Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Powder Room by Shefalee Vasudev

On the jacket:

Riveting, behind the scenes account of the Indian fashion world,

Ever been intrigued by the Indian Fashion Industry—its stereotypes of drugged models, gay designers, and fascinating but unaffordable clothes?

Join Shefalee Vasudev, former editor of Marie Claire and an acclaimed fashion journalist, on a deep‑sea dive into the gagging depths of Indian fashion. In Powder Room, she offers an insider’s view of people who make the industry what it is—from a lower middle class girl who sells global luxury for a living to a designer who fights the inner demons of child sexual abuse yet manages to survive and thrive in the business of fashion, or a Ludhiana housewife on a perpetual fashion high.

Besides candid interviews of known names in Indian fashion, Shefalee provides a commentary on new social behaviour, urban culture, generational differences, and the compulsions behind conspicuous consumption in a country splitting at the seams with inequalities of opportunity and wealth. From Nagaland to Patan, Mumbai, Delhi, and Punjab, Powder Room mirrors how and why India ‘does’ fashion.


To be frank about it, fashion doesn't interest me much. Trying to look beautiful forever is not my idea of being happy. I read this book on strong recommendations from a friend. 

I read Powder Room while on a road trip. Yes, one shouldn't read in a moving car, but I was too intrigued to wait for 6 hours until I reached my destination.

You've seen Bhandarkar's Fashion and loved it? Well, there is a lot more to the thriving industry then just the dark side. Being an insider, Shefalee has revealed a lot more than any random book/documentary might. 

Shefalee's style of writing is impeccable. Of course, wasn't expecting any less from her! What I loved about Powder Room was that it's not a 'story' per se, but it is. There are a series of incidents and interviews mentioned, with anecdotes from her own experiences, but all put together, they progress to creating a tight knit script. 

I am really tempted to mention some spoilers here, but I will hold back. Divided in 10 chapters over 332 pages, in hard cover, I must mention, I totally loved the cover. The introduction in the beginning of the book allows a smooth progress for readers like me, who have no link whatsoever with the industry, into the chapters that follow it. 

We all know, somewhere at the back of our heads, quite a lot about international brands. But, Powder Room talks about how did they come to India, who do they survive upon (their main clientèle) and how do they compete amongst themselves. From talking about how well known designers have risen, some fallen and some further risen, to talking about middle class girls dreaming to be the next supermodel, Powder Room is exhaustive. Shefalee hasn't concentrated on the big designers and their rich clients only, she has also spoken to and written about tailors, sales people at luxury brand stores and regular people. 

At places, specially in the second chapter where she talks about the rich clientèle from Ludhiana and their obsession with everything branded, we can also note a hint of her brilliant sense of humour. Though I find non-fiction a bit boring, Powder Room kept me glued! I suggest you have a read, I am sure you won't be disappointed!

My rating ****/5

[This review is for Random House IndiaThe opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

1 comment:

  1. Hey i mentioned your blog (this particular review in a post) in our blog
    Do have a look :)


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