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BOOK REVIEW
THE COTERIE
An Indian Fashion Expose

Title : THE COTERIE – An Unravelling on Fashion Street!
Author: Vinod Kaul
Genre : Fiction
Language : English
Publisher : Notion Press.com
Pages : 372
Cost : Kindle Edition – INR 122.50;
Paperback – INR 399.00
Available : https://www.amazon.in
Review by : Meher Castelino

Vinod Kaul’s book, The Coterie – An Unravelling on Fashion Street is a page turner, replete with glamour, glitz, intrigue, scandals, deceit all mixed into a cocktail of events that the fashion fraternity will identify with and try to guess the various characters who are inspired by real life names in the business.

Kaul’s experience in the fashion industry spans four decades, including eight years in Canada. As Executive Director of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) in its formative years in 2002 (the fashion weeks in India only started in August 2000 in Delhi) Kaul, a management graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad had at that time, tried to whip together the scattered, unorganised members of the fashion business, which must have been a trying task.

India’s fashion graph in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was restricted to textile mills which brought on the ramp their latest fabric collections not only in India but also around the globe. But India’s reputation in the global fashion scenario was confined to that of being just a manufacturer and not creative designers. So Vinod Kaul was the first MBA in the FDCI, trying to bring some semblance of professionalism to the business of fashion.

In 1987 when the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT Delhi) and the first designer store Ensemble were launched, the Indian fashion designer culture started taking shape. Fashion retailing too came in the forefront with stores, boutiques and fashion houses opening in quick succession all over the country. The missing ingredient, as is highlighted in Kaul’s book, the marketing skills of the designers were non-existent. Kaul, with a Masters in marketing, is spot on, and has tried to bring this aspect into focus.

Giving the reader a fly-on-the-wall view, Kaul’s book appears almost semi-autobiographical with all the hitches, hiccups and resistance he probably had to face during the years he headed the council.  As I was reading through this relatively fast paced book, I felt it was the serious version of my own humorous satire on the fashion industry called Fashion Musings.

Kaul maps his characters into two groups – The Coterie and The Musketeers. While The Coterie is quite on point with designer tantrums, bloated egos, lots of attitude and snotty behaviour, The Musketeers are probably a throwback on his IIM MBA alumni buddies. The author is a veteran of several successful ultramarathons, and for the marathon enthusiasts, there are two big chapters on Marathon running and its technicalities, which one the lead characters, Shailendra part of The Musketeers describes in great detail.

The excitement, trials and tribulations of a fashion week before, during and after are well etched out and will keep the readers eager to turn the pages. There is that familiar disorganised prima donna, the top designer, the doyen of fashion who throws her weight around, the malfunctioning on the ramp, the senior and junior designers who don’t see eye-to-eye and the rift between the Delhi and Mumbai designers. The addition of a sharp-tongued fashion journalist who ruled in the capital’s media will keep the fraternity guessing. The narrative is a work of fiction with an interesting dose of factual details.

The Coterie is a fast-paced book which will appeal to industry followers and those who want to know what happens behind the arc lights of the ramp. There are juicy snippets to keep the readers engrossed.


About the Reviewer

Meher Castelino is India’s leading fashion journalist. She has been the first Femina Miss India. She has represented the country in various capacities at international forums. She is on the board of some of the leading fashion institutes in the country, consultant to key fashion weeks, examiner and jury at key fashion institutes and selection boards. She has authored several books on fashion.

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