Keeper of Memories

Keeper of Memories

The closet is full of garments and memories. On good days, I can spend a while looking at my clothes. The sight of an old jumpsuit that got me named ‘Ninja’ by friends always brings on a chuckle (who is laughing now, since it became a huge trend), that stole which my daughter snuggled under during a flight brings a lump in my throat (did she really fit under it), my colour blocked shift that the dog was dressed in one day (and rocked the look, by the way) makes me laugh, or my anti fit, uneven hemline dress that led to mutiny in the ranks with Mr.Husband refusing to be seen with me wearing it (Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller, you are spot on), the very first pieces from my designer friends’ debut collection (they cringe at the sight, now, though)…
Yes, the closet invokes deep feelings. No other possessions are quite as intimate, therefore, are called the proverbial second skin, I suppose. As the celebrated fashion writer Suzy Menkes said, at the time of her dresses getting auctioned at Christie’s, “Clothes are like friends – in this case good friends who conjure up good times.”
I asked my friends about their clothing pieces that, when affectionately glanced at, fortuitously recall some enchanting memory. As I received their response, the thread of similitude running through the chosen garments, gladdened my heart.
All the garments spoken about are aesthetically pleasing, eminently wearable and have a strong narrative. Charmed by the archival yet timeless quality of these garments, an epiphanous moment of realization dawned – dainty and refined, gossamer like memories cannot stand on the harsh, exploitative roots of fast fashion garments.
“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand,” said Khalil Gibran and these friends echo that with their gentle, conscious choice of a hand crafted garment. Read on…
Anjana Das’ Haori Coat (Founder and creative Director, White Champa)
The garment I have chosen is my Haori coat that I found in Tokyo in a vintage store about ten years ago. The coat is a piece that Japanese women wear in the fall and winter seasons over their Kimono. It is a very rich hibiscus coloured silk treated in the ‘shibori’ tie dying technique that forms a stunning wave pattern. I wear it either at home or over an evening dress.
This vintage piece evokes in me an emotion that ties me to the previous owner, to a textile tradition that I adore and it gives me the liberty to use it in my own way. I have worn it over a long dress by my favourite Thai designer – Nagara, over clothes from my own label or even over a Sari.
It envelops me with comfort and I often feel that it communicates with me; it is a silent dialogue between the person who created the coat, the various protagonists in its journey and the one wearing it now.
Chandan Dubey’s Assamese sari (Writer and Photographer)
I wear this Assamese Muga Sari paired with red and yellow Banarasi brocade blouse, usually on traditional occasions. The sharply contrasting colors of this ‘Muga’ -blue and white, takes to other contrasting colors like red, yellow and even green beautifully. I love the versatility of this sari and the fact that it came to me along with a stash of textiles that my Nani had set aside for me. Much after she had passed away did I discover the source from where I had inherited my propensities to hoard! Only Nani had seen this trait in me long back and kept gifting me one thing at a time for years! I try and keep her things safe, memories, legacy.. and all.
Bhavna Talwar’s embroidered sari (National Award winning Movie Director)
One of the many blessings bestowed upon me is my mother’s impeccable taste in clothes and her ability to keep them in a time warped condition. That, naturally, implies that I am a happy recipient of her clothes for I have perfected the art of effective pleading.
My mother spent her childhood in Patiala that is famous for its traditional embroideries, chiefly Phulkari and ‘salwaars’. Each garment was dealt with like a project; created from scratch, with the fabric chosen, dyed, embroidered, stitched etc. to cater to personal taste. This sari was one such project. In my enthusiasm upon receiving the sari, I had actively dreamt of wearing it on the next book launch or to a poetry reading session but, alas, another impediment came in the form of my darling friend – Pallavi Datta. She made me giddy with the various exciting options of styling this sari, only, it is still waiting for those options to materialize. Wake up, Ms. Datta, the sari waits!
Jyoti Gwalani -Curator, Design related products for a Middle East company
This request to introduce my memory-invoking garment threw me, I must confess. Having worked in the fashion and design industry for a large part of my life, there are so many garments that were jostling for this title.
Yet, again and again, my attention kept reverting to this piece made for me by the celebrated designer – Savio Jon. Savio and I have an enduring friendship that has stood the test of time.
In every collection that Savio does, there is a whimsical, avant-garde piece reserved for me for he understands and appreciates my preference for and ability to pull off such pieces. This piece, among all that I feel thrilled to possess, turned out to be my top pick. Savio had done this line in collaboration with Jockey, which I enjoyed tremendously for it reminded me of the quintessential ‘baniyan’ of Indian men. This dress was made in the gentle craft of tie and die and I wore it to the Will’s Fashion Week, New Delhi. In the very first hour, I had received more compliments than I had got in a long time. The crowning glory was a mention by the iconic Anaita Shroff Adjania of Vogue Magazine as one of her favourite looks of Fashion Week.
In this garment, art, technique, masterful draping, evolved sense of simple design comes into play but for me this is a garment made by friend. Period.
Devika Khosla’s momentous sari (Creative Director at – The Works Interiors)
That day I felt like the most beautiful girl on the face of this earth. It was the first year of college and we had organized a fund raising event, the grand finale of which was a fashion show by the students. As a principal participant, I had taken the task of styling my look with utmost seriousness. It was for charity and not vanity, I told all, including myself. Soon this stunning royal blue silk sari was chosen from my mother’s cupboard. Our dear neighbour offered her dull gold, embroidered with peacock motif, blouse to go with it that was promptly fitted to my size. Soon the day arrived and my mum carefully draped the sari on me. It was at that moment, the opulent rustling of the silk and the heady lingering perfume of my mother’s YSL Opium perfume, cast on me a spell and enveloped me with confidence that I was completely unaware of. A certain calm descended over me and I knew that it was my moment to shine. Even if I try hard, I do not remember the moment I was chosen ‘Runners up’ in the pageant, it is all a blur of audible heartbeat, dry mouth and quivering lips.
Today, this sari hangs in my wardrobe as a testimony of that triumphant moment. In this world, marred with standardized concept of beauty, this garment and I had a ‘vain’ moment. I can safely declare that somewhere a weaver had woven magical threads into this sari and am eternally grateful to him for that.
Nisha Kundnani’s linen sari. (Celebrity stylist and creator of bride and groom styling site: Bridelan)
To an onlooker, curious about this uber glamorous world that I am a part of, it would seem that I am inundated with couture dresses and highly stylized garments. This is true with reference to my clients, surely, but my personal sense of style takes inspiration from the ubiquitous common man who carries on him the fragrance of the soil of our country. Travellers on a boat crossing Hugli River or the women dressed for work in Mumbai, launch a thousand ideas in me.
One such garment is my mustard linen sari that I debuted at my dear friend’s wedding only to be promptly complemented by the bride herself on how good I was looking! The next outing of this sari happened at my hometown of Jabalpur, where my mother who has highly discerning taste, wanted one for herself, immediately. It was a moment for me for all my life I have emulated my mother’s sense of dressing. This sari of mine is on a ‘highly-admired’ run.
Working in the capacity of a stylist, there is one lesson I have learnt – don’t copy a look or follow a trend mindlessly. Invest time to understand your personality; your likings, belief system and passions to create a stunning look that you can call your very own.


Anjana Das’ coat.
Pic by Sophie Krone.

Chandan Dubey’s sari.

Bhavna Talwar’s sari

Jyoti Gwalani’s head turner dress.

Devika Khosla’s sari

Nisha Kundnani’s linen sari.