OUR FAVOURITE INDIAN PLACES IN LONDON - Kenzine, the Kenzo official blog

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Our 2013 Fall-Winter women’s collection is inspired by the culture and mythology of India. We looked for inspiration in the temples and tales of warriors and divinities, but also in dancers and actresses. The “Eye Beams”  video, which sets this collection to music, is a tribute to Bollywood culture and to traditional Indian dance forms, such as bharata natyam and kathak. Here are some explanations about the mudrās, these typical hand signs that can be seen in Indian choreographies and which give them so much meaning.


 

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Mudrā (devanāgarï: मुद्रा, which means “sign”) is an ancient sanskrit term, taken from Vedic culture, but which is also found in Hinduism and Buddhism. A meaning is attached to every position: it often refers to the precise position of the hand of a person or a deity. There are mudrās for a single hand or for two hands and by combining them, a varied language can be created, which may be spiritual or may tell a story.

 

In the Western world, dance and Bollywood films have popularized the mudrā, with meanings that can vary. While some mudrās have only an aesthetic significance, most of them represent people, objects, animals, deities, as well as feelings and abstract concepts.

 

In Asia, many sculptures use mudrās to illustrate the life of Buddha, often associated with the mudrā of meditation. Buddha is often represented sitting with his hands in his lap, his right hand resting in his left, palms turned upwards with thumbs touching. The practice of mudrās can actually have a beneficial effect on the body and the mind and they are often associated with the idea of “yoga for the hands” because they stimulate the reflex zones of the fingers and hands. Associated with the chakras, they contribute to balance and they contain the energies of both yin and yang. For optimal relaxation, and especially for beginners, it is recommended that only one mudrā be practiced for several days, several times a day, while breathing through the nose. It is important not to have any tension in the fingers, and to keep the pressure very gentle.

Your turn!

 

 

 

Image credit: Subcommandante

India is one of the countries, along with China and Nepal, that inspired the 2013 Fall/Winter women’s collection. This winter, KENZO sets up camp in a mythological world, populated with flying tigers, menacing clouds, constellations and Indian warriors.

 

An opportunity for us to return to one of these combative female figures, Durga, who is one of the most important goddesses in Indian culture. She is a paradox in her own right as she is often wrongly considered the goddess of war, when in fact she embodies peace, and wages an endless war against evil.

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Her name means “Invincible” and she is often depicted riding a tiger or a lion, armed with seven symbolic weapons that she holds in some of her ten hands! Each of these weapons has been entrusted to her by another Hindu god. For example, she holds the trident that has been given to her by Shiva, the discus of Vishnu and Yama’s club, but it is often said that her best and most effective weapon is love. In fact, Durga is the wife of Shiva and together they form the best known and most appreciated couple of Indian mythology.


Her many exploits are recounted in books or by word of mouth, which helps perpetuate the myth. A holiday is also dedicated to her each year for nine days of celebration: Durga Puja. This event is widely celebrated in many Indian provinces, especially in Bengal, but also in Nepal and Bangladesh which both have a strong Hindu population. During this holiday, temporary temples are erected and Indians wear new, traditional clothes in her honor.

India is one of the main sources of inspiration for KENZO’s 2013 Fall-Winter collection. Carol and Humberto have drawn on Indian dance and cinema to offer an innovative reinterpretation of Bollywood culture, combined with more contemporary and punk codes. Here is a compilation of our ten favorite Bollywood films to get you started! 

 

Aan (The Savage Princess) by Mehboob Khan, 1950
The first Bollywood film in Technicolor, this colossal production was a milestone, produced with ambitions equal to the greatest American epic films. It is a love story between a peasant and a princess, against a backdrop of the class struggle in the realm of the maharajahs. With first-rate casting and sumptuous sets, Aan is no less magnificent than Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra.

 

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Mother India by Mehboob Khan, 1957

This is the Hindi answer to Gone with the Wind. A young peasant woman, devoted to her family, leads a life of exhausting toil and respect for traditions. Exploited, she is torn between acceptance and rebellion, and as such she symbolizes the whole country. Inspired by the masters, including John Ford and Eisenstein, this film also bears the mark of a director who is capable of presenting the plight of a nation in a single individual.

