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THE GREAT LIFE

Pushing boundaries

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BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL: Women like Cecila (above), Sana (right) and Pernia are changing the way Indian women access haute couture

As the year draws to a close it is time to reflect. I have been fielding calls from numerous publications asking for fashion bites. Who is the best designer of the year? Which was the best show this year? Who is the best-dressed woman of the year? Well, when you attend over a 100 shows in a year, it is hard to single one out. There are however, three young women I can think of who have taken some very bold risks and may end up changing the way women shop. Bangalore's Sana Rezwan, Delhi's Pernia Qureshi and Mumbai's Cecila Morelli Parikh are true trendsetters. 

The year started with me taking a trip to Bangalore for www. masionboutique. com - the online shop for the Maison store. Bangalore has so far been a tricky market for luxury. Some international brands - such as Tod's - have even shut shop there. So when I heard that a young fashionista from the city who had worked at prestigious stores in London like Liberty was opening a 3, 200 square foot store that would keep labels such as Cacharel, Mawi, Chloe, Anya Hindmarch and one of my favourites, 3. 1
Philip Lim, I was sure this experiment in chic fashion was doomed to fail. It was a concept ahead of its time. But as soon as I walked in I was in love. Its modern, edgy yet clean interiors made me feel as though I was in Manhattan. But there was a niggling doubt - was there a real clientele for this product?

Well it is a niche concept and Sana is convinced she will convert women to the Maison sense of style. Holding trunk shows all over the city, staying on top of social media and hosting stylish soirees she is slowly proving that there is a discerning client in India - it may be small but it's growing. Will it stand the test of time? Only time can tell but this pioneer has certainly given the Indian fashion industry another perspective on the Bangalore market.

Just a few days ago Cecilia sent me a message about Le Mill opening a second store in Mumbai - Cecilia is one of three partners in Le Mill. I first met Cecilia when she was part of Vogue India's launch team. A former buyer at Bergdorf Goodman, I remember shopping with her at Milan's Corso Como. Anyone in fashion will tell you as far as concept stores go, Corso Como is the gold standard.

So when she started telling me her plans of turning a 15, 000 square-ft rice mill in the unfashionable Bori Bunder area into a lifestyle store I was sure it would remain a pipedream. A year later Le Mill opened, with home decor, international high fashion labels, textiles, a florist, bookstore and an eatery. It was a lifestyle haven. But I had one question. Since Le Mill definitely catered to a clientele, most of who travel to London, Paris and Dubai frequently, who would really bother to travel to visit her Bori Bunder store? Shopping when you travel just has a different magic. Perhaps the opening of a second Le Mill in the plush, high traffic area of Breach Candy could resolve that problem. This store acts as a great teaser and is almost a "best of" Le Mill. They have Diptyque candles, Le Row trousers and Mary Katrantzou's digital prints alongside Alexander Wang's bags. This is about serious good taste-and it may just whet the appetite of Mumbai's best dressed women most of who happen to live around the Breach Candy area.

Then there is Delhi's current 'it' girl, Pernia Qureshi. A former stylist, she is among the few who can boast of a wardrobe full of Parisian Couture. Part of Harper's Bazaar India launch team, she has worked with top fashion magazines in New York and also styled the film Aisha. There is no question that Pernia has an eye for style. But when she decided it was time for Indian fashion to go online, many were sceptical. Earlier this year www. Perniaspopupshop. com went live. Designers Abu Sandeep, Tarun Tahilani and Sabyasachi chose this website to be a launch pad for their more affordable lines and all their collections sold out. Right now Manish Malhotra's vibrant range of anarkalis and saris, are selling out.

By this year end Pernia's site should have had over a million visitors and with 70 designers working with her, there is plenty to choose from. Her deep understanding of what is beautiful curation along with commercial realities has really worked for her. Many other high fashion portals have had to close down but Pernia's site seems to be getting stronger and stronger. You can spot her in row one at fashion shows in Paris, or at high society events in the Capital, proudly wearing "Made in India" ready-to-wear labels.

Fashion has always been about pushing the boundaries and taking risks, and that is exactly what women like Pernia, Cecilia and Sana have done. In an industry that is all about first impressions, these three women have reminded me that you should never judge a book by its cover.

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