Suddenly, it's hip to be unhip. Our cosmo-metros are now growing a tribe of fashionistas who, after shaking their booty to pop, rave, trance and coke, now just want to sit down and talk. The generation that took the disc-and-pub lifestyle to dizzying heights has now come of age, overcoming its juvenile aspirations to be hip. More important is to be your own self. Just so.
The growth of lounge bars has led to a complementary lifestyle where stress-busting personal comfort is the buzzword. Be it in clothes, makeup, hair-styling, furniture or travelling. It's fadeout for ostentatious, snobby p3p parties, as the trendy zero in on cosy sit-down dinners sans the hacks. Mumbai-based DJ Suketu draws from his own experience: "At more and more private celeb parties I find less dancing, more sitting around—people enjoying music and talking." In other words, just lounging.
Dhiraj Arora, owner of Delhi lounge bar Shalom, feels that our metros have entered the second phase of drinking culture." Now people drink not to get drunk but to enjoy the experience—the drinks, food, lighting, music," says Arora. And lounges fit the bill perfectly. Dimly lit and perfumed, with easy, unstructured furniture and soothing music in the background to wash away your worktime blues, they are also the ideal space to socialise and relax. Lounges are fast cultivating a loyal clientele who frequent them more often than they would a disco or a pub.
Bangalore was probably there first. Image consultant Prasad Bidapa points out that lounge culture took off in the city four to five years ago when a Thai lady opened probably India's first lounge bar, Cosmo Village. Perhaps the reason why ftv also chose Bangalore to open its first bar 'n lounge in Asia. Still the only lounge in the country to have leather-cushioned beds with a small snack board in the middle where you can lie down and sip a refreshing drink and nibble on snacks. Where the line between bedroom comfort and lounge comfort blurs fast.
And lounge bars come equipped with lounge music. DJs describe the genre as one that enhances your sagging spirit and allows you the space to hold a sensible conversation. Lounge music is where electric jazz melts into Carnatic, Punjabi dhols resonate with African percussion and Celtic does a tango with raagas. Raina says lounge music began with the Buddha Bar and Hotel Costes in Paris some four-five years ago, never to look back again. Karunesh, Asura, Nirvana, Narada, Peter Gabriel, Prem Joshua are some of the popular tracks with local DJs. Even the local industry is fast catching up: Times Music recently launched over 30 lounge titles ranging from fashion lounge music compilations to classical Chopin and Beethoven.
Lounge music is also about the crucial difference between the real lounge and the fake. At some of the upstart ones in Delhi, people request the DJ to play
In clothes too, there has been a palpable—some say merciful—shift from the 'louder-the-better' phase.Says Pradip Hirani, owner of fashion store Kimaya: "Everyone is looking for some feelgood factor." He feels people were never so confident of themselves and that insecurity translated into showy, loud and very structured clothes. Now, people's clothes reflect their confidence, of being sure of what they want and not caring how they look. So, clothes get loungier with a crushed and unironed look.
Designer Ravi Bajaj frequently shows up in satin lungis at page-three shoots. We could well be witnessing the dawn of the "metrosexual" way of life in India. Football star David Beckham, who doesn't bat an eyelid while painting his nails or trying on his wife's garments, is the mascot of metrosexuality and his image may soon spawn a few willing clones in this part of the Orient. Upcoming designers like Sandeep Mahajan, in true Jean-Paul Gaultier tradition, are designing long skirts for men. "I did a show for Sosas in Goa last year where these skirts were a complete sellout," says Mahajan, adding that such liberal apparel lifestyle could be possible only in Goa or even Mumbai but not Delhi.
Along with loungedom, natural fabrics have made a comeback. Designer Aparna Chandra, who loves loungewear, feels that linen and cotton have pushed artificial ones into the background. Linen pyjamas and kurtis proved a rage at the latest India Fashion Week. Designers like Raghavendra Rathore and Chandra are among those responsible for putting these breathing fabrics back on the fashion map. "For the first time," says Mahajan, "Punjabis are looking beyond polyester."
Even makeup trends and travel destinations have turned a shade loungy. Which is: not adhering to any fashion diktat. Says well-known makeup artist Jojo: "Cloning is out, people want makeup that will enhance their own personality." And no more London and New York! Riyaaz Amlani, CEO of Cafe Mocha in Mumbai, finds that people are getting adventurous not only in the clothes they wear but also in the holidays they take. At Mocha's Backpacker's Club, members seek to go to Guatemala and Chile and "very loungy" Koh Samui in Thailand.
So, is this really the dawn of the brave new world where the only rule is that there isn't any? Or will regimentation be back as sure as the great wheel of fashion turns? Right now it's cool to lounge and even as late-movers struggle to catch up, the fad might soon be gone. But Arora of Shalom disagrees. After all, he says, only fools play the game by its rules.
By Shobita Dhar with Saumya Roy