 

 

Mughal – E – Azam by K. Asif, 1960

This film influenced a whole slate of movies, up to the famous Devdas (2002). This complete work tells the story of star-crossed lovers, a prince who is heir to the Mogul throne and a commoner serving at court. With the remarkable performance of the actors and the director’s ability to offer an intelligent depiction of the essential themes of Indian cinema, everything conspires to make Mughal – E – Azam a film that fully lives up to its means.

 

 

King, Queen and Slave (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam) by Abrar Alvi, 1962                                                                                                                                                          
The dialog writer of the mythic actor and director Guru Dutt, who produced the film, made this film in the spirit of his mentor. As an aging architect wanders about the ruins of a palace, memories come back to him about a young man from the countryside who finds himself trapped between two women, in one of the most influential films in the history of Indian cinema.

 

Pakeezah (Pure Heart) by Kamal Amrohi, 1971
A prostitute dies giving birth to her daughter. The child is placed in the care of her aunt and grows up in a brothel where she learns to sing and dance. Seduced by a man of good family, she refuses to marry him, so as not to damage the reputation of the man she loves. It turns out that he is her cousin. The filming was mythic, and took place over a period of fifteen years. The leading lady became seriously ill and died shortly after the film was released.

 

 

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Big-Hearted Will Win the Bride) by Aditya Chopra, 1995
This is the Bollywood film revival, anticipated especially by one segment of its audience: young expatriates of the Indian diaspora. Taking up the basic codes of the genre, the film offers a fundamental shift because it tells the love story of two Indians living in Great Britain. Aditya Chopra signs a moving plea for closer understanding between immigrant communities and their families who stayed in India. The message is heard: this film is one of the biggest hits in history, with a record run in cinemas (over 600 weeks). The film also established the reputation of Shahrukh Khan as the undisputed icon of the genre, who went on to star in a continuous series of his greatest hits.

 

 

Devdas by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002

This new adaptation of the most powerful Indian myth of the 20th century, a love story made impossible by the caste system, was presented at the Festival de Cannes in 2002 and it is the point of departure for a new phase of international popularity for Bollywood film. Supported by regal casting (Aishwarya Rai and Shahrukh Khan) and a colossal budget, this new version puts the emphasis on the symbolic and universal dimension of the legend.

 

 

Veer-Zaara by Yash Chopra, 2004
The father of Aditya Chopra directs Shahrukh Khan in one of his greatest critical and commercial successes. The elder Chopra, who died last year, had a career of impressive longevity and consistency. Here, the director’s lyrical and grandiose vein turns to a story written by his son: the impossible romance between an Indian soldier and a Pakistani woman. One of the greatest Indian hits on the international scene, with, in particular, screenings that drew notice at the Berlin and Marrakech film festivals.

 


Swades, We the People by Ashutosh Gowariker, 2004
The ubiquitous Shahrukh Khan is at the center of this story about an expatriate engineer in the United States who returns to India to reconnect with his roots. Conforming to the canons of the genre (duration, singing, etc…), the film is surprising because of its social tone and its realism. A chronicle of the political and sociocultural limits of the Indian people, Swades illustrates the mantra of its author: “Films must entertain but they should also leave the viewer with something deeper.”

 

 

Ra.One (Voltage) by Anubhav Sinha, 2011
Indomitable, Shahrukh Khan is back for the biggest budget film in the history of Bollywood, the story of two virtual beings who find themselves in our world, where they face off with no pity. Wildly fantastic, this film is a good example of the enormity of the divide that separates Indian culture from Western standards. One of the songs from the original sound track, Chammak Challo, composed by American R’n’B singer, Akon, was one of the top hits of the year.

 

India is undeniably one of the most temple-rich countries in the world, filled with breath-taking temples in many different architectural styles. We found the textures and colors of the temples' gold, marble, wood and steel so inspirational that we had to inject some of that beauty into our Fall/Winter 2013 collection. We highlight some of India's most impressive temples here.

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Click on the temples on the map bellow to learn more about them.


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Our Fall/Winter collection is strongly rooted in Indian culture, rich in dance, food, music, colors and myths, mixing tradition and modernity.

