Awesome shopping streets in South East Asia

Shopping (and window shopping) is one of my favourite things to do when I travel to a new city or country. It gives me a feel of the local fashion, an opportunity to discover ideas for new looks and a sense of how the people there like to dress.

I particularly enjoy walking through shopping streets because they’re so much more fun than malls. You get to the see the neighbourhood, the city’s architecture and of course, street life. In this two-part series, I’m listing my favourite shopping streets. The first part covers my favourite shopping streets in Asia.

Hang Gai, Hanoi (Vietnam)

Hanoi’s Hang Gai has everything a fashionista would want: cute boutiques, chic souvenir stores, French-style cafes, local art stores and even a tshirt-only store. I shopped all of these on Hang Gai and in the neighbourhood, stepping into side streets to discover embroidery stores, handcrafted goods and lots of silk! My top buys: A tongue-in-cheek Hanoi tshirt from Ginkgo (local fashion brand) and hand-embroidered pouches. Browsing at local boutiques in Hang Gai and Hang Trong for clothes and accessories is highly recommended! You may just stumble across some unique finds.

Hanoi Vietnam street shopping

Hanoi Vietnam street shopping

Hanoi Vietnam street shopping

Orchard Road, Singapore

Orchard Street is anyone’s dream destination to shop in Singapore, and the craziness begins when you step off the MRT. I bought two pairs of shoes right at the station even before I hit the shopping street above. 😛 The good news is that Orchard Street has a range of malls to suit different shopping budgets. The bad news is, you want to go everywhere. After a lot of disappointments at Orchard Street stores (international brands were cheaper in India and H&M was a disaster), I finally discovered a store at 313 Somerset called Valleygirl that had trendy dresses and tops at moderate prices.

Singapore Orchard Road shopping

Singapore Orchard Road shopping

Singapore Orchard Road shopping

Singapore Orchard Road shopping

Bugis Street, Singapore

Yep, two places in Singapore! Bugis Street is a delight if you want to hog while you shop! I shopped there late evening, and bagged cool bargains on tops, lingerie, nightwear and souvenirs. Then we had a very Singaporean snack right on the street- the icecream sandwich. The restaurants on Bugis Street serve good local fare as well. I didn’t venture deep inside the market, which is where the best deals are to be found, but the street-facing and ground floor shops have some great deals!

Bugis street Singapore shopping

Bugis street Singapore shopping

Bugis street Singapore shopping

Bugis street Singapore shopping

 

5 men’s summer fashion tips for newbies

This blog post is dedicated to all men who hesitate to experiment with their look (you all know who you are!). These mini-lessons will show you the way to an updated look for the season without stepping too far away from your comfort zone.

Ladies, if you know such hesitant, reluctant and boring men (and I’m sure you do!), use this guide as an inspirational piece to experiment on the men in your life, or push them to try out something new. 🙂

PS: Don’t miss the newbie tips, specially written for very reluctant men.

Think beyond checks: Printed shirt

So, printed shirts have been around for a couple of seasons already. But of course you’ve been sticking to solids and checks, right? You know something? Prints are not bad. Chosen carefully, the right prints for your personality and body type will make a strong statement about you.

Newbie tip: Florals freaking you out? Opt for “safer” prints like little dots and squares, or tiny abstract patterns. Just make sure the prints aren’t too big, too colourful or too eye-catching.

Shirt from 16stitches.com

16 stitches printed shirt

Get summer-ready: Linens

Linen blazers are a no-brainer for summer. They can look formal, and can be dressed up for an outdoors wedding or dressed down for a summer soiree.

Newbie tip: Choose a light, neutral shade that will go with almost all your shirts- such as off-white or light beige.

Look from Arrow

Arrow beige linen blazer

50 shades and more: Coloured shoes

Too many men have only black and tan shoes in their wardrobe. It’s time to add some colour—greens, beiges, blues… they’re all there!

Newbie tip: Start with a colour that’s already in your wardrobe, such as blue. Select a pair of shoes that’s similar or goes well with the chosen colour…. And you’re set.

