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Lipstick on the sari


FASHION IS FUN: From lipsticks to telephone booths, Masaba's latest collection as Satya Paul's new creative head is re-energising the label

It was the first day of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi and Satya Paul saris were on full display. Outside Gate No 8 of Pra gati Maidan, former model and now socialite Feroze Gujral was impatiently waiting for her passes as the pallu of her ferozi coloured SP fluttered in the spring breeze. Inside, a chirpy Mandira Bedi posed for shutterbugs in a black and white sari. They were there to cheer for Masaba Gupta, fashion director of Satya Paul, who was opening the fashion week with her show.
In an industry dominated by 40-plus and 50-plus designers and retailers, 24-year-old Masaba is a welcome kick of energy and vitality. Daughter of actor Nina Gupta and West Indian cricketer Vivian Richards, Masaba is the latest poster girl of the fash frat. Her show was packed to the rafters and postshow, fashionistas raced to the Satya Paul stall to pick the saris, fresh off the ramp.

It is precisely this effect that Satya Paul hoped Masaba's touch would generate when it hired her as fashion director last November. With her, the 28-yearold fashion brand, traditionally patronised by older women, wants to break into the youth segment. "I think why I was chosen for the job is because I am gutsy designer. I am fearless in my choice of prints, colours and presentation, " Masaba, told TOI-Crest, lounging on a sofa inside the Satya Paul stall during fittings, just hours before her show at the WLIFW. Love for prints, is another thing that connects the brand to her. But her choice is more edgy and quirky. Palms, cows, cameras, timepieces are some wacky motifs that have been spotted on her creations, especially saris. For her autumn/winter collection which she showcased at WLIFW she used lipstick and phone booth on prints - and the audience lapped up both. She presented neon lipstick prints on saris and western dresses. These motifs represent the journey of a woman, says Masaba. "For instance, lipstick represents feminity and playfulness in a woman and the phone booth, the constant wait for one thing or the other. " Interestingly, the lipstick print was first made famous by the iconic British designer duo Zandra Rhodes and Sylvia Ayton.

Eclectic prints, however, are nothing new to fashion, not even in India. Manish Arora has put almost everything from dogs to gods and Qutub Minar to Kathakali masks on the ramp. But what sets Masaba apart is how she brings together unconventional motifs, a largely monochrome palate and structural experimentation into sartorial harmony. That is why she appeals both to the young and those who desperately want to look young. Sonam Kapoor - Masaba's muse and most famous patron - previewed the lipstick print sari at an awards function in Delhi last week. At Cannes last year, Sonam made heads turn with a Masaba sari for a formal sit-down dinner. It was an elegant black and white polka dot drape which Sonam teamed up tastefully with retro makeup and hair-do.

"I connect to Sonam as a person. I respect and admire her knowledge of fashion and understanding of style. " Sonam, adds Masaba, picks up a wide range of outfits from her. "It could be anything androgynous or completely feminine. . . she can carry off so many looks. "

Soon after Sonam's stamp, unmistakable 'Masaba saris' became a tinsel town staple. Shilpa Shetty, Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, Mandira Bedi and the ultimate sari police, Vidya Balan, have been photographed in her designs.
The sari as a garment appeals to Masaba at various levels. "It flatters the body type of Indian women and it both reveals and conceals at the same time. It is conservative and sexy. It is so much better than a gown. Since it is a drape, it allows a wide range of experimentation - a quality that hugely appeals to me as a designer. "

In her A/W collection she has created saris with suspenders and arm holes. "The idea is to make them more functional and more appealing to the youth. It should first be comfortable and then stylish. "

The inspiration to modernise the sari comes from a personal experience. She was in class 10th when she wore a sari for the first time. It was her mom's and managing it was no easy task. "At the time I wished it had pockets so that I could keep my phone it, " she gigles. So, when she made her debut as a designer in 2010 at the Lakme India Fashion Week in Mumbai, soon after finishing her design course from SNDT, she showcased saris with pockets on the ramp.

Like her saris, Masaba is a study in contrast. For her show she was dressed in a black kurta, the plainness of which was off set by neon-lipstick-print lycra tights. She is petite (the four-inch wedges didn't help much) but the frizzy black hair that frames her face like a halo, lends her height. She loves black and white and is mostly dressed in monochrome. Her A/W collection, too, is loyal to the dual colour tone, which, incidentally, is the current global trend.

Her playful experimentation with traditional forms extends to sari blouses. At the WLIFW show, models strutted down wearing Peter Pan collared blouses. "Girls love blouses that show off their backs and dêcolletage. So, I decided to add some structure to the neck to make it more attractive. " You can have collars on sleeveless, full-sleeved and even half-sleeved blouses. The trick, as Masaba says, lies in experimentation.

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