Fox Traveler has a brand new show. It’s the innovatively titled Style and the City. With the catch-phrase “Every day is a fashion statement. And every city is our runway.” So what do you get in this show? Four leggy women, which includes one horsey main character, writing and talking about their fashion adventures? No, the only connection with Sex and The City is the name. This show has three designers – Rocky S, Rina Dhaka and Ashish Soni – being given a fashion challenge by a celebrity. A fashion challenge which they will meet by visiting various cities in India to draw inspiration from the handicrafts and materials in that city for their fashion creation. So you get a dash of glamour, some fashion advice, get a looksie at a celebrity, and then get a little bit of a dekko at a city. What could possibly go wrong?
Thankfully for this show, not much.
The episodes are hosted by Shibani Dandekar who is extremely attractive and unlike the women in Four Floozies on Fox a.k.a. Life Mein Ek Baar, is also bright and able to string a coherent sentence together. 10 on 10 to Fox for getting it right this time. And the thing going for her is that she isn’t poker-thin and waif-like. She looks like a normally shaped non-bulimic Indian woman.
The first episode I saw featured Priya Sachdev as the celebrity. And Rina Dhaka as the fashion designer who was going to take up the challenge. It was an ode to the equine. I thought any second the duo would whinny, toss their bouffants and teased hair in the wind and gallop off into the sunset. So once I managed to stop staring at Priya Sachdev’s Jagger-esque lips, I managed to pay attention to her demand. It was a “three word” brief as Dandekar said – Boho-chic, midriff-baring, high-collar. Okay, so she’s got her English a little confused, but when you’re that attractive, who cares about a phrase here and a word there.
Then out was whipped a big red Style and the City treasure trunk, which Dhaka said she would take to whichever city they visited for inspiration, to carry back whatever they found. Which is quite an obvious nod to the concept of trunk shows. And a cute touch. Especially the scene in the second episode where Shibani is almost hidden behind the red trunk, while riding through Lucknow on a horse carriage.
In the first episode, they visited Pushkar. So you got little tid-bits about travelling in Pushkar. And sightseeing tips. And then we came to Kumar’s inspiration - the kalbeliya folk dancers and their outfits. Which would have been all fine and dandy and very salt-of-the earth, if Dhaka was not shown just walking into the group of dancers and feeling the texture of their costumes without even a by-your-leave to them. I understand the show must have paid them to dance and the whole thing is staged but at least pretend they’re human and not dancing mannequins. Smile at them, compliment their dancing, anything, just acknowledge them.
The second episode had Dhaka as the designer again. And this time her celebrity client was Ira Trivedi, erstwhile beauty queen, present day author. After a bout of air kissing – very stilted, Trivedi made her demand for an outfit and helped me take forward the equestrian theme of this article. She wanted something for a polo match. And the key words to describe the dress were written out on screen. She wanted a summAry dress. Not summery. Aww, the poor dears. Sometimes you can't rely on Spellcheck.
In this episode, they went to SEWA in Lucknow, which was quite a nice inclusion. You got a little trivia about SEWA. And the usual walkthrough of Lucknow markets. Then everything was piled into the trunk and brought back to Delhi for the fashion “creation”. Which was a little misshapen around the waist and bunched up – which is why you should take that 30 minutes before shooting and pin and pleat any excess fabric, before rolling camera. What struck me though was the sequence when Dhaka was in her darzi/ tailoring unit. Her understanding of embroidery and assimilation is obvious and only expected, and underlined by her praising herself. That is fine, because after all if she doesn’t use this show to promote herself, then what’s the point of being on it. But through the exchange with her tailor who was doing the stitching, not once did we see her tailor’s face or were told his name.
No place for the aam darzi or kalbeliya on this show. It’s a little like a fashionable Downton Abbey with poor spellings and Indian English. A dash more humanising of people featured in the show – since they were drawing inspiration from one and the other is the one putting the creation into shape – would have been nice. But then again, that’s just me. Maybe the viewers of Fox Traveler like things being whitewashed and prettified. Let’s not spoil the poor people by talking to them. After all, you never know with poverty. It may just be contagious.
Watch the show. It’s fun, pretty, doesn’t tax your brain at all and you get to see some lovely bits of India.
Style and the City airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 10 p.m. IST on Fox Traveller.