Bizarre Trend: Food to Face Trend

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We might soon feel ambiguous about being alive in such vivid times to experience a mind boggling trend – Food to Face.

It might have emerged in bits and pieces, but saw a commendable rise when blogger Newton explicitly Instagram video showcasing the use of your most usual kitchen stuff for make-up.

Cacao powder as eyebrow filler and eye shadow, honey as primer, burnt tips of coconut husk as eyelash, flour as a brightening under-eye concealer, beets and coconut oil as lip color and red gelatin powder as blush.

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This trend was taken way too seriously by Frito-Lays when the brand entered the cosmetics market. They launched a bronzer called Colour de Cheetos which happily claimed to give users the perfect shade of Cheetos orange.

 

Cheetos also launched a fragrance, Cheeteau Perfume, which the brand describes as being crafted from hand-extracted cheese oils.

 

Last year another food giant, KFC also entered the cosmetic market with the launch of its peculiar fried chicken scented sunscreen and edible figure licking nail color.

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“Make-up” makes up a large segment of the market and a key direction for the skincare industry has been an inclusion of food ingredients in skincare products. While this usually an inclusion of fruits and vegetables is incorporated, Cheetos into beauty products provides a new, comical take on this trend, and could appeal Millennials.

Catastrophy Sensitive Designing

Published for FFT

NOVEMBER 2016

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As the society is becoming increasingly sensitive and aware of their surroundings than it was ever before, the design and shape of buildings is getting influenced by this emerging recognition of compassion in our lives. The effects of climate change have invited more and more natural disasters, owing to the ever warming up globe, this trend takes us towards more violent and volatile weather which is apparently showing no signs of slowing down. In such crisis, empathy has flown in and filled up the entire box of inspirations for architects, from hurricanes to tsunamis and other natural disasters have made it not just advisable but necessary that we construct buildings that are strong enough to be able to withstand such emergencies.

Catastrophe Sensitive Design as it emerges as a huge trend, is not just a practical requisite anymore but the architects all across the globe are making sure it is also visually compelling.

There are two major forms the design is taking up, one being the aspect of disaster-proof homes that are thoroughly evaluated to withstand the setback and another form being focused on post-disaster relief constructions.

Almost 800 small quakes have been recorded in the last year in Japan, and the humanitarian architects are shifting design in such a way that assures people to feel secure in times of need.  An architect Kengo Kuma has reinforced an old building in Nomi, Japan, by wrapping it in noodle-like carbon fiber rods and making it safe against earthquakes.

The building is an office and lab for a textile manufacturer Komatsu Seiren decided to pioneer a new type of reinforcement and strengthen their old building rather than taking it down. The carbon rods not only solve a major problem but also are also interesting to look at, while not completely blocking the view securing the freedom of space and light as well.

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The idea is to minimize human suffering in the event of a natural disaster and valuing human life much more than ever also teaching community members techniques to rebuild homes with the goal of returning the area to its pre-disaster state.

This trend seems to have taken to design completely, as many countries have already made themselves disaster proof to a certain extent.  Portable post-disaster homes have been designed for consumers left stranded in South America post the disastrous floods, Tornado House which ducks into the ground to escape from the most violent winds, Coral Reef Project, in Haiti inspired by coral reefs is a concept that came up after the disastrous 2010 earthquake and Hurricane-Proof Dome House in Florida is a one-piece concrete with five miles of steel while Noah’s Ark is a floating hotel designed to endure seismic activities and rising sea levels.

All of these coming together are a true essence and reflection of the times- of people coming together to contribute to a greater whole- towards goodness and well-being, taking into consideration vital realities of life on earth that had previously gone unnoticed and overlooked.

‘Cycling’ its way into Fashion!

Published for FFT

April 2016

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A lifestyle change often influences fashion, especially if it is the healthy sort and inspires a large number of people. That is exactly what happened with cycling.

Cycling to work, cycling to exercise, cycling to be part of a movement, or simply cycling for the sake of it! That is something that has inspired many in countries like Netherlands and Denmark, who have become the undisputed leaders in terms of the number of cyclists. Not only do these countries have long cycling traditions, they also have the necessary infrastructure for it. Again, in Shanghai (most populous city in China), about 60 per cent of the locals pedal their way to work everyday. The city is home to 9,430,000 million bicycles and 19,213,200 people.