Shoes from Mochi

Mochi green loafer shoes

Be playful: Round sunglasses

Aviators are a classic statement, but everyone’s wearing them all the time. If you’ve got the pizzazz, you can carry these off. And no, it won’t make you look girly. But it might just make you look like the cute teen you were once. 🙂

Newbie tip: Play safe with a round-ish frame with neutral colour rims.

Sunglasses from Fastrack

Fastrack red round sunglasses

Go retro: Bow tie

Maybe it’s to do with the Downton Abbey craze (of course men love the show too). Bow ties are making a comeback. And not just with tuxedoes or black tie events. The 21st century bow ties are quirky, cheeky and easy to wear. It’s perfectly alright to wear the “readymade” ones.

Newbie tip: To start with, choose a no-frills bow tie without patterns or prints. Wear your bow tie with a light-coloured solid shirt (such as white or baby blue), and stick to a similar colour scheme.

Bow tie from The Bro Code

The Bro Code Blue Bow Tie

Bollywood Fashion : Why Sonakshi Sinha is a fashion flop in OUATIMD, and Akshay Kumar isn’t

Bollywood Fashion : Why Sonakshi Sinha is a fashion flop in OUATIMD, and Akshay Kumar isn’t

I saw Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara (OUATIMD) over the weekend, and I wasn’t impressed by the movie, and definitely not by the fashion. Sonakshi Sinha’s costumes, designed / styled by Manish Malhotra were a complete let-down. Here’s why:
Sonakshi was not wearing the right fits

OUATIMD- Sonakshi Sinha

Sonakshi Sinha’s wardrobe disaster in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara is primarily because of the ill-fitting outfits that she’s wearing. Yes, she’s a plus-sized actor, but that doesn’t excuse the tailoring. The knee-length kurtas were too tight for her– unsightly bulge jutted out at the sleeves and the back.

Sonakshi’s outfits were wrong for her body type
The camera adds 10 pounds and the silver screen another 10, I’d say. While the costume design team had to stick to the styles and trends of the era, Sonakshi looked bloated and way too plump next to the fit Akshay Kumar and skinny Imran Khan. Tweaking the outfits to better suit her body shape would have helped. Like the kurtas could be a bit looser on the chest and hips, and the necklines should have been higher.

The era was all wrong

OUATIMD- Sonakshi Sinha
Contrast dupattas are a fairly recent phenomenon, so Sonakshi shouldn’t have been wearing them in the movie. They weren’t around in the 1970s and 80s. I remember my mom and aunts wearing dupattas that were the same colour as their kurta and salwar. And the little prints on her kurtas can be found in any bazaar, department store or ethnic brand store in India today!

The costumes didn’t match the character
Sonakshi plays a naive aspiring actor from small-town Kashmir, and a girl with such a background would NOT be wearing such low necklies or plunging backs. And the dupatta would actually cover up her chest, not play peek a boo.

Sonakshi’s makeup could be so much better
Blush, eye shadow, liner and lipstick, all put together in a single look made me feel the makeup artist could have done a far better job. Sonakshi looked lovely in the scenes in which there was no hint of lipstick or rouge. And oh, the silver nail polish. Really?
Is the off-screen Sonakshi more fashionable?

OUATIMD-Sonakshi-Sinha
BTW, Sonakshi looked lovely in some of the events promoting the film, much more real and relaxed, and carrying similar looks but looking much more fashionable and comfortable. The fits seemed right this time. What say?

A word on Akshay Kumar’s costumes

Akshay Kumar looked pretty much the gangster comfortable in his own skin. While I thought Akshay’s acting was over-the-top, his look was very well styled by Kunal Rawal.

OUATIMD-Akshay Kumar

Kunal dressed Akshay Kumar in solid and striped shirts in colours like like deep wine, burgundy, and steel grey teamed with muted jackets in greys, navy and black. Unmissable accessories defined the man and his persona– a mix of classy (Cartier watch), trendy (over-sized dark sunglasses) and wanting to show who’s boss (shiny and pointy shoes). Slick and stylish!

BTW, another great piece of movie styling by Kunal Rawal is Aisha (click here to read about the Aisha costumes).

What did you think of the costumes in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobara?

