Being a Conservationist at a Spa & Salon 

My last visit was a little different. Since I was there for a couple of hours, with just one stylist, he had time to figure out his responses. He asked me to use various products, till I finally lost it and said “A. I don’t like chemicals on my hair, and stopping the usage of such products finally helped it. B. I don’t like chemical products, since they aren’t really good for the environment as well. So if you guys switched to better alternatives, it might be good for everyone.”

I hate salons and spas. While I love the experience of being pampered, it is often interspersed by product plugs and annoying comments about how whatever the product I’m using at the moment isn’t good for me (even if these were products suggested by the same person before they got better commissions from another brand).

However, since I’ve switched to organic brands, these conversations are more awkward. Most often, the stylist goes quiet since they don’t want to comment on the organic part of it, or how they are bad for you.

They do try to still push brands on you, most of them being some version of heat protectors, anti-frizz serums etc. Depending on my mood, I’m polite, sarcastic or plain mute.

The last time, I was getting a little annoyed and decided to confuse the guy. I told him I’m a conservationist, and I try not to use chemical products as much as possible (which is true, though that didn’t start from an eco-perspective!).

If there’s one entity that’s not yet made the attempt to switch to being eco-friendly, that’s salons and spas here. They use copious amount of water to maintain hygienic conditions, or even just wash off the chemicals off the hair and body.

Well, nothing much can be done about that (yet) from individuals. A while ago, there was a mass movement about products being tested on animals, and a lot of customers would ask if the products being used were animal-tested. Some awareness, some impact. We’ve not yet got to a stage where people are asking if the products being used are environment-friendly.  They aren’t talking about alternatives to plastics.

So having one person sitting there talking about how much water you are using to wash one’s hair makes them extremely uncomfortable. This is not a conversation they want to start yet, since that means involving more structural changes (eco-shower heads, better recycling policies, LED lighting, washing policies, hygiene maintenance).

Now to be honest, I’ve never thought much about conservation in the beauty industry. I do know that the water being used here needs to be treated before it enters the sewage system. But no clue if Indian rules enforce this. There’s a tough line to maintain between hygiene and being eco-friendly, and one reason the luxurious places use fresh products – so we know that it is clean.

But for me, I’ve found my way to shut up the annoying sales person the next I want a head massage in peace.

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Things to remember…

When you are shooting a fashion show…

The basics of photography can be found anywhere… the lenses to carry, the camera, the memory cards and all that. But there are other things that one forgets, or ignores.

Here’s the list I came up with after shooting my first fashion show.

1. Comfortable shoes:
It is really easy to want to wear fancy shoes (particularly if you are a woman) to a fashion gig. There’ll be all those gorgeous women on stage, and really dressed up women offstage. But remember how your feet hurt after a night of dancing? Triple that and then put some nails under it – that’s the situation if you wear your dancing shoes to a fashion shoot.
Much of your time will be spent hanging around the edges… if the setup is bad and the press doesn’t have a comfortable place to shoot from, you’ll have to improvise and end up crouching or standing on a weird chair somewhere. If you are short like me, the temptation to wear heels is quite high… some way to get height. Invest in decent boots with heels. Or sneakers that have a thick sole.

2. A good backpack:
Why? Because you’ll want to carry at least two lenses. Some people also want to carry at least two cameras, and I haven’t exactly got to that stage. And then there is the flash, which will remain in your backpack if the lighting is really good. And then you’ve your wallet, knickknacks, cards and other things that you would want to be easily accessible. A lot of camera bags do not have the option for anything else. You might want to have a sling bag on the side. Or find a backpack with a little pouch where you can dump all the extras. And something that is durable and comfortable – durable, because

you would be dumping it anywhere while shooting… so it better be padded and strong. Comfortable – if the place isn’t safe, it is going to remain on your back and be heavy.
None of the girly bags for this one either. That handbag you got last week might be a bargain and perfect to take to the fashion show – if you weren’t lugging around a 2 kg camera with it.

