Fashionably distressed

Sunday, 29 June 2014 - 6:25am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Worn out, vintage, well lived in… the distressed look is in, whether in carefully slashed jeans or furniture. Mithila Mehta talks to designers to examine the hottest trend of the season

A few months ago, I went with my elderly aunt for a meal to the beautiful Pali Village Café in Bandra. I noticed, from the moment we walked in, that she looked visibly uncomfortable — eyeing the peeling wall paint, the rusted pipes and exposed bricks with both curiosity and disdain. Finally, when she could take it no more, she burst out: "This restaurant is in a very bad state! Why doesn't the management get it fixed up?" What my dear aunt didn't realise was that the décor was a carefully planned execution. The peeling paint, the rust was all deliberate. In simple terms, the "distressed" look.

Enter: The distressed look
Whether it is furniture, décor, fashion, hair or make-up, distressed is the hottest trend of the season. You only have to look around to find the most expensive restaurants with paint peeling off their walls, exorbitantly priced outfits that are carefully slashed and ripped; and on the beauty front, unkempt brows and uncombed hair are en vogue. Explains Twinkle Khanna, owner and head designer at The White Window, "Design is an ongoing cycle. Since we have just gone through a hedonistic phase it's time to turn to the next phase. The most specific reason why the distressed look is fashionable is that change is always fashionable!"

Distressed, what's that?
While distressed refers to all things intentionally unkempt, unfinished and unglamourised, there are slight nuances when related to different fields. Explains Khanna, "The distressed look in furniture is a part of the neo- industrial design style. It includes unfinished walls, cement floors, scrapped furniture and vintage inspired prints."
In the world of fashion, distressed wears a slightly different look. Explains Aditya Singhal, CEO, It's My Life Jeans Co, makers of bespoke distressed jeans, "Distressed is basically fashion with a worn out 'damaged' look. For example, a typical blue pair of jeans would traditionally be faded and tear at certain spots to give it that 'distressed' character."

Wouldn't you rather buy something that actually looks new?
Why are people spending thousands of rupees on the distressed look, rather than opting for something that actually looks new? "The distressed look gives furniture an antique feel and thus a unique look. Having a distressed look also gives a sense of old world charm which many people find appealing, hence the popularity of the trend. It is different and not your predictable type of décor," explains Krsna Mehta, design director, partner, India Circus.
"It is a change from all the perfect home decor looks that you find these days which is why people are spending
money on it."

Agrees Sanvari Alagh Nair, director,, "Distressed furniture is very popular as it adds age and character to a room. Giving a vintage charm to your space, it brings an old-world, worn and well-lived look to the room, making it comfortable and inviting. Distressed décors add a rustic French charm to the space, giving the dining area character and body."

The answer also lies in people trying to differentiate themselves like never before. Explains Singhal, "Conventionally, jeans meant standard indigo blue with some minimal differentiation in fit. For the millennial generation, distressed jeans have become a sign of not wanting to conform making it more acceptable as a fashion statement. For this generation, distressed fashion is all about making a statement and mirroring the wearer's personality.

Lovers of distressed
This led me to wonder, is there a 'type' of individual that the distressed trend appeals to over others? Or is it an overarching trend that every individual can relate to on some level? Says Khanna, "I don't feel there is a specific kind of person that appreciates distressed furniture but a specific type of person who hates distressed furniture and I feel nouveau riche people tend to like flashier things and would not like this kind of a finish."
"Those who love things vintage and have an appreciation for art, old-world charm, antiques and artifacts are generally those that veer towards distressed furniture," adds Alagh Nair.

Future wise
While distressed is very fashionable right now, will its popularity continue? Or is it a fad destined to fade? Says Mehta, "Well, as in any trend, you can't really say how long it will continue for. It all depends on personal taste and if people enjoy it then yes, it might just be around for a while."
Singhal believes that the distressed look will around for a while. "Distressed jeans have been around for decades and is a long term trend. Most brands will have a few such pieces in their collection. At times, popular culture does make the trend very prominent with more styles occupying space in the collection.
Agrees Alagh Nair, "The distressed look never goes out of style, and only improves naturally as years go by."

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