WALTHAM, MA—You can imagine the depth of fashion savvy attendees at the 14th Annual Woman of the Year Awards gala, when local residents could not get an appointment with any Indian beauty salon three days prior to the red-carpet gala, which was held on Friday at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA.
With nearly 500 people in attendance and over 50 in the waiting list, it was an event to be. In addition to the recognition of talents and celebration of achievements of 20 Outstanding Women, the event also displayed fashion trends at its best; and some local fashionistas were there to spot them.
“The Women of the Year showcased the best of Indian and Western fashion on stage, ranging from Sonika Vaid’s black flowing elegance contrasting with the classic red lehengas worn by Anjali Nath and Shefali Jain, both extraordinary kathak dancers,” said venture capitalist Anupendra Sharma. “It was another memorable evening of inspiration, music, dance and fashion.”
What was in style this year at WOY? Sarees, of course. Both men and women fashionistas noticed the display of elegant sarees.
“It was again that day of the year when women gathered to celebrate their achievements, listen to the stories of courage, determination, perseverance, compassion, and to share the joy of success. In the heart of their hearts, they were present to give wings to their own dreams and remind them of their own potential,” said Dr. Deepak Takhtani.
“And it was all done in an ambiance of synergy, smiling faces, gleaming eyes and glitz. One could not but notice the bright colored dresses, the sparkles and elegance all around. Like previous years, Sari was the attire of choice for the majority of the audience and why not. If there a scoring system for women’s dresses, Sari probably will get a perfect 10. It is not just another dress, it is much more- it enhances femininity, adds to the mystery and boosts confidence. It was a collective way to send a message- we are here- not mere as objects of beauty but as ambassadors of half of the humanity- confident of doing our part to make this world better place to live.”
Ruchika Arora, director Miss India USA pageant for New England, added: “Indian sari as perfect drape doesn’t seem to simmer and undoubtedly rule the ethnic circuit at WOY gala. The unique silhouette gracefully adorns Indian closets and celebrations with grandeur. Although in India a very popular look these days is kurta worn with palazzo, dhoti pant or skirt; but next to saris in New England is Anarkalis.”
Favorite Sarees? Arora mentioned Annette Phillip, Woman of the Year 2016, and Jasmine Shah, who received Lifetime Achievement Award 2016.
“My favorite this year was sari worn by Annette Phillip. It is a Kanjeevaram Silk Sari with heavy Zari border that she wore with long gold chain with beads, traditional bindi and natural lose curls which made it a powerful look for the evening,” Arora said. “Mrs. Jasmine wore a black silk saree with orange and zari border and motifs depicting dance mudras along the border. What a perfect choice for the night!”
Lata Rao, owner of a saree store Kohinoor Collections, agreed with Arora on sarees dominating the fashion at WOY gala.
“This year’s India New England’s Woman of the Year event was again the event for wearing your best and looking your very best. The Saree has always been and will always be one of the most graceful attires a woman can don,” said Rao.
“Women of all ages, sizes, shapes feel beautiful when wearing one. This year’s event was a showcase of that very attire. There were colorful sarees in chiffons, georgettes, silks, net, each unique and beautiful…far too many to name them all but the 20 nominees particularly were dressed in their finest, notable mentions being the lifetime award winner, Jasmine Shah in her lovely silk depicting hand “mudras” in keeping with her artistry in dance and the lovely winner of The Woman of the Year, Annette Phillips looking elegant in her kanjeevaram.”
Rao said that even the highest ranking Indian origin US Armed Forces Officer, Alpa Ladani, who probably spends most of her time in uniform, wore a lovely saree.
“The two MC’s of the evening, Jharna Madan and Mandy Pant, coordinated beautifully in their lovely offwhite sarees. It is also always gratifying to see the men come out in their best to support the women in their elegant suits,” Rao said. “We are fortunate to have events such as this that give women a platform to continue to strive and do their very best above and beyond their boundaries.”
Arora noticed Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, Woman of the Year 2015, wearing white contemporary dress with lightly embroidered neckline and a stole that seemed like linen/silk blend kind of fabric, which made a great June formal and also gave a fine stage presence.
