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How my Mother Influences my Fashion & Style

Today is my mother’s birthday — and this blog (a surprise for her), is a small way to celebrate the woman who has raised me, and continues to be one of my biggest influences.

Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by beautiful aesthetics — inherited and curated by mama. And these aesthetics are reflected in the way she dresses — and the clothes that she wears and designs. My mother is a style chameleon (as evidenced by her ‘looks’ through the years — and style comes to her, like flight to a bird — instinctively and with joy. The love of clothes, and textiles — the acquisition and creation them, and an appreciation for their communicative potential, has of late been a shared bond for the two of us. As I’ve left home — fashion is something akin to a hobby, the presentation of a new garment (designed or thrifted) to one another is a way to show love, a source of endless discussion, excitement, and gratification.

Fashion for my mother is not about brands, and when I say ‘curated’ — I don’t mean it in the sense of careful and ‘matching’ looks — it’s about finding treasures. Displaying heritage with an heirloom shawl, jewellery from a small boutique discovered on off-beat travels, it’s about being interesting, layering textiles from different parts of the world. Mama has mastered the art of looking ‘put-together’ without looking curated — of blending our heritage with contemporary inspirations.

Over the years I have delved into her archive like a miner prospecting for gold — pilfering handbags or jewellery — the occasional shirt or dress disappearing from her wardrobe, to take on a second life in mine. In recent years, as my style has matured, the flow of goods occasionally moves in the opposite direction, and she will try on some of my clothes — revelling in the extended wardrobe capacity that we have cultivated by joining forces.

We don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything though — mama is much more experimental with prints, while much to her bemusement — I stick to palette neutrals. Then there is the fact that for her outfit planning starts weeks, even months in advance of an occasion — narrowing down options, followed by a slow layering of shoes bags, accessories, and finally a test run, at least a week in advance. No last minute panic for her — or a desperate rifling through cupboards mere hours in advance of an event that has been in the diary for months.

My mother’s love for fashion, her eye for detail, her ability to recognise chic, to model it herself is also inherited — her own mother, a style icon in her own right — was always elegant, and ‘put together’ and everyone just knew who she was when she walked into a room.

photograph of Mama's parents -- Biban and Ashok

One of the most useful lessons she has taught me (and there are many) is how important your style and fashion choices are in communicating who you are to the world. And yet however or whatever you choose to wear, she always says, never forget that it is you who wears the clothes — and that will always shine through, through any fashion — timeless or trend. It is a lesson passed down to me from my mother, and to her by her mother — a family heirloom of sorts. And this is, my inheritance, and one of her legacies.

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