The latest project of Manish Arora, designer of psychedelic fantasies, is not on fabric, but on film. His new TV show on Discovery Travel and Living, Adventures of the Ladies Tailor, is what the name suggests. He tells us what happened when he travelled to cities across India—revamping barber shops, riding on a motorcycle merry-go-round and Arora-fying a humble Ambassador.
This is the most colourful episode. I was taking pictures to use in my London Fashion Week collection a few months later. For me, the highlight was a photograph I took of a young girl on a Jaisalmer street. She ended up being the face of my Fall-Winter collection—she stood out among all the images and ended up on the clothes, on my stationery, and even on some carpets I made.
Giving a facelift to a dull barber’s shop was also fun. It was a totally impromptu decision. At a local market, we bought all the material we needed—calendars, plastic flowers, images of gods and goddesses and Bollywood stars. Overnight, we transformed the shop— painted the doors red, stuck images of the gods on the walls and Bollywood stars on the counters. The owners were thrilled. A friend recently went to Jaisalmer and told me that they haven’t changed a thing.
A bizarre incident took place when I was wearing a T-shirt I had designed a few years ago, with the image of three Rajasthani women on it. It may be hard to believe, but we actually met one of the women on my T-shirt. She was most impressed, I was quite shocked.
I also went into the Thar desert in search of Rajasthani nomads. The women—in their intricate ethnic ensembles—had a superb, ingrained sense of style and designed much of their own jewellery. Their make-up was in a surreal colour, I would call it Indian gothic. It was very dramatic, and a little eerie. Among them, a girl had hidden her eyebrows with eye make-up—she had straight, futuristic eyebrows painted with black eyeliner.
The Goa episode was like going home; it didn’t feel like work. I met people I have been working and partying with for a long time. But a big surprise was meeting fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh. He was staying at Nilaya Hermitage. I was there interviewing the owner, and he agreed to an interview as well.
There I met an Italian chillum designer. That was fun, he showed me the process of designing a clay chillum. My “Ladies Tailor” tattoo needed reworking, so I also visited a tattoo artist in Goa, but he was busy.
This was my first time in Pondicherry, and it was my favourite episode, as I discovered one of the most beautiful places in my country. I met many new interesting people. One of the highlights was when I met an old classmate from Nift (the National Institute of Fashion Technology). Uma (Prajapati) started and is still involved in making Tsunamika dolls, a project to help tsunami victims.
I also discovered the Dune beach resort; it is spread over 30 acres and each bungalow in the resort is designed by a different artist or designer. In fact, they asked me to design one as well, and I think I’m going to take the time out to do it.
I also met an old motorbike and bicycle collector, Himal, who had displayed his bikes on trees, suspended by wires, and even had a motorcycle merry-go-round and a gate made of cycles. “What are you on, I really want to know,” I asked him.
These episodes are about giving my favourite car a makeover. The Ambassador is the only car I have owned. I have a black one, which I live in, and it is falling to pieces. For the show, I got a new white one and I wanted to put my stamp on it.
I visited markets with car experts and bought accessories. I also had some problems while filming. I didn’t agree with the first painter, so we had to find another one. I totally changed the boring beige interiors. I really love the end result, but I would not drive this car as it is too much of an attention seeker.
I studded the dashboard with Swarovski crystals, painted one side of the car with faces of women from firecracker boxes, and the other with an underwater theme.
There are leather seats, glitter and rexine door panels, and a custom-made steering wheel with a heart motif at the centre.
Adventures of the Ladies Tailor premieres on Discovery Travel and Living on 16 March, 8.30pm.