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Why ivory is the new red for Indian couture in 2021

Source: Vogue

The superior shade of the season? Ivory. How to wear it? Head-to-toe

There’s an innocuous-yet-impactful ivory chikankari kurta edged with gota patti crafts that has claimed top-drawer status in my occasion wear closet for years. Pujas to pre-wedding celebrations, with palazzos and lehenga skirts, I have repeated, repurposed and restyled it in more ways than I can count. For such a serene shade, ivory has had a surprisingly tight grip on Indian couture, holding the de facto title of “classic” colour for a long time now. Rightly so. The new neutral is anything but boring—you can wear it solo, sport it in a panoply of silhouettes, splash it with accessories, cover it with a vibrant jacket or dupatta.

2021’s love for ivory is a welcome palette cleanser to all the colour and chaos that make a typical wedding wardrobe. Does this mean that a new age is upon us, one where crimson reds and blush pinks live in harmony with ivory? Couture loves a (colour-coded) dictator, and ivory and all its iterations, makes for a suitable heir. 

The couturiers who embraced ivory in their new collections  

Ivory’s pared-back put-together aesthetic points to a shift in priorities post pandemic—the lightness of being we have all been yearning for. Sartorially speaking, “it’s the perfect neutral (like black) and lends itself beautifully to several surface treatments. For me personally, ivory has been a favourite start point for any new collection. The key goal being to create something which stands the test of time and yet is modern and luxurious. In our new Rumeli line, ivory can be found extensively in both menswear and womenswear,“ JJ Valaya tells me. 

The rawness, versatility and simplicity of this spectrum is echoed by several other couturiers. Anita Dongre. Anamika Khanna. Tarun Tahiliani. Sabyasachi. Manish Malhotra. Rahul Mishra. Falguni Shane Peacock. All designers are gravitating toward the neutral and have populated their latest couture collections with pieces in the palette. Dongre’s ‘An Ode to Bhuj’ 2021 festive outing is replete with investment-worthy lehengas paired with strappy blouses, exquisite jacket-style kurtas and sumptuous sharara sets for the bride and her tribe. You’ll find ensembles accentuated with the veteran couturier’s signature gota patti and mirror work, but without the tonnage. Anamika Khanna’s India Couture Week 2021 edit is another prime example of ivory couture, cut in weightless fabrics and lined with luxurious crafts. 

If anyone swears by this point of hue, it’s Tarun Tahiliani, who has culled out a niche for his frothy tulle lehengas and concept saris. For his latest collection ‘Artisanal Couture’, “beiges have been the mainstay”, but it’s given a 2021 makeover. Think kalidaar lehengas and anarkalis, different cuts of blouses, draped garments and even crop tops + pant sets.

Bollywood brides who aced ivory wedding outfits

The recent crop of celebrity weddings suggest that ivory’s stubbornly photogenic, timeless reign will not be nearing an end anytime soon. When producer Rhea Kapoor tied the knot in August 2021, she eschewed tried-and-tested saturated shades in favour of an ivory sari by Anamika Khanna. Doused in tone-on-tone thread work, her six-yard was teamed with a half-sleeved blouse and topped off with a cape in tones of ivory and gold. She even gave traditional dupattas a raincheck and instead made a statement by picking a veil crafted using thousands of little pearls, a vintage piece from Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas. Her reception look, customised by one of her go-to designers, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, was a Mandala off-white organza circular dress paired with a box pleated organza cape with dramatic sleeves, all hand embroidered in delicate resham work.

The ivory streak was already incubating when Sonam Kapoor Ahuja wore an ivory chikankari lehenga by designer duo for her mehandi in May 2018, and made it the dress code for her star-studded guest list. “Ivory and tones of off-white are a divine palette. Add to it the pristine beauty of chikankari. It is unparalleled because of the finesse, delicacy and elaborate mix of stitches and motifs, along with the tone-on-tone colour palette that makes a chikankari bridal ensemble impossibly refined,” the pair reveal. Thumb back to December 2018, and you’ll also recall Deepika Padukone’s Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla ivory lehenga-sari worn for her reception in Bengaluru.

