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Since 1st March, 1999
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Designers throw Ash attire into trash Cannes

Mumbai, May 29: Aishwarya Rai’s wardrobe at Cannes has sent a shockwave through the fashion fraternity here. She has been charged with having no responsibility to the fashion and jewellery industry back home when she is on the verge of being a major crossover star.

Their crib: she has dressed badly and not showcased India enough.

Leading Indian designers have still not got over what they call the embarrassment of seeing the lady look like what one designer terms Meg Ryan’s “handmaiden”, draped head-to-toe in Bollywood-inspired Indo-western kitsch on the French Riviera.

They feel she has let down her country and its rich heritage of textiles and betrayed its fashion community — self-conscious more than ever as it grows in stature globally — by aping the West at a venue watched by the whole world.

“I am very upset,” says Rohit Bal. “What was she doing with herself' It’s not every day that someone gets a chance to sit on the jury at Cannes. Why did she try to blend in into the West' What is wrong with the beautiful Indian saris' There are Paithanis, there are Jamdanis, there are so many saris,” cries Delhi-based Bal, one of India’s top designers.

“And her hair' What was that beehive' What were those dessert pudding tops on her head'” he laments. “She could have emerged an icon of Indian fashion,” he adds.

“It was atrocious,” says Shaina .C., another leading designer. “Her wardrobe was so Karol Bagh. Her accessories were appalling. She should have patronised the sari more. There was too much of the corset look. We don’t have to ape the West to look good,” she says.

Designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla have criticised Aishwarya’s wardrobe dress-by-dress in a daily.

She has been dubbed Maid in Manhattan in the dress on Day 1 — a yellow kurta and brown trousers. “It’s just plain and simple unchic. Excuse me, you’re not shopping in Breach Candy, you’re in Cannes,” they have advised her.

On the occasion when she appears draped in a blue-and-red printed sari and wearing an invisible blouse, her right arm and shoulder bare, the duo writes: “India does some of the best and most definitive printing, so what’s with this print'”

Says Bal: “The people who took care of her wardrobe should have given more thought to it. It’s a great opportunity lost. I would have been glad to dress her up.”

The “people” who took care of Aishwarya’s wardrobe — Neeta Lulla, designer for Devdas — has issued a disclaimer after every designer or fashion writer has had his or her say on Ash since last week. Lulla has said the wardrobe was put together in consultation with the actress which has done little to check the wave of criticism.

Says leading fashion writer Meher Castelino in a letter to a daily: “Unfortunately, that’s where the problem lies. Many stars and their mothers/sisters/wives feel they are expert fashion designers.”

She goes on to add: “Our celebs like Rai and Sachin Tendulkar who are ‘Made in India’ only prefer wearing foreign labels. Apparently, the only thing Indian that Tendulkar wears is the Indian logo.

“Indian celebs who are exposed to the western media are ideal ambassadors of Indian fashion. If they did this, then our Indian designers would not have to chase foreign stars to wear their creations and Aishwarya Rai would have looked like a regal queen next to Meg Ryan instead of her ‘handmaiden’,” says Castelino.

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