Bollywood Fashion: Sonam Kapoor does a double desi, which Indian look should you wear?

Bollywood Fashion: Sonam Kapoor does a double desi, which Indian look should you wear?

Sonam Kapoor- the fashionista. Sonam Kapoor- the willingly typecast actor? In both her new releases (Raanjhanaa and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag), the young actor is seen in similar desi girl styles, although from different eras. Even so, it would be tough to pinpoint an outfit from a specific movie.

Sonam Kapoor in Bhaag-Milkha-Bhaag

Sonam Kapoor is the typical small-town girl in the movies- demure and tongue-tied in the 1950s-based Bhaag Milkha Bhaag; and educated and confident in the present day Raanjhanaa.

Here’s my take on Sonam’s looks from both the movies.

Sonam Kapoor as Zoya in Raanjhanaa

Costume Design: Payal Saluja

Sonam Kapoor in Raanjhanaa

In this movie set in Varanasi and Delhi, Sonam Kapoor starts off as a pretty school girl (Zoya) who evolves into a shrewd college graduate with a political inclination.

Sonam’s clothes in Raanjhanaa feature deep Indian earthy colours that blend well into Varanasi’s crowded markets. She’s mostly wearing cotton kurtas with contemporary prints, that include paisleys and geometric Indian designs. These prints are quite commonly spotted in Indian stores, and are perfect for the girl-next-door that Sonam plays.

The kurtas have a border with a hint of embellishment or detailing (like gold thread work), and her outfit is completed with a contrasting dupatta. Sonam’s accessories are mostly jhumkas of various colours, shapes and sizes, carefully paired with her ensembles. As a look, Zoya’s style is easy to achieve and imitate if you’ve got the right mix of kurtas (available everywhere) and jhumkas (those too).

Sonam Kapoor in Raanjhanaa

BTW, I’ve noticed recently that most actors playing young women from small-town India are spotted in colourful kurtas and jhumkas (example: Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu). Are there no other accessories available to these girls?

Sonam Kapoor as Biro in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Costume Design: Dolly Ahluwalia

In Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Sonam Kapoor’s Biro is a typical 1950s girl. Living in not-so-dandy conditions near the railway tracks, she steps out to fill water from the community tap every morning. Her Punjabi attire is a super-short kurta, and, surprise surprise(!) a patiala salwar. And there’s a contrast dupatta again, with her red chunnari playing a somewhat significant role in Milkha Singh’s life and memories.

Sonam Kapoor in Bhaag-Milkha-Bhaag

I’m not sure if this is what young Punjabi women wore in the Fifties, but if they did I hope they know the short kurta-patiala combo wasn’t really flattering. The extra wide patiala salwars and voluminous gathers that Sonam wore aren’t exactly meant for well-built Punjabi women. But the mismatched print combinations and floral prints were just right– portraying Sonam as a lower middle class girl who has little time or inclination to do matchy-matchy to make it in time for the tap water. Her rustic appearance is kinda rustic with unstyled hair and plain kada and balis (so no makeup, and almost no accessories).

Sonam Kapoor in Bhaag-Milkha-Bhaag

It won’t be a good idea to try aping Sonam Kapoor’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag look, as you would most likely come across as a behenji in 21st century India. Milkha Singh’s legend may live on, but the fashions from his era most certainly don’t!

Bollywood Fashion: Get Deepika Padukone’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani looks in just one step

Bollywood Fashion: Get Deepika Padukone’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani looks in just one step

Deepika Padukone can wear almost anything and look pretty in it. In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani her character Naina wears a whole variety of clothes and looks great in all of them. Unfortunately,  Deepika’s looks in the movie are as stereotyped and predictable as the storyline, sometimes inappropriate and sometimes just bizarre. I’m not too impressed with costume designer Manish Malhotra’s styling for this movie.

Either way, if you want to adopt Deepika Padukone’s looks, here’s a simple one-step guide to the three key looks she dons in the movie.

Geeky student

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Deepika Padukone

The plain Jane Deepika wears squarish geeky glasses that indicate her studiousness, with simple printed dresses covered up with a light jacket or cardigan. Her straight hair is pulled back into a ponytail or held back with a hair band. BTW, on cold nights, while camping in the Himachal outdoors, Deepika looks surprisingly cozy in knee length dresses!

