| RAVE REVIEWS: Models backstage in Ashish Gupta creations
Dazzling desi design strictly for foreigners
Fashion designer Ashish Gupta, whose clothes have just been admired in London Fashion Week, is going from strength to strength. But curiously, his colourful creations are still not available in India.
For example, you cannot wander down to Shoppers Stop and toss six of his outfits into your Puja shopping basket.
Since arriving from Delhi 16 years ago at the age of 21, Ashish has survived numerous ups and downs. At Gare du Nord in Paris, his entire portfolio was stolen, destroying his hopes of getting work experience with a French fashion house.
However, Ashish, as his clothes range is called, has grown in stature since his debut in London Fashion Week in 2004.
He has kept his motto simple: I want to create objects of desire.
According to one fashion writer, his fusion of Western and Eastern cultures results in an eccentric and unique collection with a mix of sportswear, high octane glamour and breathtaking craftsmanship — beautiful, handcrafted pieces are all manufactured in-house at his workshop/factory in India.
The Ashish line is stocked by Selfridges and Browns Focus in London; in Italy by Banner and Apres Paris; by Henri Bendal in New York and H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles; by James Boutique and Podium in Russia; by Tigerlilly in Dubai; and Al-Ostoura in Kuwait.
Would his factory workers faint if they saw the mark up on his clothes?
Last week an American fashion writer, Amber Cornelio, from the Atlanta Fashion Examiner, was impressed with the Ashish collection in London Fashion Week.
She declared: The turquoise sheath with the tiger lilies and striped cardigan, the zebra striped background with tapestry flowers and the floral combination paired with the cheetah shorts were my absolute favourites!
And from the Daily Mail came this endorsement: Ashish wowed the crowds with a vibrant display of clashing blooms and electrifying colours.
His models were dressed top-to-toe in his signature sequins, with simple T-shirts given a high octane overhaul with Van Gogh-style sunflowers, shorts adorned with sequined zebra print, and over-sized poppies making their mark on miniskirts, it added.
His clothes have found favour with Jerry Hall, Victoria Beckham, Madonna, M.I.A. and Lily Allen.
Among Indians, he does like the one woman famed for her understated fashion sense.
Shobhaa De is fabulous! enthuses Ashish.
| HARD-HITTING: Baroness Shreela Flather (right) with husband Gary (middle) and Avtar Litt of Sunrise Radio
Baroness (Shreela) Flather, 77, is a woman of whom I am very fond.
In 1990, Shreela, who was born in pre-Partition Lahore, became the first Asian woman to be elevated to the House of Lords.
But this Punjabi lady can be exceedingly hot-headed and often blurts out the first thing that comes into her head without fear of the consequences. This is not always wise, especially when it comes to matters of religion.
Take, for example, a recent debate in the Lords, where Shreela alleged: The minority communities in this country, particularly the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis, have very large numbers of children and the money that follows the child is an attraction.
She claimed Britains welfare system was being abused by such immigrants — our welfare system should first and fore- most be looking after the most vulnerable.
My husband (Gary) is very disabled, although fortunately we have not had to depend on benefits, but every little bit that he gets is helpful, added Shreela, who now sits as a Crossbencher, having been a Tory all her life.
The Daily Mail gave Shreela a whole page to develop her attack on Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants, some of whom were engaging in polygamy, she further claimed.
There is anecdotal evidence that some Bangladeshi men do dump Bibi No. 1 after four or five children, pick up a young Bibi No. 2 in Bangladesh and have more children with her.
If only Shreela had presented her arguments as exposing abuse of the loyal first wife, her comments would not have provided ammunition to those who want to bash immigrants.
On Saturday night last week, Cineworld Wandsworth, a multiplex in south London, was packed with people queuing to see the film event of the year... a masterpiece (Sky Movies), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film adaptation of John le Carrés classic novel.
But there was something puzzling about the ethnic make-up of the crowd. It was almost exclusively white — apart, that is, from me and a young Indian girl who was with a balding, much older man.
I am not sure whether Cineworld Wandsworth provides a true reflection of cinema viewing patterns across the nation but it seems that many Asians, especially the first generation, are not keen to stray from the Bollywood comfort zone.
Westerners tend to go as couples. But in a typical Asian party, there could easily be six to eight people across three generations, queuing to see something like Bodyguard.
Tiger was taking the ariel route, I gather, before that term came into common cricketing parlance. It was at a dinner earlier this summer at film director Sangeeta Dattas north London home that I was relaying to the Nawab of Pataudi an anecdote I had heard about his Test debut at Eden Gardens.
The crowd thought he was lucky when he skied a ball over the off-side fielders for four. When he repeated the shot, the crowd fell silent, sensing the first stroke might not have been a miscue. When Tiger took the ariel route for the third time, there was an excited buzz around the ground.
A witness who was present heard someone say, Ei chheleta kintu khelte pare (this boy can play).
On hearing this tale, Tiger burst into laughter. I cant remember it, he told me.
I was comparing Tigers batting style with that of his father, Iftikhar, the Nawab of Pataudi Senior, when a friend, Mukulika Banerjee, an academic, entered the conversation by disclosing she had edited Muslim Portraits: Everyday Lives in India.
Tiger was immediately hooked and requested a copy. He hinted that in his time he had tried to calm the hotheads in his local Muslim community back in India.
We had been joking about who would play father and son if ever a film was made on the Pataudis.
As Tiger and Sharmila prepared to leave, he said: Look, I promise I will talk to you properly (about my father) when I am back in London later this year.
Samantha Cameron, the Prime Ministers wife, had a privileged front row seat at London Fashion Week. Nothing surprising about that but the Indian girl next to her appeared to be Lakshmi Mittals daughter-in-law, Megha Mittal.
Again, nothing surprising about that — Megha has bought the German fashion label, Escada.
Nirad C. Chaudhuri once told me he rated Pride and Prejudice so highly that he had read the novel 200 times.
So I wonder what he would have made of the announcement from P.D. James that she has written a sequel to Jane Austens much loved classic as a murder mystery.
Death Comes to Pemberley is set six years after the end of the original story when Elizabeths younger sister, Lydia, discovers her husband murdered.
Somehow, I dont think Nirad Babu would have been amused.