However, an increasingly large number of metropolises, as well as second-tier cities, across the world are now seeing a sea-change in their infrastructure, paving the way for more and more people to ride the healthy vehicle.

Thanks to this lifestyle change, there has been a major boom in the cycle manufacturing industry around the world, and that includes even India.

Hero Cycles had posted a turnover of around Rs 3,000 crore during the last financial year, producing around 5.5 million cycles. With its recent announcement of entry into the European market, the brand aims at growing up to Rs 8,000 crore by 2018, hence benefiting from the currently booming cycling trend.

Although, this is undoubtedly a rapidly growing lifestyle trend, India still lags behind on the infrastructural end, needed to provide for such a huge shift.

Siddhant Mangotra, a cycling enthusiast from Delhi, who habitually cycles around the city, often covering around 30-40 km a day, says “I have separate sets of cycling gear for winters and summers, and I need to change every time I reach office.”

Another cyclist, Supratim Pal, who is associated with a cyclist enthusiasts’ society Discover on Wheels, Kolkata, also cycles to work. “A major problem faced by cyclists is the lack of dedicated cycle parking space.” Very few MNCs in India support or encourage cyclists to take up this mode of transportation. Hence, there are no proper dedicated parking spaces or changing rooms for cyclists. However, there has been a growing demand for these in recent times, which have silently and surely put pressure on companies to make arrangements for them.

Along with this lifestyle trend, the lines between casual clothing, office-wear and high performance gear have gradually become blur. Propelled by the growing popularity of transit and urban riding, along with an ever-broadening definition of how bicycles fit into our daily lives, apparel makers are throwing the boundaries of cycling’s sartorial territory wide open.

Minimalistic-ally Sporty

For decades, bold graphics and bright colours have defined the image of road cycling, owing mostly to infused sense of safety along with functionality.

However, with the new minimalist approach to aesthetics, the essentials of performance and comfort are increasingly being taken into account

Clothes are designed such that they can be carried off without any awkwardness all day long.

In the pursuit of this minimalist aesthetics, there has been a discreet, and almost seamless transition from the road to the daily modern living, with a remarkable shift towards fine knits, muted solids, and subtle touches, such as hidden vents at the collarbones and stylish quilt stitching at the shoulder.

The market today provides a lot of options. The Proviz’s Reflect360 jacket is an example, whose outer shell normally appears grey, but is exceptionally reflective of light. This innovative clothing, released in 2014, continues to be the brand’s best-seller. The brand is now trying to incorporate more features into it like making it more breathable.

The London-based cycling start-up Nakeid’s apparel range is hot on wearable technology, incorporating activity monitor, but most importantly its minimalist aesthetics, included in its jerseys, shorts and tops, made from wicking fabrics and Elastic Interface Tech pads that use anatomic 3-D shapes and dual density construction for comfort and protection.

Truant shorts from Giro could pass as street-wear, and that’s one of our favorite things about them. But don’t let the everyday appearance fool you: there’s plenty of tech-packed into these nylon/spandex shorts, including velcro waist-adjusters, a stretch-knit rear yoke and a mid-thigh zip pocket.

The 14″ inseam and wide leg openings promise kneepad-friendliness.

Women-sensitive designs

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female commuter cycling

A significant trend that dominated the apparel industry was to remake every piece of men’s clothes for women by means of changing their colour to pink. But gone are those days. Now, the women’s riding apparel is reshaping the spirit of design. Many companies have realised that the era of remaking men’s garments in the stereotypical pink hues and women’s-only sizes has come to an end.

Young, often-urban entrepreneurs are now reaching out with a more fun and fashion-forward approach.

SOAS Racing, a women’s specific endurance clothing brand, has launched four new 2016 designs: Aquarius, Byron Bay, Red Geo and Ultramarine.