One step look: Dark rimmed glasses.

Transformation time

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Deepika Padukone Balam Pichkari

Deepika Padukone’s transformation from geeky girl to sexy lass was completed in the most predictable way– by getting drunk, swapping the spectacles for contact lenses, and ditching the comfortable outfits for tiny shorts and prancing around during Holi (when most Indian women want to stay indoors).

One step look: Hot shot pants

Head-turning hottie
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Deepika Padukone Ranbir Kapoor

Once the transformation was complete, we didn’t get to see much of Deepika until a grand wedding in Udaipur. At the wedding, Deepika is pretty much the centre of attention with tiny blouses and low waist lehengas. With her low neck kurtas that are barely concealed by a dupatta, Naina is ultra feminine and desi sexy.

One step look: Midriff-baring lehenga or tight kurta.

Which Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani look do you want to try?

Chic Holiday Guide: Top 12 Stylish Summer Vacation Essentials

Chic Holiday Guide: Top 12 Stylish Summer Vacation Essentials

Now that you know how you should be packing for your summer holiday, here is my list of holiday essentials- things you must carry for your vacation– from clothes to accessories. You will need a linen shirt to keep you cool, stylish sneakers to keep you on your feet all day and a bag large enough to hold your travel docs, among other things. For your swimwear needs, check out Speaking Chic’s recommended places to buy your bikinis and swimsuits.

So get packing, folks. It’s time for the holidays! 🙂

PS– You can buy some of the products featured here by clicking on the picture. The ones available online are marked with an asterisk (*).

Chic Holiday Guide (Part 1): 15 simple packing tips for a stylish vacation

Chic Holiday Guide (Part 1): 15 simple packing tips for a stylish vacation

If you’re packing for a vacation now, you’re probably confused and your room is a mess. What should you take and what should you leave behind? While I’m not the perfect packer, I’ve put together a list of tips to make the most of your space (and weight!) restrictions. Some of these tips I’ve picked up from reading travel blogs and websites, but most of them are my own. Let me know what you think!

Packing tips for holiday

(Picture courtesy: Arrow)

  1. Make light tops and tees the building blocks of your vacay wardrobe and try to plan the rest of your things around them.
  2. Try sticking to solids, light prints or tops with light detailing.
  3. Prints can be tricky to style. So if you’re carrying any, make sure you have the right pants / jacket or top to pair with the print.
  4. Skip the jeans, pack coloured trousers instead (or very light denim). They weigh less, occupy less space and are way more stylish.
  5. Make sure your trousers are matched with your tops before you pack. You don’t want to look mismatched, even if you’re on holiday!
  6. Linens are great as tops, shirts and pants!
  7. And so are maxi dresses.
  8. Light cotton and linen fabrics are best for all-day wear. Keep the synthetics at home.
  9. For footwear, you will need sneakers if you will be walking a lot, and comfy loafers that go with everything. Open flat sandals are great too.
  10. If you plan to party, carry an LBD or black sequinned/ embellished top.
  11. There should always be scope for interchanging looks and garments in case something gets soiled or damp. So make sure you carry a pair of neutral pants and a white or beige top.
  12. If you’re going to a shopping destination, travel light. You can always shop there, and plan your itinerary accordingly.
  13. The only accessories you need are a spacious bag, couple of cuffs and tiny studs. And a watch so you don’t miss your flight.
  14. I always carry a couple of tops or pants that I need to discard. So I wear them out and get rid of them while travelling.  This way, I have space for my shopping, and a reason to shop! 🙂
  15. No makeup please! Just a light compact powder, lip colour and mascara will do. Eye liner, if you must.
  16. Don’t miss the the sunblock and moisturiser. You will always need them.

Coming Soon: Chic Holiday Guide (Part 2): The old and new vacation essentials

Chic News: It’s almost official, H&M is coming to India (Bonus: Fun facts about the brand)

Chic News: It’s almost official, H&M is coming to India (Bonus: Fun facts about the brand)

Ladies, in the midst of the rising summer temperatures and terrifying “market conditions”, there is a ray of hope in the form of good old-fashioned shopping news. H&M is on its way to India!