3. Water Bottle:
Keep liquidated. Drink lots of water. You don’t realise while you are shooting but the minute you sit down, the body starts screaming in pain

4. The Open Bar:I don’t know if this is a norm for fashion shows (but I’m guessing it should be, given some other events I’ve attended) but there tends to be an open bar. And it is really tempting to glug down all that free booze… but remember, you need to be able to stand and in various positions and shoot for the next few hours. And focus. And carry heavy equipment. And not knock other people out with your beer breath. Save the bar for later. Seriously.

5. Lenses:
Okay, I have to say this… I’m not sure if I’m qualified enough to say this but still… the first day I carried a 70-200 lens. I figured that was the best because I could get those close-ups and the initial shots. Luckily, I also dumped by 18-200 in my bag. The head of the ramp was a step away from where we stood, which meant I could barely even get the face from my 70-200. Most of the photography magazines I read advised me to carry those long lenses for a fashion shoot. Word of advice – dump that wide angle in there too. You never know how the set up is going to be. Not to mention, carrying a 70-200 can be quite like weightlifting.

6. A little notepad and pen:
True, we are merely photographers and don’t need to take notes about the designers and their quotes and all that. But when you are submitting your photographs, you do need to know which designer did what designs. So better to keep a little notepad handy and note down the designers name, the last image number or least some comment about the design so you can recall what the photo is later. And yeah, the showstopper’s name too.

7. A healthy ego:
If you are a woman, and short like I am… yeah this would probably be a good thing, particularly for the first shoot. You are surrounded by women whose legs are almost as tall as you, and they have the perfect skin and perfect face and the hair and all that… and they have the most yummiest guys beside them. A healthy ego is really handy in this situation.

(Side Note: Considering I was sitting so close to the ramp and the excitement wore off after a while… I realised they are so much human. They have those yucky green veins on their legs too, they also suffer from the third-day-of-shaving-your-legs bristle, they have pimples, they have frizzy hair too. And scars. I don’t know if this happens with others but some models became my favorites really soon… they knew exactly how to pose, where to pose and how to look. They realised the ramp was short and stopped a step before, so we could actually get photos of their face instead of their nose hair. And how long to pause. Some of the celebrity showstoppers… they didn’t know what they were doing… the skipped down the ramp, twirled and were gone before we could even click the shutter. Gimme a tall model any day! I liked those models who had a small smile on their face, that just radiated confidence and walked like they owned the ramp. Instead of those others who had that ‘attitude’ look on their face but just came off… grim.

And yeah I’d never thought I’d say this… but being tall totally rocks! Those clothes simply wouldn’t look the same on a smaller frame! *drool*)

Happy Fashion!

Bangalore Fashion Week

Tall… Really tall women with miles of gorgeous hair, skin and make up. Legs that are almost as long as I am in my full height… gorgeous dresses and short skirts, paired with heels to showcase those long legs… that is pretty much my first impression of the fourth Bangalore Fashion Week.

Yes, I should’ve noticed other things… but it is a Fashion event for heaven’s sake. What else would you notice other than the perfect bodies, faces and dresses?

The names are still the same. Even someone like me who doesn’t follow fashion day to day knows these names… Achala Sachdev, Rahul Dev Shetty, Sridhar…

Which is why I felt like giggling when there was utter silence when Sachdev called for questions. It reminded me of ‘mock press conferences’ in college, when all the students would studiously stare at the floor till they said “well then let’s wrap it up.”

What would one ask them? How many models, designers, what kind? But those questions have been asked and done with. Photos are what this is all about…

Anyway, here’s looking forward to some awesome days of shooting.

Dressed for the Globe – WOW

Now the stunners…

I’d start with:

Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde:
I’ve no idea who she is. And then I found out that she’s the one in Tron. I’ve not seen that movie… but she definitely was a stunner at the Globe. Sheath dress… sparkly. Feels a little princess-y. You know… the ball gown types. But it suits her. And the sparkles seem to be in this season… as you’ll see further down this list. I actually would love to own this dress!

Design by: Marchesa


Amber Riley

Amber Riley:
Told you sparkles were in. And here is a woman who knows how to dress those curves. Being big isn’t a bad thing… you just need to know how to be dignified. Love the dress, love the belt and most of all – love the smile.

