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March 29, 2018

Project Runway

Text by Geeta Rao

For the jet set, travelling is no longer just about leaving for — or returning from — an exotic destination. Perfecting the ‘correct’ airport look is very important to make the right style statement on social media

There is a new fashion week that is accessible every week of the year, winter, summer, spring, Sundays and bank holidays included. It’s called AFW — or Airport Fashion Week.

If you belong to a certain generation you are likely to believe that 21st-century airports were built precisely to demonstrate to us that stars and beautiful people are never off-duty. Just like the Bollywood film titled Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014). At any point in the globe, across time zones, you will spot a star sporting that airport look — and the said look will be clicked, Instagrammed and searched for in seconds, often adding a few thousand new social media followers to the account that shares it.

The airport look has many elements. It is casual but never grungy because millennials who ace this look are always polished even if they are channelling the ’90s. It is gender-neutral. Key pieces are statement pieces. Statement bag. Statement sneakers. Statement headphones. Babies make a good statement too if they are your own and dressed in statement pieces.

The ‘look’ can spawn fashion looks or be widely copied. Insta girl and millennial star (87 million followers at last count) Kendall Jenner has widely followed travel looks. Here is one — orange tracksuit, oversized dark glasses, black sneakers and the glossiest ramp-ready ponytail since they invented hair serum. Basically you could dress in a detention-type outfit that harks back to Orange is the New Black and prison chic and it may get a million followers. Get why airport looks are important?

Ripped jeans for some mysterious reason are one of the significant elements of the airport look. It is so cold in airports and on aircrafts that I often wonder how the ripped-jeans wearers survive — some of those rips are in places that can get really cold. What about a security pat-down in ripped jeans? Of course an Insta star never has to face all of that.

Athleisure gets my vote because I was around when tracksuits came of age and it gives me a touch of nostalgia. Unlike the Juicy Couture days of old, you can mix and match your athletic separates with linen and silk to look casually tossed together but on point.

If one thing unites all and rises above every other style statement to scream ‘Star!’ it is dark glasses. Especially if worn in the middle of the night. Aviators and hugely oversized glasses send out positive signals besides hiding dark circles and puffy eyes. Don’t wear Oakley unless you want to be mistaken for a member of the cricket team.

Fabulous hair is part of the airport look because as we lesser mortals will attest, no one has a good hair day at the airport unless you are our dearest Bebo. (Ok, Kendall Jenner aces it each time too.)

Polished chic involves glowing skin — another flight impossibility for lesser mortals. You know the look that says I have a fresh glow because I had three sheet masks on my face in my private cabin while you were still in security queues. Take that, lesser mortal with open pores.

Fashion editors suggest carrying a long trench to glam up your outfit because it gives you stride and style but don’t wear a Burberry because we know what happened to Rahul Gandhi who wasn’t wearing their signature trench and isn’t even a millennial. Stick with an oversized pashmina.

Where did this airport look thing originate? If I were part of the ‘Ancient India invented everything’ brigade I would say if we invented airplanes 7,000 years ago, we must have invented the airport look too. If the age-old courtesans Vasantasena or Amrapali were boarding those old vimanas then they must have had some fashion rules. But since I don’t subscribe to that view I would put this current version firmly at the door of Twitter and Instagram.

Since airport looks are usually seen at entry and exit points I am convinced that a lot of looks are shot outside an airport with no follow- up on the flight. To stay relevant you must be seen as going somewhere. I read that Heathrow has an in-house photographer who has published a book on airport style with a fashion editor — though it did strike me that an airport photographer should be shooting absconding criminals and drug peddlers running away from the country. Or Vijay Mallya. Or Nirav Modi. There is a website that has an airport look style meter complete with scores of one to five planes for Bollywood stars photographed at airports. It is the modern stylometer.

But move over airports. Elon Musk has just launched a satellite into outer space with a mannequin who will be driving a Tesla around the sun for 10,000 years. So next up, timeless satellite and space travel couture? Kendall Jenner will be able to add a few million more followers from the galaxies.

Where will ripped jeans go with all that gravitational pull, I wonder?

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