Hardly anyone in their senses will pass up an invitation to be in London in summer, ever. And when it’s an invitation to escape from Calcutta, which seems to be in a 40+ temperature zone for the longest time, well, it’s a temptation hard to resist. And when the invitation is to attend a Bollywood-themed fashion and lifestyle extravaganza promoted by Gauri Khan, well, it’s a no-brainer for sure. So I pack my bags (with woollens and jackets of course!) and board a flight.
On the morning of Monday, May 2, the first thing I do on waking is walk down to Green Park — a short jog from my hotel The Washington Mayfair where the whole BollyGoods team is camped. I fill my lungs with the crisp cool London air. Sheer bliss!
BollyGoods Edition 2 — the Bollywood-themed fashion and lifestyle exhibition — is being held in The Dorchester, one of the premium hotels in central London. Being a celebration of all things Bollywood, the dress code, one understands, is contemporary Indian glam. I keep this in mind as I dress up for the event. But as I walk the fairly walkable distance from my hotel to The Dorchester, I pass only serious-looking office-goers in identical long black coats. Well, everyone knows
London loves black, but this?! There’s not a single colour in sight except black and at least 50 shades of grey, and I in my teal jacket and red skirt have never felt so out of place. As I near The Dorchester, I dread being greeted by more black coats, having made a major fashion faux pas in my Indian colours and silhouettes. Once through the gates of the hotel, relief washes over me.
This seems to be a completely different slice of London. Here are ladies dressed in every bright colour imaginable, with a fair display of bling. The strains of Sun raha hai na tu from Aashiqui 2 fill the air and the banquet is full of stalls housing Indian finery… it’s familiar territory for me, albeit in a foreign country!
Promila Jain Bahri, the founder and director of BollyGoods, filled t2 in on the Bolly-themed fashion extravaganza...
Tell us how you conceptualised BollyGoods...
I just felt that we are all very Bollywood-driven. We do want to be like our favourite celebrities, we do want to know who is Hrithik Roshan’s trainer or who does Kareena (Kapoor Khan) go to for her diet. So I thought why not promote celebrity lifestyle and their aesthetics. The idea of BollyGoods is to get people together from the film fraternity who have products of their own and designers catering to Bollywood. Edition 1 happened in Delhi with Alia Bhatt. And now we are here in London with BollyGoods Edition 2.
What’s unique about what you’re offering to the people of London?
It’s a very larger-than-life event. So from the venue to the participants to the guests, we try to do the best with everything and create memories. For those coming in, we give them a chance to look like their favourite star and live their dream.
In just your second edition you decided to travel to London… wasn’t that a risk?
Edition 2 had to be in London. There is a big Indian crowd and very elite Pakistani crowd who are looking for fashion. And if your merchandise is good, it just clicks with everybody. I found a partner in my friend Shivani (Ahluwalia), who lives here and she is the co-promoter. Gauri (Khan) was very very humble and sweet to get attached to the brand… she’s promoted us like how!
What was your brief to the participating designers?
The primary requirement was they had to be related to Bollywood… they had to have dressed up a Bollywood celebrity, or be a celebrity themselves. We focused on Indian wear and didn’t encourage them to bring too much Western wear here.
Do you have a fashion background?
I started with my kidswear brand called Little Tomatoes after my son was born, in 1994. I had about 80 stores all over India, some company-owned, some franchisees. We did a great job for 12 years and about six years back I sold the brand. And I moved on to promote arts and I formulated a company called Gallery of Galleries.
You told us earlier that you have a Calcutta connection…
As a kid I have spent a lot of time in Calcutta, because my sister got married there. She is 16 years elder to me; so I have literally grown up in Calcutta. She lives right opposite The Saturday Club. I love the people, the language and the phuchka. Flurys is a favourite and the phuchka of Russell Street.
Singer Kanika Kapoor of Baby doll fame was there to soft-launch her label that gives a glam touch to Lucknow’s chikankari. t2 caught up with her for a quick chat...
You are known as Sunny Leone’s voice in Bollywood. So when did you turn designer?
This is kind of a soft launch for me, kind of getting the feel of how people like my stuff, before going all out. The Kanika Kapoor label is new, but my mother’s been doing this for the past 25 years. I am from Lucknow.
Since you’re introducing your label in BollyGoods, are you looking at dressing the stars?
I am happy to be a part of BollyGoods, it’s very beautifully put together. I will have a lot of Bollywood actresses wearing my stuff now.
What are your plans with your label?
I won’t be able to do fashion weeks now because I am extremely busy with my music career. But my clothes will be available in many countries… in Dubai, London.
How are you balancing your music and fashion careers?
At the end of the day, both are different forms of art and I love what I create. I love designing and it’s very exciting to see a new piece come out. And I am lucky to have my mom managing the whole thing.
What’s up with your music?
The next is Udta Punjab… I have this song with Alia, it’s a different song where a lot of me is coming out. Then I have Do Lafzon Ki Kahani with Kajal Aggarwal and Randeep Hooda. There’s a Sufi song called Ankhiya. Then we have Beimaan Love coming out with Sunny Leone, it is a big dance number. I have also got into a new digital space where a lot of Sufi music is happening.
On the one hand you have your Baby doll kind of songs and on the other, there’s your Sufi music. How do you balance the two?
My first song was a Sufi song… Jugni ji, then last year I had Chhil gaye naina, for NH10, which was very appreciated and loved. So yes, there’s a lot of variety, but I am a classical singer at the end of the day and I can sing anything that I want.