ABURY interviews VOGUE fashion editor Bandana Tewari

Bandana Tewari is best known as the fashion editor of VOGUE India and it is easy to say that she is an expert when it comes to global luxury brands. She grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, studied English literature from Irish and Nepalese nuns and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and master’s degree in communications and filmmaking in New Delhi. Apart from VOGUE India, Bandana has been contributing to international as well as local fashion publications.

Her particular focus on educating consumers as well as global brands about each others’ heritage and culture was the basis for a relationship to ABURY. We are grateful and happy to call her our ambassador for India as she is an inspiration to all of us. Read for yourself.


Start by tagging yourself with three words.

Mindful, creative, contrarian

We believe that “hands tell stories“. What do your hands tell about you?

My right hand is the worker hand. Physically this hand looks like it’s been tilling sunny paddy fields for years. My left hand is super flexible and I can make mudras (hand poses) like a Balinese dancer. I suppose this means I must have a pretty good balance of yin and yang!

Journalists are also working a lot with their hands — but what is the last thing you created with your hands that was not an article?

The last thing I created was an explosive Balinese sambal, a rigorous grinding of 20 lethal chillies on a pestle with local spices.

If you could choose, what would you like to be able to do with your hands?

I would love to play any string. Could be a guitar or the warp & weft of threads.

As fashion features editor of Vogue India you are also a great ambassador for social change and traditional craft in the country. How did you find your fascination for crafts? What was your initialising moment?

My earliest memories of handmade textiles was when I was 10 years old. My mother would take me sari shopping. She bought the most exquisite handloom saris steeped in a medley of weaving traditions from different regions of India- kanjivaram silks from Tamil Nadu, Maheshwari silks from Madhya Pradesh, Benaras brocades from Uttar Pradesh- the variety, for a child, was magical. She would spend hours, touching and turning the fabrics to check authenticity and purity of the weave. Yards and yards of colourful saris would be rolled out on mahogany floors for us to asses for their delicacy, visual narrative and provenance, of course over endless cups of cardamom chai.

My initialising moment was when I joined Vogue India ten years back and realised I was in a perfect place to be able to use it as a platform to promote handmade textiles in a way that was cool and contemporary. I realised that like me, most Indians, have cupboard full of handmade saris, but they remain in there, only pulled out once in a while for weddings and traditional ceremonies. So I decided to do an editorial they would encourage women to reimagine their 7-yard saris in a different way. I pulled out three saris from my own cupboard, some 50 years old, that have been passed down from my grandmother, and asked three young and very talented designers to cut them and turn them into silhouettes that I could wear to a party. The final designs were spectacular to say the least. The basic idea was to make these age-old fabrics live again on the body.

Any favourite brands?

My favourite handmade brands in India are Pero, EKA, Sanjay Garg and for jewellery it’s EnInde.

“One of a mind” underlines our strong belief in equality and the value of sharing. How does intercultural exchange benefit our global society in your eyes?

In my opinion Intercultural exchange is powerful because it can bring a more holistic understanding of cultures, which in turn can accelerate social change. Cross-pollination of ideas and systems is key to collaborative work that cross physical and mental boundaries.
The much touted ideals of globalisation have degenerated into a dystopian homogenisation of countries, people and creativity, that do not celebrate difference and ‘regionality’ as they do similarity and familiarity. Given the politics of fear today, we should be celebrating difference and diversity; and it’s only through collaborating with ‘ the other’ that we will realise the universal, fundamental values that govern us no matter where we come from. This is what I believe whether in the realm of politics, society or creativity.

“Luxury and sustainability” are a trending topic. Do you think the luxury industry can take a lead and be an innovator in driving sustainable practices? Do you have some examples?

Big fashion brands have to take a lead and be the torchbearers for better sustainable practices. Luxury industries have to embrace the fact that with all the dwindling natural resources- sustainability is luxury. It is the need of the hour as fashion and luxury are such resource intensive and polluting industries. I feel the voice of the youth will play a big role. For instance, the provenance of their clothes are beginning to matter more and more to the millennials.

What makes India special for you?

India is like a big, all-embracing mama! She has the capacity to absorb hundreds of cultures, operate on intuition rather than hard-nosed logic and exude this manic energy that makes your life ‘a day in the circus’- everyday!

Talking about the other senses — how would you describe the “Tastes of India” and what is your favourite?

The tastes of India is as vast as her population. The perfect example I can give you is via food. Lunch hour in Vogue India is something else altogether! My colleagues are from different regions and cultures of India. So at lunch time everyone puts out their tiffin of home-made food. The variety is baffling. Bengali fish curry, Prawns in Kerala spices, Sikkimese momos ( dimsum), Rajasthani pickles, Gujrati lentils and much more! It’s a feast of cultures!

Finally talking about a woman’s wardrobe… We are curious — how would you describe your style? How do you combine local and global aspects in your wardrobe?

My personal style is really a hybrid, a mash-up of sartorial nuances that reflect my state of mind. I don’t plan and coordinate, and fuss about it too much. I throw clothes on intuitively. It’s how I am in a bookshop or library- I pick out books on art, technology, poetry, psychology- all at the same time. And somehow I feel happy to connect the dots and make everything relevant to the understanding of my life experiences.


The interview originally appeared on ABURY’s new blogzine One of a Mind. Read more interviews and cultural stories here!