Design by: Oliver Tolentino

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson:
Is it just me who sees this trend? All the starlets showing off skin… and all the big stars wearing full length, demure gowns? Or maybe that’s not true… remember Halle Berry? Catherine Zeta Jones? (okay she was covered, even if in carpet)… Or the big ones have the better dresses? Oh never  mind… I just love this dress… very ‘spring’ types.
And I always though she had this made-for-sin body and face… like all the roles she plays… but she looks like cool, english maiden in this. Totally unlike Vicky of Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Designer: Elie Saab


Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock:
I should’ve listed some better people here and stuff… but the thing is a lot of magazines are comparing Scarlett’s dress to Bullock’s and they vote for the former. I don’t think they are similar at all… except for the colour. And if you do by that, there are so many more actresses who have the same colour. Pastels seems to be in this season. But I vote WOW for Bullock too! Note the trail in particular? Very spring… reminds me of this Boticelli painting.
She has horrible posture though!

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman:
The beige parade continues… but it looks classy. Maybe it is the woman, maybe it is the dress… You decide.
I’ve always been a fan of clean lines. I’ve no idea why this has been voted a ‘miss’ though. It ranks in my WOW list.

Designer: Prada

Dianna Argon:
More pastels… there is something to be said for class.

Designer: J.Mendel

Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria:
Now for some other extremes… black. The woman definitely knows how to put herself together.
Designer: Zac Posen

 

Sofia Vergara:
Okay… bold pink isn’t particularly a colour people dare to wear to such an event. It makes you really stand out (and can be a disaster as Julianne Moore found out). But with the right attitude and the body, it can look simply stunning.

Angelina Jolie
Might as well get this out of the way… I’ve been saving her for the last, mainly because I’m undecided if this should be ‘Oops’ or ‘WOW’. I guess it is all about her attitude… and the way she carries it off… puts this in the WOW. What do you think?
I guess it was the expression on her face that made me pause… she looks… pinched? Skinny? Is this the other extreme of pregnancy or is it the result of having too many kids running around the house?

Jane Krakowski

Jane Krakowski:
Talking about pregnany, Krakowski simply looks glowing. Perhaps it is the pregnancy or that vibrant colour and the blond hair, but it just radiates happiness.

Mandy Moore:
She hasn’t particularly been one of my favorite actresses but this dress – LOVE IT!

Helen Mirren:
Classy, simple, elegant, stylish. Age doesn’t really have to make you go frumpy.

 

Tina Fey: 
Simple and beautiful in an L’Wren Scott

 

Dressed for the Globe – Oops

Okay I’ve been meaning to do this for a while… and I warn you right now, if you do not like fashion, frills and silly-ness, go away from this post right now.

Golden Globes and Oscars are important… the winners of those awards gain another year in mileage, regardless of age and such things. Sales of  dvds also go up because there are always people who want to watch an ‘oscar-winning movie’. But the most fun part is the dresses. Who wore what and how did they look. The men… unless someone wear a Scottish kilt, an Indian kurta, a Japanese kimono, we don’t care. They all wear white and black and maybe a different tie.

But the women… So let’s start…

Bad Bad Badl:

Natalie Portman:
Nominated for Black Swan. Except, what was she thinking????? It looks like a silk towel held together by a rose. Huffington Post said this was one of the best dressed women but apart from the beautiful peach colour of the dress and that Tiffany chain around her neck, I really can’t see why! You’ve got that awesome figure (with all the ballet training and stuff)… show it off… or hide it properly!

Dress by: Viktor & Rolf

January Jones:
Now I’ve no idea who this woman is. And she’s wearing a Versace…  but I just found it a little bizzare for the Globe. It isn’t bad… it is really good actually… but it still comes in the ‘off’ list. And then the shoes… Black pumps… I do agree a lot of people won’t look waist-down, particularly in this case… but black shoes? Couldn’t she find like maybe… red, peace, golden, silver?

Jennifer Love Hewitt:
Is that a shell there? She wears a Romonoa Keveza (hope I got the spelling right) but it just looks so… off! Too many pleats… May it is just me… but I don’t think too many people can carry off that sheath look.

Sarah Hyland:
Are pastels the colour of the season? And I know you are young and have awesome… upper body but trying to squeeze that into something a size smaller than you just isn’t the way to showcase it. She got everything else right… if only someone had fixed the the rest of the dress, she’d have been a killer!

Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles:
Now, I love this girl. I love her movies… particularly “10 Things I Hate About You” (Heath Ledger <3) but this one… she looks like the wicked witch of the west… especially with her hands on the hips and all that. What is with the fringe, the trail? The dress is yet another Romonoa Keveza…

Catherine Zeta Jones

Catherine Zeta-Jones:
Yet another woman whom I considered to have an awesome sense of style. Is that a carpet she is wearing? Like what on earth is that even supposed to be? Why is she wearing that? Who let her out of the house like that?

Dress by: Monique Lhuillier and Van Cleef

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway:
I think she forgot to change her clothes after the movie Alice In Wonderland. Or she got so tired of being the White Queen and wearing white (and looking bleached) that she went the other way and picked out the blingiest thing possible. The dress isn’t bad… I like the colour. If I could get past the bling. The back rocks though. Total stunner! I’m actually a little divided on this. Vote for it. “Oops” or “WOW”?

Designer: Giorgio Armani Privé

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez:
This one should have been at the top. Like really really at the top. Here are things I’d like to tell Ms.Lopez – White is a colour for weddings, for the bride. Veils are worn on the head, or like… in a more artful way. Never tie up your  hair like that which makes you looks all… pinched. And when you do all that – do NOT paint your eyes to resemble the Oriental style. That look suits only those who are born with it. You are a beautiful woman! Celebrate those curves… but don’t draw a line so severely around it. The dress is gorgeous… it would just suit someone who didn’t have to look like they’ve to stop breathing to wear it.

Christina Aguilera:
Yet another disaster – bad hair day + trying to be a mermaid. I actually like this dress… if it had a high collar. And minus that lace and flesh combination. But right now… I feel like a South Indian actress – known for their voluptuousness –  is trying to fit into a dress made for Shilpa Shetty. Celebrating the curves is something these women need to learn – the right way. Look at Amber Riley!

Halle Berry - Whaaa!

Halle Berry:
I really want to weep… all my favorite women – dressed horribly! Did she forget some of the accessories at home? Like a wrap? Did something get caught in the limo door or something… I mean what possible excuse could be there for THIS?! Agreed, for a 44-year old woman, she does have an awesome body. Much praised. But it looks like she walked out of the gym or something. And this being a Nina Ricci dress!!!

Mila Kunis: Huh is alllllllllllllll I can say. Check out the image here. It is a Vera Wang – I had high hopes!

Julianne Moore: I will not post the picture, because it might just blind you! If you REALLY wanna see it, click here.

Heidi Klum

Heidi Klum:
Now I know you are supposed to be one of the most beautiful women in the world and all that… but turning up like you were at a beach party in California for the Golden Globe is taking arrogance a little too far. There are little girls out there who adore you, who  imitate you. Don’t teach them bad habits! Not that you don’t look gorgeous and all… and love the shoes. But the dress? Really? I was a little shocked to find it was a Marc Jacobs! I thought it was a sarong you picked up, tossed a belt around and voila! (or almost)

(Okay… this was a long post. Guess I’ll make the “WOW” another post… Will link it soon, if you that lazy :-))

Fashionista? Not Really.

Times of India has run out of fashion articles to write and now they are writing an article stating that “people don’t really notice what you are wearing, so you might as well cut down your shopping and make do with 5-6 outfits in like a month.”

The shopper in my shuddered and screamed. And then I decided to read the article and the screaming did not shut up.

Why? Because I believe that people do observe what you are wearing. They might not comment on it, or be too polite to comment on it, but they do notice. And this is not being a fashionista.

Yes, if you wear a plain white shirt that has been washed once too often, nobody will notice. They give you a casual glance and dismiss you at one shot. But everyone notices a smartly dressed person. Even if it is a plain white (not washed a million times) shirt with blue jeans. Even if it is black pants and a black formal shirt.

Perhaps it would work if you changed the combination a couple of times a week, but would you feel good about wearing the same thing day in and day out? You do not need a million clothes in your wardrobe… intelligent combinations is always good but “nobody notices” is such a lame excuse.

