Fashion Diplomacy at Namaste Trump
Fashion is an expression of identity that not only projects your individualism but also your cultural beliefs. #Namastetrump took the world by storm when two biggest democracies came together for a mega show in India. When ‘Howdy Modi’ gets translated, it becomes ‘Namaste Trump’. Things just came to a full circle for two nations and election campaigning when US President Donald Trump visited India.
The POTUS was accompanied by his wife, Melania Trump, his daughter and senior advisor, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner on this two day historic trip to India. The much-awaited and publicized event began with a roadshow from Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport, Ahmedabad to the newly-built Motera Stadium where President Trump addressed the gathering of more than 1 lac people. After a visit to Sabarmati Ashram to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, POTUS flew to Agra wherein he visited the Taj Mahal before heading to Delhi. Gujarat’s excitement was at another level to host Trump in the state considering the close ties between two nations. It was Trump’s first presidential visit to India and the fifth official visit by a serving US president to the country since 2000.
International visits don’t just mean discussions centred around trade and potential political alliances; it also means campaigning, words and expression through fashion. All eyes of fashion fraternity were on public appearances of the Trumps. While some voted for them to don Indian designers, others were already creating digital look-books of what should POTUS and FLOTUS be wearing. Alas, to the dismay of many, the First Lady and Mr. President stayed true to their identity while donning bits and pieces of Indian culture.
From Trumps’s classic red tie ensemble to Melania’s suave and modest outfits and Ivanka’s endorsement of Indian designers, these 2 days got fashion community waiting for the public appearances much like the anticipated fashion weeks.
Often known to emulate late Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, Melania used the former FLOTUS and fashion icon’s monochromatic formula for her first look in India. When she landed in India, Melania donned a luxe white jumpsuit from Atelier Caito for Herve Pierre and paired it with gorgeous white stilettos. What caught everyone’s eye, however was a gold-green sash which was created using a 20th century Indian textile sourced from an art collector in Paris. The outfit took over the Internet and for all the right reasons just to get the Indian connection established.
Twitterati chattered about FLOTUS donning a pair of Roger Viver’s Belle which she paired with white and black striped pants to match and a black turtle neck sweater. The check pants were by Rachel Roy, an Indian-American designer to the respite of Indians wanting her to do Indian designer creation. Although one wonders, while the democracies were talking about important decisions for trade, much of the population was still commenting on why did Melania ditch stilettoes for flats.
Ivanka Trump got the right attention from netizens as re-wore a Proenza Schouler powder blue midi dress with floral prints. #repeatwear is the next big trending idea in sustainable fashion. With public figures like her endorsing the trend, sustainable warriors are dancing with rejoice. Ivanka wore the same outfit during her trip to Argentina in September 2019. Her first ensemble was a lesson in sustainable fashion while she followed it with two outfits by Indian designers Anita Dongre and Rohit Bal for her appearances at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Meanwhile away from the discerning eyes of fashion police, POTUS known for his classic red tie look, stepped out of the flight in a bright yellow tie. An ode to blossoming friendship, maybe. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked like a perfectly dapper host during the two-day event. He welcomed the POTUS in a white churidar, kurta set with a smart beige jacket, his quintessential sharp style.
Not much to judge in men’s fashion here; all critiques on the march towards women’s section.
On the second day of her visit at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Melania chose a crisp cotton white shirt dress with embroidered lotus flowers by Carolina Herrera. The lotus motif on the shirt dress is however is a tribute to Carolina Herrera’s Venezuelan roots, a country where the lotus is quite popular. However, one might connect the dots. Political diplomacy – thy name is serendipity. Ivanka wore an all-white creation by Anita Dongre, paired with white ballerina flats. Her tailored full-sleeved bandhgala sherwani was made of handwoven Murshidabad silk and might we say, she looked charismatic.
For the reception banquet dinner hosted by President Ramnath Kovind in the evening, Melania Trump opted for a bold long-sleeved fuschia dress from Carolina Herrera. Her gold-drop style earrings were from Indian label Amrapali. Ivanka Trump opted for a spring-inspired anarkali ensemble by Rohit Bal.The floral outfit featured a bandhgala-style collar, and came with a front slit and intricate embroideries with gold wire on the sleeves. The outfit was from Rohit Bal’s Kashmir inspired collection.
It is thus safe to assert that Ivanka Trump managed to rid herself of the cultural appropriation charge that was levelled against her in 2017. During her first trip to India, Ivanka had conformed to outfits by western designers. What irked several quarters was also the fact that she wore Indian style outfits with floral patterns and motifs that were created by American designer Tony Burch and Indonesian designer Biyan Wanaatmadja among others.
While the women were being judged by the fraternity for their choice of clothes and designers, men were busy sealing the deals. POTUS was consistent with his suit and navy blue tie with white stripes while PM chose rich charcoal jacket for morning and yellow kurta and white churidar paired with a brown jacket for evening dinner. Indian PM indeed had better styling sensibility, we may add.
The 36-hour spectacle has come to an end; however, the discussions on who wore what will continue in the closed quarters for a long time debating on fashion choices and identity expression.
Is it important to dress according to the culture where you visit or is it important to assert your own identity through the clothes you wear? Critiques may be disappointed with Melania’s lack of endorsement of Indian designers; but Ivanka has been a soothing balm for the naysayers with her politically apt choices of Indian designers and cuts. Fashion as a tool of expression has been used rather well in this bilateral diplomatic visit.