H&M Divided images

(From H&M’s Spring Summer 2013 campaign)

This time the company means business, with Fredrik Olsson (head of expansion) at  Hennes & Mauritz stating that they are looking to open 50 stores in India. That’s right– FIFTY!

Olsson also said the had already approached the Indian government for the initial investment of $130 million. Given how super quickly our bureaucracy works (ahem!), the first store could take a while. But hey, who’s complaining as long as H&M is really coming! I’m hoping the prices and styles are as great as they are globally, especially in Asia.

While the news sinks in, here are some facts you need to know about H&M:

  • H&M is a fast fashion brand (like Zara), with focus on trends, quality and great prices (of course!). They sell to both men and women.
  • H&M has over 2800 stores worldwide across 49 countries. (They recently opened their first store in Chile.)
  • H&M often collaborates with style icons for limited edition lines and collections. They’ve worked with everyone from David Beckham to Beyonce to Versace to Karl Lagerfeld.
  • Helen Hunt wore an H&M gown to the Oscars this year, shocking fashionistas, bloggers, critics and everyone else.
  • And oh, H&M debuted at Paris Fashion Week in February. Yet another shock as a fast fashion brand presented their collection in the company of luxury houses.

H&M Paris Fashion Show

Chic Workshop: Ten things I learnt at Vogue School of Style

Chic Workshop: Ten things I learnt at Vogue School of Style

I was lucky enough to attend the Vogue School of Style last evening, hosted by Priyanka Khanna, Priyanka Kapadia and Parizaad Khan. The three ladies shared fashion and beauty dos and don’ts with plenty of examples, and some neat tips and tricks. While I took lots of notes, here are my top ten lessons from the workshop.

Three New Words
Cost to Wear Ratio: Price of a piece divided by the number of times you wear it or are likely to wear it. Use this to know whether buying those hot pink pants will be a worthwhile purchase.
Hero Piece: The great piece you love that should be the focus of your ensemble, like a necklace, big tote or printed blouse. The hero piece should  ideally be a trendy one, and everything else should highlight that accessory or garment.
CSR: Comfort, Style and Relevance.  That’s the formula for putting together a work look.

image

Three Trends
Asian influences: These could be prints or accessories like obi belts or simple touches like a Chinese collar or kimono tops.
Green: It’s all about green this season. Pair light mint with a darker shade of mint, it will work!
Safari: Wear linen, soft cotton and neutral separates with lots of pockets for a utilitarian look.

Three Hot Fashion Tips
Shop smart. Make at least three outfits in your head before you buy a piece.
Have fun with staid corporate wear by playing with colours. Use pop shades and mix and match separates like pants, blouses and jackets, while keeping the look very formal.
Give up black for the weekend. Wear prints to spread the cheer!

image

Great Beauty Tip
A combination of matt and highlighted skin is in right now. So don’t powder all over your face, and let your natural glow shine through.

Chic 2012: Best fashion ads of the year

Chic 2012: Best fashion ads of the year

Fashion ecommerce sites ruled the fashion ad space in 2012. And they caught attention with the decades-old funda- Sex sells!

Myntra-Lisa Haydon-a

Myntra’s Hottest December Sale promo had gorgeous Lisa Haydon doing a striptease on primetime television. I’m sure I’m not the only one who initially mistook it for a Fastrack commercial.

The BeStylish promo was about sexy shoes and seduction. Enough to excite shoe lovers and then some!

And Tanishq brought in a refreshing change to boiler-plate jewellery advertising with their Mia commercials. Go-getter office girls dealing with real problems like parking space and not-so-good appraisals.

Special Mention: Fashion videos

Anita Dongre’s Jaipur Bride was beautifully shot and made every woman want to be an Indian bride.

Fastrack’s Like Bunnies We Multiply was funny, irreverent and unconventional. Just like the brand!

Which fashion commercial / video did you enjoy this year?

This is the first in a series of posts rounding up the Indian fashion scene in 2012.