“They’re created to help women achieve their personal performance goals in comfortable, functional apparel that’s infused with a unique sense of fashion and fun. We’re thrilled to introduce our 2016 collection and to start seeing these vibrant new designs in action on women around the world,” says an official statement by the SOAS Racing.

While some brands like Gore, creator of some of the most technical waterproof and windproof textiles in the market, have come up with street-inspired Power Trail Lady range that lays particular emphasis on the fact that the range isn’t just a scaled-down version of the Men’s Power Trail range, but has been designed for women from ground up.

Modern retail is picking pace in India, including in small cities, much to the delight of the brands, suppliers and retailers of sportswear and sports lifestyle products. Even then, the most game-changing brands like Puma and Nike hardly have a dedicated line for cycling. Even if brands like Adidas do, there is still the lack of their awareness and availability, and hence a possible path the brands could tread to create a major segment for themselves.

Interestingly in India, the sports apparel industry has seen a 13 per cent year-on-year rise in sales, accounting for Rs 600 crore worth in business in 2015. This should be sufficient cue for retailers, suppliers and brands to safely venture into the industry with positive assurance of growth.

Unrealistically Lo…ng!

Published for FFT

March, 2016

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The oversize trend has been on the rise for quite some time now. Ramps have been overrun with anti-fit clothing and designers have been obsessed with larger than life silhouettes. This trend has gained much attention, and done well for both women’s and menswear styles.

This trend has, in fact, been carried forward to this season as well, only to be re-invented with a new perspective. The sleeves have become Unrealistically LONG!

How long will it stay?

Like every other trend in fashion, this too has now reached its peak, and will eventually pass. The pendulum will once again swing away from volume. But, let’s not forget that this trend, like most others, has travelled a long way to reach this level of largeness, and it may be long before it comes around again in the way it exists today.

Anything could become a “thing”, when a lot of designers start believing it’s a “thing”. But have the designers gone too far with the trend just to satisfy the insatiable appetite for something new?

Indian designer Druv Kapur of DRVV also does not seem to believe that this trend is going too far and says, “I find it a little bit too involved with just fashion for that moment, as it serves no function whatsoever. The only thing it’s doing is reiterating the oversize trend.”

Aki Choklat, Chair & Associate Professor at Fashion Accessories Design, said, “It’s already so over-done this season that I would almost categorise it as a fad. I don’t think this would be a popular thing as I believe it has a little taste and smells like a quick trend.”

The trend was most certainly all over the ramp this Fall. Designer Shweta Kapur of 431-88 thinks, “This trend adds a touch of casualness to the outfit. In the Winters, it can be easily carried off with long sleeved sweaters to cover your wrists and in the summers, the sleeves become extra loose for airiness, and the cuffs of the shirt cut longer to protect the hands from the sun.”

Only the coming seasons can tell how practical or impractical the trend has turned out to be; but for now it surely is the most relevant one.

Where did it come from ?

This trend came to be know as Vetements sleeve in the fashion industry parlance.
“Its a trend specially for the young market, targeting teenagers and the tweeny market. Designer Vetements is probably the leader of the trend,” says Johannes Egler, Professor at Polimoda and Senior designer at Rosso35.

Vetements has undoubtedly injected some young energy and fresh direction to the sedate world of fashion. The brands Fall 2015 collection was a fair mix of classic boxy suit, blazers, bombers, and leather jackets, which had fabric that hung below the fingers and sometimes as long as the knees.

Raf Simons, in his first collection for his eponymous label, showed some dramatically oversize sweaters, but most notably the sleeves that dangled almost till the knees.

Budding Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy’s showed a slightly less exaggerated proportions on the jackets. But it was interesting to see how Thom Browne, Hood by Air and Rihanna’s FENTY x Puma came up with collections that gave us ways to style the sleeved garments we already owned in our wardrobes.

Though, it was seen on the ramp more than once, building up the ambiguity of the trend’s origin was Raf Simon’s press note for his collection, wherein he named Margiela as an inspiration. Martin Margiela, the label’s founder, caused a sensation with experiments in proportion back in the 1990s.

No matter how far the origin goes, what we do know for sure is that proportion is one of the most determining factors of a designer’s toolkit while striving for freshness. Shorten here and extend there, or tighten up to get a completely never-seen-before collection.

