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Confessions of an online fashion voyeur

Confessions of an online fashion voyeur
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First Published: Thu, Jun 03 2010. 09 04 PM IST

Bliss: Surf the Net and drool over haute wonders such as Alexander Wang shoes. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images/AFP
Bliss: Surf the Net and drool over haute wonders such as Alexander Wang shoes. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images/AFP
Updated: Thu, Jun 03 2010. 09 04 PM IST
Can you enjoy fashion without buying very much? Let me explain. Once a week with clockwork precision, an email from Net-a-Porter lands in my inbox. And once a week, like a surreptitious nap or stolen kiss, I open the site and spend half an hour, drooling over dresses, blouses, bags and shoes. Here is the late great Alexander McQueen’s snake print silk organza dress for £4,275 (around Rs2.9 lakh). It looks like a sexy sugarplum fairy on the mannequin and it is breathtaking. Here are Jil Sander’s impossibly chic white linen pants for £634. There is Stella McCartney’s silk tank dress that looks like our Hakoba designs for £698. The site has all the usual suspects—Yves, Valentino, Halston, Marni, Balmain, Alaia—and then some. The clothes are carefully vetted, revealing a cutting-edge fashion sensibility. There isn’t much Chanel, which (save for their quilted handbags) I never liked anyway. There isn’t much Prada either for some reason.
Bliss: Surf the Net and drool over haute wonders such as Alexander Wang shoes. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images/AFP
Unlike glossy fashion magazines, online fashion sites like Bluefly and Net-a-Porter are superbly interactive, which makes them perfect for a fashion voyeur like me. You can do close-ups of the clothes, turn them around, zoom out, match them with accessories, and pretty much do everything except try them on. You can also cull your favourites into your “shopping bag” and keep looking at them at leisure. While enjoying the fashion eye candy, you could also, like me, listen to Rahman’s songs from the Tamil movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya on Dishant.com. I recommend the one called Hosanna.
Along with the stalwarts like Oscar de la Renta, Net-a-Porter includes the young turks of fashion, many of them Asian: Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim and Thakoon. Of the lot, Wang is my favourite and also lower in the intensely watched fashion ladder than the other two. Wu made Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown and Thakoon is a favourite of Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Wang is known for his bags and shoes, but I like his clothes too. Just as Versace’s brand identity veers towards opulence, Valentino’s towards classy elegance. Just as Dior is famous for its silhouette, Ungaro for its sensuality, and Herve Leger for the bandage, Wang’s brand identity veers towards clever clothes. They make you break out into a smile and say, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?” Imagine this: a simple grey V-necked T-shirt from the front which turns into a sexy “cross-backed” T-shirt from the back. Just go to Net-a-Porter and shop his collection. You’ll see. Wang’s prices are lower than average too, if you consider £360 for a grey T-shirt lower.
Net-a-Porter is a British site, and Britain is a cut above America in terms of fashion-forward buying. Topshop, the cult British store, has just reached American shores. I wish Kishore Biyani would bring it to India. Ditto for H&M.
All this fashion browsing is because of a slew of books that I have been reading. They all fall into what is now being called the “stunt memoir” category or what Lounge’s editor calls “gimmicks”. Essentially, they involve picking a project and then writing about it. Julie & Julia was about cooking Julia Child’s recipes for a year and the book I am reading, The Happiness Project, is a year-long project consisting of numerous small and big things you can do to improve your daily happiness. One of the things its author, Gretchen Rubin, suggests is to confront your internal contradictions and use them to your advantage. This got me thinking about one of mine: I love clothes but hate to shop. I have a visceral dislike of accumulating too many material objects and fantasize about living only with the contents of a cloth bag like the kind IITians used to carry. Ergo Net-a-Porter.
In an ideal world, I would be wearing Wang’s two-tone drape dress right now, without actually having to take the trouble to go to the store, wade through people, pore over clothes, try out chosen favourites in a claustrophobic dressing room, and then finally, stand in line at the cashier and buy the darn things. Just thinking about the process exhausts me. Online fashion sites allow me to get a fashion fix without the bother of shopping. Actually, in an ideal world, I would be renting all the clothes I like and returning them after wearing them a few times. Does India have any rent-a-dress sites, I wonder.
The Sartorialist is another great fashion site illustrating one man’s obsession with street fashion. He photographs ordinary but stylish women on the streets of New York, Paris and Milan and writes about why he likes them. It is a hit because The Sartorialist has a very particular, very distinctive eye for fashion and this is what put him on Time magazine’s list of Top 100 design influencers. India is ripe for a Sartorialist. Street fashion here is so eye-catching that someone with an eye and the passion for fashion ought to photo-blog it.
There is a poignant scene in the documentary, The September Issue, about American Vogue and its dominatrix editor, Wintour. In it, Wintour’s daughter, Bee Shaffer, talks mockingly about the fashion people who work for her mom. They take fashion so seriously when in fact it is frivolous, she says. I think I’m going to be a lawyer, she ends. It cannot have been easy for Wintour, sitting there and watching her daughter poke fun at the world she inhabits. Sure, fashion is frivolous. But in small doses, it is also fun.
If she could spend a thousand pounds, Shoba Narayan would buy the Audrey top by One Vintage at Net-a-Porter. Or Catherine Malandrino’s ruffle-sleeved silk top. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jun 03 2010. 09 04 PM IST