“This year Dr. Manju Sheth wore a light peach Indian Anarkali which she bought from a boutique in Kolkata. It had intricate zari on sleeves and light motif on yoke. Finely selected piece with understated elegance was perfectly paired with a heavy crystal choker necklace,” said Arora. “It was a delight to meet Sonika Vaid who wore a LBD with a twist. Her look reminded me of one of the idol episodes and also her choice of solid black outfit on glittering RDMA stage.”
Arora seemed a bit disappointed in men’s wear.
“I saw some men wearing Modi jackets/vets last year, and a red dandy tux at 2015 gala, but I couldn’t spot anything like that this time,” Arora said.
Ajay Jaisingh, a local theater actor, liked men’s suits, blazers and sports coat but was charmed by bold colors that women’s attires exhibited, spanning the entire color spectrum.
“It wasn’t an average Friday night. WOY was a red carpet event where beauty and charm were at showcase,” Jaisingh said. “While most of the men looked dashing in their suits, blazers and sport coats, it was the women that the evening was all about. They were elegantly dressed in ethnic Indian wear with complementing jewelry and accessories. And while that augmented their outer beauty, WOY complemented it well by celebrating their inner beauty.”
Preeti Munjal, a local fashionista who has passion for fashion, said WOY gala a spectacular event.
“Women of the Year event this year, looking from the fashion perspective, to me was nothing less than a Spectacular Bollywood Fashion Show. All the nominees and the guests worked extremely hard to come out in ensembles which made them look stunning and ready to walk the red carpet of an Indian Oscar show mostly wearing Indian formal clothing,” Munjal said. “All the ladies and gentlemen looked ravishingly elegant and handsome.”
Munjal said that when it comes to fashion Bollywood sets trends both in India and abroad and that is an ideal theme for an elegant Indian chic event where guests wear glamorous, colorful, Indian ethnic clothes.
“WOY show was just that along with perfectly choreographed musical extravaganza, just like in most Bollywood movies. When the nominees were being awarded certificates by the Chancellor of University of Massachusetts in Lowell, very appropriate songs from Indian movies were played in the background. It truly was truly an icing to the cake,” Munjal said. “All the guests came with very stylish accessories like handbags, jewelry, footwear, etc. matching their glamorous outfits. It showed full effort, from all, wanting to look their very best.”
Munjal said that fashion at WOY was not confined only to clothing and accessories.
“Good events are trend setters, making it unique, following a particular theme. Inspiration for clothes for this event sure looked like coming from haute couture designer showrooms. Hair and makeup of the guests and nominees matched suitably well with their exclusive clothes,” Munjal said.
Meenu Singh, a socialite and fashionista, who has watched fashion at WOY in the past, said this year’s Woman of the Year award show stood out from the past year in a striking differentiation.
“I would like to say the wine aged to a mellowing confluence of rich and robust flavors with a grave bouquet,” Singh said. “The award show has been evolving and has certainly come of age this year as a prime and prestigious event, that recognizes women of outstanding talent, dedication and merit. There was structure in having two distinguished personalities as keynote speaker and Chief Guest. The tone of the event was mature and formal yet kept interwoven with a light hearted flair. And for any of us who have been involved in such arrangements, know it fully well that it is not an easy feat to achieve. Kudos to the organizers in being able to conceive and craft this vision into reality.”
Singh added: “All in all I can say that this award function has come on its own to become synonymous with the caviar dip or the exotic green smoothie( for vegetarians like us)which has become a staple on our tables! Congratulations!!!”
Singh, however, said the fashion scene was somewhat muted and underplayed having come away from the dazzle and splash of the last year to transform into the sophisticated timbre of fine hues.
“We saw the hostess of the show, Manju Sheth echoing the same. The women wore the traditional emblem of beauty and grace; the saree of course but there were more than just a few in contemporary styles,” Singh said. “We also saw some resplendent colors and costumes adding a vibrant haze as they walked by creating vivid images. The two anchors adorned beautiful attires and were delightful. The men mostly wore their customary suits and a tie and it was hard to spot any sartorial overtures on their part. I am personally very happy to see this event take a turn for the better and wish it all success in the years to come.”