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Why did it become a ‘thing’?

We will be telling you nothing new if we were to begin with how the 90’s trend is coming back. What we would, however, be telling you is how these ultra-long sleeves relate to the era.

Sloppiness is the prime grunge determinant, it sure is a Declaration of Independence. Your body (read yourself) is hidden away in large unjudgmentable pieces of luxury.

Another reason is the rising touch of androgyny that is driving the silhouettes to be larger and more carefree. Oversize clothes are, in a way, a sign of how content one is — so carefree that you don’t need to dress up for anybody but yourself, anymore…

 

Is Pink Tax Real?

Published for FFT

February, 2016

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There has been quite a buzz for some time now about whether it is justified for women to pay an extra something for products that men seem to spend much less on – be it toys or shampoo, razors or deodorants.

This phenomenon, which has loosely come to be known as Pink Tax, makes you wonder if it is more expensive to be a woman in today’s world. If not so, then why are women forced to pay significantly more when the same brands of products are marketed for women.

This came into the limelight back in 2014, when a petition was filed against France’s Monoprix supermarket chain, accusing it of charging more for women’s products.

A more recent investigation, conducted in 2015 by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, looked into the prices of more than 800 items offered in both male- and female-targeted sections. They admittedly found that such items, belonging to the same category and brands, cost much more when they were being sold to women. The study found that women’s clothing costs an average of 8 per cent more than men’s! If that information does not shock you, take note that personal care products cost women an average of 13 per cent more than men!

This report, combined with the sexist pricing policies of retailers, has angered women across the world. The findings of this study reveal that women are paying thousands of dollars more over the course of their lives to purchase similar products as men.
While ‘gender-pricing’ continues to remain a topic of debate in the international market, the report enticed us to figure out to what extent this concept holds true for the Indian fashion market. We had a word with a few retail brands and experts regarding the same to help us understand and trace its existence.

Kingshuk Pandit (ex-Big Bazaar) reasons that the price difference between men and women’s clothing has its origin to the quota regime in international trade.

Prior to 2005, there was a price difference on women’s wear lines going into retail shelves, as most of the garments were being manufactured in Asia and higher rates were being charged for getting quotas to export women’s garments for the international brands. However, since the abolishing of quotas in 2005, the extra price, which was carried forth to the final ticket price, no longer existed. However, it left behind a mindset that is yet to evolve. He believes that the variations in prices, if any, might exist due to this mindset and has less to do with the intention of charging a gender- specific higher price.

International brands like Levis, which are operating in the Indian market, claim that they follow an international benchmark set by their head office wherein gender does not influence the pricing of a product, though in certain instances women’s wear is priced higher than menswear for legitimate reasons. The company claims that usually women’s garments go through a more laborious course of processes, compared to menswear, to achieve the end-product. Though the products might look similar from the outside, the difference lies right from the composition to the finish. For women, the fabrics have higher percentage of stretch, the construction details are more intricate, the shades of colours are more challenging to acquire and the finishes much softer.
Most brands look at women’s section as a valued segment of their consumer base and have an extremely competitive market. In fact, to woo their treasured consumer, they sometimes go to the extent of pricing their products competitively lower than their adversaries.

Sanjeev Mohanty, the CEO of Indian e-commerce giant Jabong, also shares a similar sentiment towards this issue. He believes that though women are impulsive buyers, they are still an intelligent section of the consumers and ar extremely sensitive in terms of pricing and design recognition. “Women are patient shoppers, and will browse through multiple styles and sites to discover what exactly they are looking for. Brands and sites will always treat women consumers in a special manner, as they are very intense consumers and influence the purchase of other women in the social network/family,” he said. Sanjeev strongly denies the presence of any gender-related price disparities, instead says that a situation called ‘Pink Subsidy’ is applicable to the Indian market.

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For now, what we do know is that women shoppers in India can take a breath of relief for they are safe from any gender-bias in terms of product pricing. These policies may well be existent or simply hyped in the international market. However in the domestic market, retailers value women consumers.