In that strip of slip-resistant vinyl floorboard that stretches itself out, the sweep of velvet back-trails and the clink-clink of crystal heels are noiseless; even the hushed chatter of the skirted-and-suited crowd that breaks itself into two halves around it, cannot be heard. Under blinding bright lights and a cacophony of sound and song, the runway is where fashion is alone with itself. What if the music is plugged out, the lights shut off on their own, and the audience walks away, leaving behind a cluster of empty seats, with reserved stickers sitting on them pointlessly? “Where is everybody?” the most concerned voice in the room will ask. “Buying your clothes online, in the comfort and privacy of their homes, what else,” the only other voice in the room will answer.
The runway and those who keep it running are only this naïve in fiction. British designer Giles Deacon, who has launched a 37-piece ready-to-wear range titled ‘Giles for Koovs’ on the Indo-British fashion portal Koovs.com, is amused by this imagined state of affairs. “There are various mediums at which the fashion industry operates and one doesn’t necessarily threaten the other,” says the man, who is popular for his collaboration with high-street brand New Look since 2004. From a smattering of silver sequins to geometric prints on straight-cut dresses, to dramatically oversized polka dots and the patterned wilderness of tiger graphics, he’s been trickling out something of novelty every season. The man has watched Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss, Drew Barrymore, and Kylie Minogue among other polished and precious bodies slip into his clothes. Deacon has not only been at ease, but has also drawn strength by watching very many women “get a bit of Giles”.
“On the runway, designers showcase elements that have a heightened feel and signature. It is a lively and grand portrayal of their sensibility. The online market functions around the wish to attain a portion of a designer’s pep and quirk,” he talks about how he tends to gravitate towards intricately constructed pieces that have a “point of view”.
In this war, collaboration is the fiercest weapon. “I was approached early on to team up with brands of different nature. It works for me in two ways. First, I get to broaden my skill set. Second, I am able to test new markets and put my name in them,” explains the designer. In 2006, Deacon did his bit for AIDS awareness by designing Converse trainers using African mud cloth. In 2008, he created fashion sketches and hand-engraved correspondence cards and hand-lined tissue envelopes for stationary brand Smythson. In 2009, he designed a scarf for a cancer charity, a joint effort with Cadbury. In 2011, he created a cartoonish mouse called ‘eek’ and put it on Nine West shoes, bags and jewellery.
What’s in it for him in the tie-up with Koovs? “The website has given Indian women access to Giles clothes at an affordable and convenient pace. There’s plenty to choose from,” the designer says, pointing to embroidered eek t-shirts, white cotton day dresses with pretty collars and demure sleeves, club wear studded with sequins, jump suits and cocktail dresses with the Giles logo running all over them. “India is as dynamic as any other market. Women of all ages are willing to keep up with new styles and sensibilities. To say women here will like a more traditionally Indian silhouette or saree-inspired print-work, is just being silly” he observes, pointing out how the Internet has enabled people to move beyond regional preferences.
On his second visit to India, Deacon launched his collection on the verdant lawns of the British High Commission. Champagne flowed as models sashayed down the runway in Giles’ breezy-looking clothes. Among the models was actor Ileana D’Cruz.
Ask him about Indian designers who’ve caught his fancy? “The lady who does Péro (Aneeth Arora) is fabulous, as is Sabyasachi,” he says, fumbling with the names but admiring their aesthetics.
Back on the runway, when people expect him to dole out a velvet tunic of aristocratic reserve with sparkly stones on collars and cuffs, he shocks them by sending out a model in lug-soled man’s shoes, a bird-embroidered tank top, and colour-blocked motorcycle pants. In an industry that doesn’t impose pattern protection and bears the onus of creative surprise at the change of season, Deacon challenges himself constantly.
Whether they hit the runway or get hit and clicked by a mouse, as long as they do well on the sketch pad, they will survive. Giles creations, that is.