Wednesday, May 2, 2007

But What Does It Mean?

Note: This story began on April 25.

Here’s one regret: during my week in Mumbai, I did not try the street food. I did stop once before a chaat walla as he prepared pani puri for an impatient crowd. The sweet sharp scents of lime and tamarind held me for a few minutes, and then I drifted timidly away. If you have access to the New York Times’ archive, both Somini Sengupta and Julia Moskin have written temptingly about these little snacks.

For a working lunch, Sandy and Cliff often order north Indian food for delivery (Caravanserai
 Golden Orchid, Waterfield Road, Bandra, phone: 26411802). I can say with conviction that I would gladly taste any of these again: tandoori chicken, pomfret koliwada, mutton biryani, or palak paneer.

At one such meal, I paged through a lustrous stack of fashion magazines, searching for something like enlightenment. Julie, Sandy, and Cliff are all manifestly beautiful people, so maybe I was feeling a bit insecure. After all, I’d been watching them try on clothes for days, samples that they’d be taking to Paris to show.

In looking at these samples, I recognized the impoverishment of my critical vocabulary. Nothing in my closet has flared sleeves or three-button cuffs. I might be able to comprehend a cashmere T-shirt, but these other details were communicating in a foreign language. As Cliff remarked, their stuff is a little more “directional.” In its intimations of the future, directional implies that the clothes will look even more fashionable months from now.

From my readings, I contracted the impression that designers speak cryptically as a rule. In the luxury issue of GQ Style, for instance, Rick Owens explains that what he does is “try not to make people look like fools.”

An admirable goal, for certain, but there’s obviously more to it than that. Otherwise, how does he explain the fall 2007 season’s fuzzy slippers?

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