Shibani Mathur of Jewels N More by Shibani said WOY 2016 was simply a spectacular event bringing the community together and “it was a pleasure to see women in their true sense – Elegant, Graceful and yet who exudes Power and Confidence!”
“That was exactly the fashion theme this year. Women dressed up full of confidence and adorned what suited them and their personalities. It was all about how confident one was in their own skin, and that to me was the best fashion trend by far,” added Mathur. “Sarees were the most popular evergreen attire and so were the Anarkalis. A great sense to accessorize was so prominent. Lovely handbags, clutches and of course jewelry simply appropriate to compliment the outfit was very evident and a great attempt to Mix n Match was a delight to see.”
Mathur also noticed a splash of colors.
“A harbinger of Spring was also seen by the colorful outfits that everyone wore . A lot of bright colors, pinks, peaches, greens and yellows were splashed all over the ballroom and was a feast for the eyes,” Mathur said. “As far as the jewelry trend, Kundan and pearls were still the hot favorites.”
She said her absolute favorites were the timeless silk sarees worn by the winners of the night, Annette Phillip, who looked simply gorgeous and elegant in a Kanjivaram and Jasmine Shan in her black saree with “hand mudras ” motifs.
“It was the 3rd consecutive year that I have been attending WOY and in these 3 years, I have seen fashion sense has been prevailing easterly wind by the people attending WOY. Be it women or men, both have become more and more conscious about how do they dress up for the event. Fashion and glamour have by far become very prominent part of WOY gala event of India New England,” said Twinkle Morbia Gautam of Syna’s Collection.
Morbia also mentioned Jasmine Shah’s unique black saree with yellowish orange Bananasi border . What was unique with Shah’s saree?
“Everything,” said Morbia. “Beautifully hand-painted different Haath-Mudras (Hand Gestures) in color border only on the front part of the body, finely Hand-Painted ‘Nataraja: A visual interpretation of Brahman and a dance posture of Lord Shiva’ with perfect face expression on the Paalav (Pallu) of the saree and lastly, enticingly hand-painted leg form detailing the Goongroos on the feet and attaching bells on the border of the blouse. All the above paintings are ‘interrelated facets’ of our traditional Indian dance – ‘Bharat Natyam’ The location of each painting on the saree were the significant element that evidently showed the utmost respect for Dance.”
Morbia said that both of the Emcees who hosted the Gala event flawlessly, enthralled her.
“Kundan studded long gold earrings with vintage detailed craftsmanship worn by our very own Jharna Madan and contemporary bold real slver earrings worn by Mandy Pant, were the most enthralling statement pieces and awe-inspiring in jewelry. These were the solitary pieces that fascinated me at 2016 glamour-studded WOY gala. Men, they were perfectly dress in their tightly ironed and ever classy suits. But, similar to last year, what actually lacked was ’wink of tradition’. Hope to see them with traditional blends in future WOY events,” said Morbia.
Fashion designer Ambika Mangtani said the the Woman of the Year event is a great platform that promotes and celebrates women empowerment.
“I was extremely happy to see the perfect combination of talent, beauty, fashion and glamour at one place. Ever Since I started my journey in the fashion industry, I have seen women in New England becoming more and more glamorous, while keeping in touch with the Indian traditions. This red-carpet like event showcased individuality of styles encompassing traditional Indian attire, designer Indian outfits and dazzling styles of Bollywood and Hollywood,” said Mangtani. “The ever popular color red provided a vibrant setting, and brightened up the event. Lifetime achievement award winner Jasmine Shah looked stunning, as always, in her unique saree highlighting classical dance mudras. The woman of the year award winner Annette Philip looked graceful in a wonderful and traditional, handmade Rasi silk Saree.”
She said the perfect combination of eastern and western styles were showcased in elegant evening gowns, Anarkalis, lehengas, traditional sarees with ornate boluses, designer sarees complemented by spaghetti blouses and short skirts with trains. Esthetic and stunning jewelry with kundan, polki and uncut diamonds accented the clothing.
“2016 Woman of the Year event was unforgettable,” Mangtani said. “Now cant’ wait to see what the talent, fashion and glamour 2017 WOY brings!”