Fashion knows only too well that there’s something about creating a beautiful photograph that is alchemic, magical and challenging. That’s why it can’t help but be in love with Instagram. And while Snapchat might be fashion’s current flame, Instagram is really its forever love. Simply because – unlike its fleeting, younger rival – it lives on.
Given its voyeuristic instincts, some of the best Instagrammers are those who provide an insight into their lives. Their accounts are personal, but just so. Others give you a peek into the workings of the creative mind. Because fashion draws from such a cultural pool of art, craft, photography, travel, design, architecture, cinema, literature and music, these same interests inform its finest documentations. It often finds its bearings in history, but is always zeitgeist-y. The point of fashion, then, is to channel these aspirations in a format that is both fun and accessible.
Here are some Instagram accounts that do just that.
Bikramjit Bose @thebadlydrawnboy
It isn’t enough to say that photographer Bikram Bose’s work is extraordinary. His is the kind of evocative imagery that imprints on your brain. Working primarily in black and white, his photographs are stark and stripped clean. While his portraiture is especially compelling, his editorial and campaign work is equally good. Standout examples include a portrait of Jhumpa Lahiri for Vogue India, another of Shekhar Kapur for GQ, and a campaign for Sanjay Garg and Bungalow 8.
Bombay Electric @bombayelectric
This landmark Mumbai boutique may have recently closed its Colaba outpost for greener pastures, but its Instagram lives on. Find here all the colour and kitsch you associate with Bombay Electric. Plus fashion photography from greats like Prabuddha Dasgupta, Bharat Sikka and Annie Leibovitz. A recurring theme is Indian women they‘re inspired by: Gayatri Devi, Amrita Shergill, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Noor Inayat Khan and Rta Kapur Chishti. The loveliest of all? Shots of the city it’s named for.
Border & Fall @borderandfall
Malika V Kashyap’s Border & Fall is the only Indian fashion blog with a real voice. Its efforts in documenting mainstream Indian fashion as well as smaller craft communities have earned it respect that goes beyond the numbers game of social media likes. The feed excels at detail shots – whether it is ramp images from a designer they’ve interviewed or a behind-the-scenes look at a studio or someone’s wardrobe. They also have lovely pictures of costume traditions from around the world. If that gets a bit much, there are ’90s Rekha pictures for comic relief.
Deena Abdulaziz @deenathe1st
One of the most notable buyers on the international fashion circuit, Saudi royal Deena runs her members-only boutique D’NA out of Riyadh and Doha. Her Instagram account bears testimony to her having grown up on a healthy diet of American Vogue. From Grace Coddington editorials to photography by Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh and supermodels like Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Veruchska, and Yasmin Ghauri, this is a fashion nerd’s dream. If that weren’t enough, there are also frequent throwbacks to icons like Elvis Presley, James Dean, Madonna, Sade and Prince.
Hamish Bowles @hamishinlilac
Perhaps more fashion historian than fashion editor, American Vogue’s International Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles always looks the part of the dandy. As one of the largest private vintage collectors in the world, he’s ever the gentleman in three-piece suits, double-breasted jackets, and an affinity to lilac. His Instagram documents his extraordinary travels – he’s the guy who’ll direct you to the best towels in the souks of Istanbul. Sure, there’s the front-row views and the exotic locales, but what separates him from the rest is his all-encompassing love for beauty. So there are also sumptuous décor shots and frequent museum visits and his favourite art.
Nimish Shah @nimishshift
Designer Nimish Shah’s woman takes her cue from retro styling but is very much a part of the modern world. His handle, too, channels that balance. There are old icons (Persis Khambatta, Madhubala, Anjelica Huston and Lauren Hutton) as well as new (his constant muse Kalki Koechlin and others like Monica Dogra). Julia Roberts’ polka-dot dress in Pretty Woman, Jerry Hall in an editorial shot against the Taj Mahal – these pictures hint at his creative references. But he’s not all work and no play – his superpower is finding hilarious vintage meme-esque dance clips.
Established in 1989, a first amongst firsts, multi-designer store Ogaan has always been ahead of the curve. Although now one amongst many, it is still doing something that makes it feel more relevant than the rest. In part it’s the fact it recognises social media’s importance, enough to supplement its concrete and e-stores with a blog and original content. Of course, there’s also its tight, on-point fashion edits. Another recent clever move is the streamlining of offerings with designated stores for different perspectives like couture or contemporary. Visual merchandising is its forte and its handle succeeds especially well with the show window updates.
Peter d’Ascoli @peterdascoli
New Delhi-based New York-raised Peter d’Ascoli is a textile designer. His studio in Delhi is modelled on Rennaisance Italy’s popular Cabinets of Curiosities. His work, too, is informed by this scholarly interest in the world around him and its natural history. His Instagram documents his fascination for the Orient with swatches of his eponymous label’s fabrics, old illustrations, art, textiles, prints and embroideries, with details of their provenance. Besides the sheer beauty of the imagery, what elevates his posts is that they’re accompanied with philosophy, an indicator of their cultural significance.
Sarah Harris @sarahharrisuk
A regular on all street style lists, British Vogue’s Fashion Features Director is that amazing blend of beauty, brains and style. Like all true icons, her look derives from uniform dressing – an army of Celine shirts, jeans and statement shoes. Plus that grey mane is everything. Her handle takes you everywhere she goes – from front row to afterparty. But like her, it does it with restrained elegance. There’s also shoefies aplenty. While her job takes her all over the world, it’s beach hideouts and ski weekends that hold a special place on her account.
A bit of a secret, this beautiful store lies way off the beaten track, in sleepy Chattarpur. Shopping becomes an experience here: Strains of old qawwalis follow you through the haveli, a courtyard leads off to little rooms showcasing its different product ranges (furniture, linens, ceramics, artefacts, womenswear and kidswear). A great example of the power of social media, its the Instagram account that will probably lead you to the actual store. Shots of its wares (graphic charpais, hand-blocked club chairs, Uzbek velvet ikats) are as enticing as their inspirations (travel photography from the Africas and the Middle East, as well as décor finds like Ismail Merchant’s home).
Shweta Malhotra @shwetamalhotra
For an artist unknown to the mainstream, Instagram’s reach can change everything. Case in point: graphic designer Shweta Malhotra. Originally an art director in the advertising industry, Malhotra went independent in 2011. Two years ago, a few chance fashion illustrations for a personal project – looks from Lakme Fashion Week – led to her being commissioned some more. She has now been featured in ELLE, Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar Bride and Architectural Digest. Follow her for her very cool pop prints, and because she’s probably the country’s first fashion illustrator.
Violet Grey @violetgrey
Cassandra Grey’s Los Angeles-based Melrose Place luxury beauty store also has an eponymous content-meets-culture-meets-commerce web portal. Her muse, Violet, is epitomised by the glamour of Old Hollywood – think Lauren Bacall, Grace Kelly, Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneuve, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor. So much so that even the current crop of covergirls (including Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, January Jones, Margot Robbie, Amber Valletta, Diane Kruger, and Rachel Weisz) are styled to possess that same appeal. Luscious editorials of these iconic, beautiful women are interspersed with tongue-in-cheek quotes under the hashtag InPoliteSociety. Sample this: “In polite society, it is much more effective to let your eyes do the seducing or the scolding.”