Additionally, it is all about individual style. What you wear and how you wear it sets you apart from the rest and makes you… worth remembering. I have a particular image in college… one I wasn’t even aware I was cultivating. It just my liking for cotton clothes that brought about the image. A friend of mine is always remembered as glamorous. And another as always shabby, regardless of how many clothes she had.

Clothes are also about confidence. I am not being Sonam Kapoor in Aisha here. But when you look good, you feel good. Messy hair, sloppy clothes and faded stuff does not make you feel super confident and at ease. It makes you feel like you are going somewhere.

Else, we might as well wear sweat pants to work.

Links and inspirations

I found this blog today. It is a fashion blog… but a little different. Called “A Dress A Day,” it is all about finding those vintage dresses in flea markets or whatever and make them into these really funky dress/tops etc. It is incredibly creative and a little inspiring.

Actually, inspiring enough to make me think of the pile of clothes in the bottom shelf at the back of my wardrobe… all those clothes I fell in love with and bought despite them being a tad too big for me and realised they didn’t quite hang right when I got home. I always do that. Buy it because I figure I’ll grow into it (duh!) or cuz I love it so much that I figure it’ll fit me right anyway. And then I hate it and don’t quite have the heart to throw it out and so it sticks in my wardrobe, till years later (and I’ve done this only once in my 25 years) I finally throw it out or give it away.

So this site is quite good an inspiration to make those subtle alterations except for two things:
a) I hate sewing/stitching and all those things. Sewing a broken button back on is pretty much all I want to do, which brings me to…
b) Sewing a broken button back on is pretty much all I can do I think. Now, there is a sewing machine in my house but I think my parents would have a heart attack if I sat down there to do anything at all.

But it must be fun to be so creative and stitch your own stuff. I am not saying that I am not creative… hey! I am. But clothes is a different ball game altogether. And if I did sew, it would save me so much agony of shopping.

*Side rant: Whose sizes do they make those beautiful clothes for anyway?*

Anyway, I spent most of the day looking at photos, when I wasn’t off writing about the world’s hungry population dropping. Yeah, apparently despite rising food prices, floods and droughts this year, there are fewer hungry people in the world for the first time in 15 years. I wonder if the mortality rate from natural disasters is also taken into account. I am not too convinced about the statistics. I mean 900-something million people are undernourished – that is it? But then if they UN says that, who am I to argue?

At least I am writing things that I care about… even if it is off a press release and a few random quotes I manage to get from experts. UN food reports, the food crisis, riots, the economy’s ups and downs… quite fascinating it is and makes me think a little. It perhaps also inures me to certain things. Like this article on Outlook I read recently by Arundhati Roy… she starts of talking about the CWG games and the human rights disaster it has been among other things (One line sticks out quite well – We are cleaning up the cities and herding poor people out of the nation’s capital to pay homage to games that were established for the British colonies). And then she moves on to talking about the Maoists, the Naxals and other violations that have happened in the country. The article went on for a while and I mostly skimmed through the end of it… but a friend of mine seemed to have a strong reaction to it while I was… unaffected. Maybe it is because I don’t think Roy is particularly fascinating. I love activists but when you have the tag, your message gets a little buried sometimes. But it isn’t that with Roy… the article was just too long. Or maybe it was simply because I’ve been reading tons of stuff about this forever. Maoists being killed, violations in North East India, army people shot to death, human rights violations in a million other ways.

It is a part of life and I do my part when I get a chance, and sometimes if it only a rant on my blog, perhaps it will make a difference.

Some believe in signing up for causes on Facebook. I did too… but then I figured what the hell was I doing? I mean what is the point of clicking “like” on ‘We are against female infanticide” on a social networking site? Who hears you anyway? Yes, we all hate it. But how does that make a difference unless you go out there and talk about it. Unless you step up when you have a chance… be it infanticide, or standing up against eve teasing.

It might seem quite innocent… a whistle, a guy copping a feel. But it isn’t.

Anyway, I discovered a whole new plethora of sites today… and I got some work done. And I still have stuff to do. Plus I’m inspired to really do something but I can’t figure out what. I haven’t painted in a while, nor have I written anything in longer. Photography has been the creative expression and that moves in bursts, usually.

Ideas?

Link of the day: As posted above 🙂