Your 101 to style an ivory Indian ensemble

As weddings get intimate, brides, bridesmaids and even wedding hoppers want to invest in pieces that will not be relegated to the back of their closets. And ivory makes for the perfect, most refreshing candidate for Indian wear. Ivory and gold has not just been the colour of the season, but years to come. The neutral’s present-day revamp allows its wearer to thaw its staid, serious trope. Ivory today means minimalist or maximalist. It’s timeless. Trendy. Flattering for all. It’s the colour of the woman who owns her femininity and the woman who favours comfort. 

Ivory serves as the perfect canvas to merge different influences together. You can wear an ivory organza sari and team it with a traditional weave, be it a blouse or a dupatta. While you can incorporate a hint of contrasting colour, wearing ivory head-to-toe makes for the best look. “Embroideries like zardozi in gold and silver add a richness and regal sheen to ivory. One can also incorporate bursts of colour with borders and finishes in jewel tones. The blouse of the lehenga can also be an absolute contrast to the ivory. We work with lace and crystals to create statement blouses. A dupatta in any other colour, from the softest pink to a vermilion red is a fabulous way to break the ivory,” suggest Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla on making the ivory your own. Your silhouettes don’t need to be limited either. Complement an ivory drape skirt or sharara pants with a metallic blouse or embellished top or waist coat for a friend’s pre-wedding celebration or slip into a slip dress and layer it with a jacket. 

As a palette, it also allows you to mix and match your jewellery as you please. You can layer diamonds with polki, or temple jewellery with a hint of pearls to add freshness to your traditional look. 

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Slow but steady: Understanding the smart home revolution

Gavin Miller, CEO, Asurion Europe

As a society, our reliance on digital devices continues to grow as we find new ways to weave connected technology into all manner of products. In the past decade or so we have seen TVs, speakers, doorbells and more incorporating ‘smart’ elements, adding to our network of home devices. Consumers are keen to adopt tools that save time and money, and strengthen safety. The proof is in the numbers: the global smart home appliance market, for instance, is set to more than double in value – from $59 billion in 2022 to $143 billion by 2030.[i]

All this technology is changing the way we go about our daily activities. We are able to do chores like our weekly food shop without leaving the home and enjoy entertainment via multiple platforms. But this is not to say we have disregarded the old ways completely. Book consumption has risen[ii] and for some items we still prefer to go to a physical store. To take advantage of emerging opportunities, technology manufacturers and retailers must be able to understand changing behaviours and anticipate future trends.

The current state of play

In 2016, around two thirds of the population were familiar with the idea of smart home technology, but that number has grown over the last seven years – driven in part by the popularity of items like smart speakers.[iii]  

According to one 2023 analysis, the percentage of UK adults owning at least one connected home device sat at around 80%, a three percent growth from 2022 – reflecting the leisurely but reliable increase in uptake in this sector.[iv] This ownership is reasonably consistent through different age groups, though differences emerge when we look at multi-device ownership. 43% of 16-24 year olds and 45% of 25-34 year olds own three or more devices, a significant increase compared to the overall UK multi-ownership average of 34%. These groups are key to the future adoption of these devices; as they continue to gain spending power and move into their own homes, it is likely they will acquire more smart products.

While awareness of connected products has certainly grown, there is a mixed picture when we attempt to understand how frequently we are purchasing and using these products. To gain a clearer understanding, Asurion Europe’s recent study investigated the adoption and usage rates of smart home devices in the last few years.

Measuring growth: Adoption & usage

Asurion’s Adoption Index reflects the population’s access to devices and channels, based on factors such as: internet users, adult social media users, mobile internet users, wearable owners and the penetration of smart home devices. Meanwhile, the Usage Index displays the amount of time we actually spend using these products, for activities like browsing the internet and social media, streaming TV, playing on games consoles, and online shopping.

There is an important distinction between the two. Though someone may have a social media account or own a smartwatch, it is not necessarily the case that they using the account or smartwatch. In fact, YouGov found that around one in ten smart watch owners do not use their device[v]. For platforms like social media accounts which are free to acquire, this number is likely to be much higher.

This explains why usage rates typically lag behind adoption, as Asurion found in the study. When a new smart home product enters the market, there is often a gap from the point where it is an item of novelty to when it has become a well-used part of the furniture.

