Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Running after a fashion

Christopher McDougall's Born to Run

People fall in love with Paris for different reasons, and with my background the first conclusion would be fashion. But since I have still to manipulate the very esoteric fashion sensibility of Paris – the nonchalant chic-ness that constantly makes you doubt the height of your heels or the redness of your lips – it’s a relationship in progress. No, what was love at first sight for me and Paris was running.

A recent tryst with the book Born to Run had made me vow to myself to keep fit irrelevant of my situation. That meant putting on sneakers in a city that so far I had only braved with heels. Added to which the anomalous Parisian ability to stay thin makes any overt effort to do so seem like trying too hard. So you can imagine my feeling of being judged as I made my way to the Tuileries, dressed in muddy shoes and an oversized t-shirt, through the Place de la Madeleine and windows of Chanel and Dior. Thankfully I found another runner as sacrilegious as I and followed him straight into the garden for a wonderful run. That’s the beauty of running, there’s an unspoken camaraderie that let’s you belong, even in Paris. Just when I thought my evening couldn’t get any better, I noticed an orchestra set up for a concert in the park. So I leaned my sweaty self against a tree to be lulled by the ethereal sounds of the music. Maybe because I live in a city that sees as any moving person as a nine-pin, this place that brought running and music together had won me over.

I have never attempted an association between running and fashion (which explains the shoes and t-shirt) although it seems that working-out has become fashionable. Hearing friend’s escapades when it comes to staying fit never ceases to amaze me. Power yoga, Pilates, zumba, cross training, spinning – it seems that every week there is a new miraculous way to keep fit. Running has slowly been creeping into this equation ever since the Mumbai marathon brought a spate of distance running activities. And with the marathon training season just beginning, I’ve been involved in a couple of conversations related to finding the right shoes. Not surprisingly most of these people have ended up with bright new shiny Nike Frees for that barefoot feel. You see, chronic running injuries had led to more and more people running barefoot, which really reached its climax with Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. I’ll leave you to read the book since it’s really something intriguing, but the gist of it is we’ve been doing it wrong all along with padded feet. So after years of giving us pillows to run on, Nike now tells us that we need to use the opposite. Bottom line, buy new shoes. How convenient.

What the designers have done is create a good looking, fashionable shoe, which by-the-way might revolutionize the way we run. The neon colour palette with the less bulky silhouette has made these shoes a trend. And that’s the real genius of this collection. In fact, all over Paris, people seemed to be wearing little black dresses with Nike shoes. And if Paris does it, then that’s gospel truth. I must add here that I have not submitted, I still run in my two-year-old Nike Air pair. Yes, the sloppiness that is me running shall not yet be maimed by a fashion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When I get older

An image from the book 'Advanced Style' by Ari Seth Cohen

If you asked me what would follow a word association of old age and fashion, my answer would be ‘sensible shoes’. After all, when your age adds up to less than a dozen, the geriatric generation must involve the ultimate fashion submission. Of course they are of consequence to us, they raised us. First we did everything they told us to do, then we did everything they told us not to do, and finally we are amused with what they think we should do. But fashion? The keepers of the handbook of wisdom surely have something better to do with their time.

It was Iris Apfel that actually got me thinking otherwise. In a talk with Tavi Gevinson (that child wonder who flouts all age barriers on wisdom), she and Apfel discussed the perils of being fashionable. Of course that’s a bit of a catch-22, because once you are Tavi or Iris Apfel, you are fashionable. Now what is commendable is that you can associate fashion with a 90-something-year-old woman, who had to be wheeled onto stage just to speak on the subject. But what hit home for me was one line that Apfel said, that we live in a youth-centric society. How terrible a thing it is to imagine that you become irrelevant past a certain age.

Thankfully Ari Seth Cohen’s blog, ‘Advanced Style’ is going about proving that wrong. Fascinated with the aging model since he was a young photographer, Cohen now goes around New York photographing what he calls ‘advanced style’. The blog is full of fascinatingly senior women in exaggerated outfits, and poses to match. It’s as if the women are daring the realms of our expectations. As for Cohen, you might see this as a means to differentiate himself in an increasingly crowded blog space, or even as somewhat of a fetish. It might be both, or none. But what he does for sure is make us aware of a moment of relevance that we might have breezed over in the cliché rush to get somewhere.

Admittedly, the first time you encounter this blog you might be amused. It’s like the other end of the spectrum of a five-year-old putting on her mother’s wardrobe. At this moment in my life, I cannot fathom that age, or their thoughts or purposes. But perhaps we’re not so far away from each other, fashionably speaking. My grandmother’s clip-on earrings, now a wardrobe staple for me, are testimony to that. Can I imagine her wearing a ludicrous hat? Unfortunately I only knew her till an age when all I expected of her was molded jello. But now, at this age, I’d like to think she had the same audacity as these women, to put one on. And frankly, I hope I do too.