She won the Miss India pageant way back in 1964 and was the first person to be selected by Femina to represent the country at Miss Universe. A fashion critic like none other, Meher Castellino has instituted awards, been on the jury of international awards and she was even honoured at the Kingfisher Fashion Awards 2001. Read up on a one-on-one interview with the legend.
1. How was it like to be crowned Miss India back in 1964? Do youthink Indian society has become more accommodating to the idea of beauty pageants since then?
It was a great experience being the first Miss India in 1964 selected by Femina. But it was a bit scary since there was no one before me who could guide on what happens, so Femina and I were as clueless about the contest. But after my participation I was able to give them some tips on what happens and when Persis Khambatta was crowned in 1965 I was able to give her some guidance. Beauty pageants then were of little importance and while Femina is part of the Times of India Group the main edition did not publicize the event since it was considered “fickle” news for a mainline newspaper.
The whole concept has changed and beauty pageants are now held in every nook and corner of the country and used as promotion vehicles by not only beauty brands but even totally unrelated companies.
2. You have been actively instituting awards to encourage talent inthe industry. What is your philosophy behind this?
I have two awards in two institutes and they are for Innovative Garment construction which I feel is a bit weak in India since designers depend more on embellishments and less on construction which the foreign designers are very strong in. I want students to push the envelope as far as construction is concerned and go beyond just the A line or Anarkali silhouettes.
3. Do you think men and women these days are more conscious of their appearance and know more about grooming than ever?
Yes, today everybody is fashion and beauty conscious not only in the metro cities but also in the smaller towns. People have realised that with stiff competition in every field of life, grooming and dressing well is important to make that first good impression, which is what people notice even before one speaks.
4. Who are your favourite Indian and international designers? Do you think Indian fashion designers have a lot to catch up when compared to their international counterparts?
I wear whatever suits me. I don’t go for labels or trends but from Indian designers I have the maximum styles from Lina Tipnis whose creativity suits me. I like simple timeless clothes with a hint of embellishments. International designers would be Anne Taylor and the label Marks and Spencer which is for my casual clothes. Indian designers need to know their customer and create collections that are stylish and affordable. Indian designers are very good with ethnic wear but when it comes to western wear it is difficult for them to compete with the western brands.
5. What would be your advice to those interested in taking fashion Journalism/blogging as a career?
Ans) For fashion journalism one must have a solid knowledge of fashion as well as perfect knowledge of the language one is writing in.
6. Fashion disasters or runway malfunctions have become part of the fashion industry? As a fashion critic do you think it is a necessary evil or carefully devised promotion strategy for some?
Ans) I would attribute fashion disasters and runway malfunctions to just plain bad tailoring and finishing and if the designers are using these as a promotional strategy then it is truly a very cheap avenue and does not speak highly of their creative skills or production techniques.
7. How would you describe fashion in one word?
8. What are your expectations from the Creative Careers Conclave? What do you think is the potential of a career in fashion in Indian industry?
Ans) I hope the participants who attend the Conclave understand what goes into being a fashion designer. It is not just starting a label for bridal wear, taking a bow on the ramp attending parties to network. It is much more and I will be talking about the different avenues in the fashion industry at the Conclave.
Read up on all the other three speakers at the conclave here http://bit.ly/1j8I1hD