What’s it like to be brought up by a glamazon? Is it all parading in bodycon and leopard print in front of the mirror while your friends, the children of more timid dressers, are play-acting with chiffon saris and pearl strings? Does someone keep tabs on every piece of bread you eat? Does teenage rebellion constitute the world-ending realisation that Jimmy Choo and Hervé Leger are ugly AF?
It’s not nice to pry, but the kerfuffle over Vogue India’s new cover model feels like a curious window into the world of teenage girls who want to look like their mothers. Or do they? Blink twice if you need rescuing from those Pucci frills, Suhana Khan.
Look, we know débutantes always want to look older than they actually are. The fashion industry runs on the weird paradox that ages up teenage girls (hello, bodysnatched Cindy Crawford) even while forcing their shapes to retain the supple two-dimensionality of pre-teen boy bodies. There’s a layer of extra weirdness in India, where you’re caught between the grossness of the #NepotismRocks vibe and the knowledge that the only really famous person in India is Kareena and Saif’s unsuspecting baby.
While Twitter takes on the difficult task of unravelling the sociology of this situation, we merely ask: can’t the #lewks be better? Do we travel the world to appear, in our Vogue photoshoots, like nervous out-of-town visitors to Arth? Unironic Thomas Hardy heroines? Is it the height of young ambition to look like you share a vanity van with mom? Is there no young entrant to Bollywood who finds its whole “band, baaja, bride” aesthetic embarrassing?
Trying to look cool and edgy is a big burden of teen life. There’s nothing about smoky eye and a blush-coloured Hermes muumuu that succeeds at it. Still, maybe this is what passes for fun on Dhirubhai Ambani International School Insta. After all, enough of us love looking at glorious extra bombshells - like Gauri Khan - who still dominate party coverage in the city, even if it’s not a style that floats everyone’s boat. That style is a lot of things, including, apparently, really easy for fashion magazines to replicate, thanks to the good offices of Louis Vuitton. But it isn’t fun. (Not everyone can be Frances Cobain, who did update her mom’s look in this Hedi Slimane photoshoot and looked, as you would say, lit.)
None of this is to attack girls who want to be “future stars.” It’s just striking that cover stories like Suhana Khan’s, meant to be her introduction to public life, aren’t published in edgier magazine s that someone like her would actually read, or be styled by someone, er, closer to her age. Perhaps there’s a connection there to the outrage over the photoshoot. However socially justifiable the other reasons for the anger may be, there’s an aesthetic dimension to these photographs a young woman being thoroughly dominated by her clothes. It’s a ruse, an attempt to get away with something, like putting on a trenchcoat and a fake moustache to play detective - or stumbling around in a chiffon sari, telling your family that they have to call you ‘Mummy’ now.
Getting there: Vogue India’s August issue is on stands
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city