In cities, individual expression through personal style seems like the luxury of the rich. But fashion ultimately is about mix and match, cut and style, and so in the mind of the wearer. Sometimes, it is in the eyes of the cameraman, as is evident in the photographs taken by 27-year-old Mumbai-based photographer, blogger and sartorialist Manou.
Feroze, 32, (left) and Naseem, 22: They are tailors at Bungalow 8, dressed in Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon’s new collection inspired by the men in Mumbai. Photographs courtesy Manou and Bungalow 8
A photograph of a “drifter” on the streets of Shillong in a multicoloured and patterned poncho, reminiscent of Missoni’s SS11 collection, will not find space in a fashion glossy, but made it to Wearabout (Wearabout.wordpress.com), Manou’s blog on street fashion.
It is easy to describe Manou as India’s answer to the Sartorialist, a popular street fashion blog by Scott Schuman. But Manou says he wasn’t aware of the blog’s existence when he started his own. As someone who shoots the bangle vendors at Jodhpur’s Sardar Bazar, rather than taking his camera out on the streets of Paris and New York, Manou says he is not mapping fashion trends.
“I would never know how to describe why I am taking someone’s photo. The person doesn’t have to be wearing anything extraordinary, it just has to be aesthetically appealing on a whole,” says Manou, who has studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bangalore. He found his calling in photography and combined it with his eye for fashion to start the blog.
His latest project, to shoot the men of Mumbai, has turned out to be more challenging than capturing fashion statements on the streets of Jodhpur and Shillong.
Maithili Ahluwalia, CEO and creative director of lifestyle store Bungalow 8, was launching a new collection of clothes for men. The designer of the collection, Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon, head of fashion, Bungalow 8, found his inspiration in the people of Mumbai. “Fashion as we know it is usually contrived. We were looking for something effortless and natural,” says Ahluwalia.
The project was born when Ahluwalia approached Manou to shoot on the streets Mumbai. The images will be put together in a book which will be launched end of the year.
1. Balchandra Ratne, 65: A fisherman, he has plenty of these printed lungis. He says it’s the most comfortable outfit and all fishermen wear it. Versova Village, Versova. 2. Puneet Kaushik, 38: This artist exemplifies traditional chic in ikat pants and a kurta made out of a lungi. Kala Ghoda. 3. Prashant, 35: This artist is currently sketching houses in Bandra. His style is an eclectic mix of summer casual and street fashion. Carter Road, Bandra. 4. Thotreichan Sasa, 24: This freelance stylist and photographer’s outfit has an interesting mix, with an owl brooch from Promod, feather necklace from Boy London, pants from Sikkim, and shoes from Zara. Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
And so began the waiting game. Manou would stand patiently in the bylanes of Juhu and Versova Village, near the garages at Khar, Chor Bazaar, Mahim and Colaba Causeway for the perfect shot. He photographed vegetable vendors, tailors, fishermen, wall painters and karigars (craftsmen) for his album.
Often, he would wait for hours but shoot no one. It was not about those who are well put together. It was about who catches the eye. A vegetable vendor wearing a multicoloured cloth he uses to swat flies, as a bandana, made it to Manou’s album, for instance.
Personal style is sometimes a matter of personal pride. A man at the Gateway of India looking dapper in a formal shirt and trousers accessorized with a beret proves that attention to detail is what makes a “look”.
Manou says the city’s climate and infrastructure play an important role in deciding people’s fashion aesthetic or, rather, the lack of it. Layering can really add to a look, but it’s not an option in the heat; and the packed public transport system makes experimenting an impossible task. “Here (Mumbai) people are mostly driven by Bollywood. The lack of a thriving music and art subculture leads to a lack of inspiration and people usually end up buying looks off mannequins at malls,” he adds.
Manou finds the people in Colaba more sophisticated in their dressing but he was more trigger-happy in Bandra. “There’s a mix of people there to shoot,” he says. “But interesting men are harder to come by anywhere,” he says.