The opportunity gap

With that in mind, the Adoption and Usage indices below give us two very different but useful insights. The Usage Index demonstrates our current dependency, while the Adoption Index indicates our potential future dependency. Monitoring these indices in the coming years should shed light on the speed of usage, and when we are likely to see the latest home tech truly take off. The current gap between adoption and usage therefore represents an opportunity for technology firms, highlighting crucial points for promoting products, stimulating further usage or encouraging eventual device replacement or upgrades.

Technology companies who are acutely aware of these changing trends and demands from their customer base will be best placed to develop offerings that capture the imagination of consumers. However, as we become more reliant on the connected functionality of our devices and their ability to perform a range of tasks, the inconvenience of device failures will only become greater. In fact, our recent survey of over 2,000 consumers found that at least once a quarter, over a third of respondents experience a significant issue with one electronic device in the home. This means support from comprehensive and affordable tech protection services will be increasingly valuable to ensure the full collection of devices in our connected homes remain up and running.

As CEO of Asurion Europe, Gavin Miller is leading the expansion of the global tech care company in the region. Gavin started his career at global customer experience company Sitel (now Foundever) before moving on to C-suite roles supporting rapid growth and acquisition in a range of businesses, including the largest telephone fundraising specialist in the UK, a commercial contact centre business and a provider of debt management services.

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Summer running: expert tips to safeguard your eyes from heat and sun

Running, as one of the most natural forms of recreation, comes with a long list of health benefits such as better cardiovascular health, improved knee and back health, better immunity, improved mood and overall energy, and better sleep.

Summer, despite being considered a nice time for a run due to the sunny weather, is the most hated season in the running community.

Running in the heat takes extra energy and it can take a toll on eye health. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (growth on the eye’s surface), while sweat and sun cream can lead to eye pain and blurred vision.

Nimmi Mistry, professional service optician at Vision Direct, shares insight on how to protect your eyes during summer runs.

Blinded by the lights: UV ray exposure can lead to serious eye damage

Running enthusiasts usually have their summer runs in the morning or evening, as these periods have lower temperatures. Despite the sun being lower then and runners looking down during their runs, indirect sunlight can cause serious eye damage as it reflects from surfaces.

Our eyes have natural protection, as corneas absorb UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C radiation, but they can absorb only half of it. The rest reaches the retina, which is responsible for sharp vision and the macula, and can cause damage such as:

Pterygium or Surfer’s Eye. This condition includes tissue growth in the eye that is directly connected to long-term exposure to UV light and can affect anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors without adequate protection. You can actually see this as a lumpy growth in your eye and although it’s not cancerous, it can cause eye inflammation, lead to dry eye, and cause other eye issues like itching, burning eye pain, or even lead to blurred and double vision. The only treatment for it is surgery.

Cataracts: With age, proteins and fibers in the lens begin to break down, causing changes in the eye tissues. Cataracts are basically little clouds in the eye lens that can cause vision problems and typically start appearing around age 40.  Studies have confirmed that UV rays can trigger the eye damage seen in cataracts, as they harm the proteins in the eyes in the same way. Prolonged exposure to the sun may cause your eyes to deteriorate even before you are 40.

Macular Degeneration: This is another age-related eye condition in which the macula, the part of the eye responsible for seeing sharp details, gets damaged. It’s common in people 65 years and older, and while the direct causes are not completely understood (generally bad habits like smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure), studies have proven that exposure to UV rays increases the risk of developing macular degeneration.

Salt and acid from sweat leads to eye irritations 

Eyebrows are our natural barrier against getting sweat into eyes, but during summer runs they are not enough. The burning feeling of getting sweat mixed with sunscreen in your eyes isn’t just a temporary setback to your running pace.

Sweat that drips from your scalp to your eyes contains salt and acid, and can be potentially harmful. The salt in sweat can cause eye irritations, a burning feeling, blurred vision, or stinging eyes. If the sweat is mixed with sunscreen, the pain can be even sharper.

How to protect your eyes when running in the summer?

Whether you’re running on trails or on roads, you should definitely take care of your eyes, especially if you’re a long distance enthusiast.