This culture has spread its influence throughout the world, especially in London. So we asked a specialist - Dipal Acharya - to give us her best spots there. The best way to experience a little bit of India in Europe.

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A restaurant – Gymkhana (42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH, gymkhanalondon.com)
The latest offering from the celebrated Anglo-Indian chef Karam Sethi, Gymkhana is inspired by the colonial gentleman’s clubs set up by the British Raj, all dark mahogany panels, chocolate leather banquettes and low lighting. Making use of the in-house tandoor oven and sigri charcoal grill, expect bright modern interpretations of coastal Indian cuisine (the tandoori guinea fowl with mango chat and mint chutney is a must) and be sure to leave room for pudding – the comforting carrot halwa tart is dangerously moreish.


A bar – The Permit Room at Dishoom (7 Boundary Street, London, E2 7JE, dishoom.com)
The laid-back speakeasy style of The Permit Room in Shoreditch pays homage to Mumbai’s antiquated prohibition laws. Ensconced opposite the veranda of Dishoom – a restaurant that reimagines the Persian cafes of Bombay in the 1960s – find everything from juleps, sours, teas and fizzes served up with an Indian twist. Plump for a copper cup of Edwina’s Affair (£8) – a delicate mix of gin, rose and cardamom. Potent but delicious.


A yoga class – Jivamukti Yoga (300 Kensal Road, London, W10 5BE, jivamuktiyogalondon.co.uk)
Take a break from the rat race and head to Jivamukti Yoga in Kensal Rise for some deep relaxation. Derived from the Sanskrit word Jivemuktih (translated as liberation while living), this dynamic form of yoga is about much more than getting a firmer bod. Developed by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984, it reconnects with the spiritual roots of yoga through pranayama (the art of breathing), mediation, devotional chanting as well as vigorous asana. Actress Thandie Newton and Kate Moss are regulars.


A grocery store – V.B and Sons (738 Kenton Road, Harrow, HA3 9QX)
More emporium than grocery store, VB and Sons is your one-stop shop for dry goods and specialist Indian foods. The franchise has outposts dotted around London’s suburbs (Tooting, Wembley, Greenford etc.) but, thanks to their never-ending aisles of sweets and spices, the schlep is well worth it.


A book store – Shalimar Books (38 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 4LS, indianbooksuk.com)
Thanks to an ever-growing network of suppliers from India, while away a few hours perusing the shelves of this charming Kennington bookshop. From traditional folklore tales (see Bhima and the Fragrant Flower) to essay collections on contemporary Indian history, it’s a lovely spot to pick up an enlightening weekend read.


A beauty spot – Vaishaly (51 Paddington Street, London, W1U 4HR, vaishaly.com)
Hidden in the heart of Marylebone, superfacialist Vaishaly has been tending to her a-list clients for years out of her discreet clinic. A signature facial might set you back by £250, but for 55 minutes with the skincare guru herself (and a complexion boosted by the healing properties of essential oils) it’s worth every penny.


An art gallery - Prahlad Bubbar (33 Cork Street, London, W1S 3NQ, prahladbubbar.com)
If the permanent collection in the Nehru Gallery at the V&A (vam.ac.uk) isn’t enough, be sure to pay a visit to Prahlad Bubbar’s Cork Street gallery. Specialising in classical Indian and Islamic works from 1400 – 1900, be sure to take a peek at his stunning collection of black and white photographs of the nawabs and maharajas of India too.


A day out – Bhaktivedanta Manor (Hilfield Lane, Aldenham, Watford, Hertfordshire WD25 8DT, bhaktivedantamanor.co.uk)
A mock-Tudor Mansion donated by Beatle George Harrison to the Hare Krishna movement in the seventies, the Bhaktivendata Manor is a set within 78 acres of land and houses an organic farm and cow sanctuary, as well as the iconic temple which draws thousands of visitors each year.


An activity – School of Wok
Don’t be fooled by the name – though the School of Wok specialises in Chinese cookery lessons, it also has a brilliant introductory course to Indian cuisine. The 3-hour class teaches you how to use base spices properly or rustle up a mean green garlic and coriander chutney, alongside more traditional fare like vegetarian samosa’s and pilau rice. The curry from your local will never taste the same again. 

 

Use our map bellow and click on the addresses.