2015 catwalk collection (titled ‘Neel’), I can safely say that her catwalks deliver an experience in itself. Layers upon layers of colour, prints, separates and spot-on foot-tapping music accompanying the models down the ramp make for a very excited stare. I was awestruck, almost childlike, with her collection ‘Neel’ and have voiced my opinion already here. I cannot wait to receive my new sari ordered from her latest collection.

(PS – If you wish to come have a look or purchase a sari from Ka/Sha, please get in touch and we can send you details of our next pop-up shop!)

Love in details

Ka/Sha by Karishma Shahani Khan presented its Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015 collection titled ‘Neel’ this afternoon as well.

This über quirky and peppy designer’s personality completely reflects in her label, with design in details and design in layering forming the basis of this collection. Beautiful embroidery coupled with ikat prints on whites and blues showcased a myriad of colours and separates.

IMG_7186 (1)
Shoes with matching ikat prints

Ka/Sha transforms an unsuspecting everyday textile, the sari, into a modern, experimental garment that is a delight to wear. This particular one invokes some sort of déjà vu, perhaps because is so reminds of the exquisite veil by Versace for Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress.

IMG_7187 (1) IMG_7190 (1)

My absolute favourite collection from Ka/Sha to date.

Love me not

Hit smack in the face by the Mumbai heat this morning, I, along with two friends and The Man of the House (henceforth known as The Stud of the House), arrived in India to attend the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015. This is the second such fashion week that I have attended as Co-founder of S9 Muses.

The design duo Shikha and Vinita of Ilk presented their collection titled ‘Love me not’ this afternoon. Relaxed silhouettes formed the core look of the collection, with floral embellishments adding to the well-known textural elements associated with Ilk.

Floral detail


Very feminine in nature, yet containing the undertone of grunge that is classically associated with Ilk, the cottons, nets and gauze fabrics simultaneously added to the luxe feel of the aqua, peach, grey, black and white garments.