  1. Wear sunglasses while running: This may seem logical but loads of runners still think running with glasses is uncomfortable. This may be true if they are wearing prescription glasses, but not if they wear specific lightweight sunglasses designed for outdoor activities. Wearing sunglasses is really imperative when it comes to eye protection as they block out 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Switch to contact lenses: If you’re wearing prescription glasses, seriously consider switching to contact lenses for sports or any summer activities. They will allow you to wear sunglasses, and with contacts, you also get additional UV protection and better peripheral vision. Daily contact lenses are the best choice for beginners, and they don’t have as much protein build-up, making them more comfortable to wear.
  3. Wear a running hat: The first choice for eye protection during summer is sunglasses, but if for any reason you can’t wear them, a running hat with additional UPF protection is a must. It will protect you from direct UV rays, but not from indirect UV rays, which again, can be really harmful. A running hat can be a nice addition to sunglasses, as it keeps sweat (combined with sunscreen) from dripping down and impairing your vision.
  4. Headbands: Headbands alone can’t protect your eyes from the sun, but it is a good idea to combine them with sunglasses to stop sweat and sunscreen getting into your eyes.

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Play, Learn, Grow: Why Playgrounds are Vital to Childhood Development

Between 2011 and 2023, public playground budgets fell by more than £350m. As a result, between 2013 and 2023, almost 800 public-use playgrounds across the UK closed, with budget constraints commonly cited as the driving force.

Although public-use playgrounds have suffered as a result of budgetary concerns, outdoor play remains vitally important to childhood development. This kind of play informs children about the world they live in, encourages social function and teaches valuable lessons about the environment.

Here, the educational play experts at Playdale take a look at the key role that playgrounds play in childhood development, and the lessons that our children can learn through considered playground design.

Why are playgrounds so important?

We cannot understate the impact of outdoor play on other aspects of children’s lives. 97% of teachers say that outdoor play is critical for children to reach their full potential. From boosting social skills to simply giving children an opportunity to let off steam, outdoor and adventurous play can reduce anxiety and depression among children.

With the recent worrying news that almost 70,000 children in the UK are suffering as a result of inadequate mental health support, adventurous play is more important than ever.

Outdoor play is also important when it comes to boosting children’s ability to carry out independent risk assessments. Lack of access to outdoor play means a growing number of children “reaching the end of their primary school years without having had enough opportunities to develop their ability to assess and manage risk independently,” says Helen Dodd, Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter. Adventurous play helps children learn how to distinguish between safe risks and unsafe risks, teaching them independence as well as decision-making skills.

Dedicated outdoor play areas are therefore hugely important to childhood development. The design of these areas – and the acts of play they facilitate – are hugely important in teaching children important life lessons that they can carry forward.  

Being active

According to Save the Children UK, just one in four children play out on their street regularly, compared to three in four of their grandparents’ generation. Data shows that children are regularly chastised by parents or neighbours for being loud or excitable in the street, discouraging them from further outdoor play.

With this in mind, the importance of dedicated outdoor spaces is clear. Giving today’s youth a place to make noise, run, and be free is vital to uninhibited development. Every child has a right to play, according to the UN, and playgrounds teach children the value of being active in a space that’s safe and won’t cause disruption.

Social skills

Time spent at the playground gives children a chance to practice their social skills in a less-regulated environment than the classroom. This helps boost social skills such as listening and comprehension, reading social cues and even apologising to peers for mistakes.

Playground design can inform and facilitate social actions, too – communal equipment is important in encouraging children to come out of their shell and spend time together. One study noted how children interacted more with other children and less with their parents or supervisors with the introduction of certain playground equipment.

Barry Leahey MBE, President of Playdale Playgrounds, comments: “children learn that their actions have consequences – even if their parents or teachers might not be able to intervene right away. Understanding that fact helps children reinforce the good lessons they receive at home and school.”  

Inclusivity lessons

Through play, children at various ages have the opportunity to learn important lessons about inclusion and community. School and public playgrounds provide a space for children to interact independently with peers of different ability levels, increasing understanding and acceptance of children living with disabilities.

Considered, accessible playground design helps facilitate communal methods of play that bring children together. Inclusively designed playgrounds go above and beyond dedicated areas for wheelchair users, offering a range of different equipment that differently abled children can interact with in alternative ways.

49% of families with disabled children found that their local playground had some form of accessibility problem. But with 70% of disabled children in the UK using a public playground at least once a week, they’re key in helping to boost social skills and encourage interactions between children of all ability levels. Going forward, says Leahey, “accessible and inclusive playground design will help to teach understanding and consideration for the future generation of adults.”

Environmental lessons

Outdoor play offers children the chance to connect with nature and begin to better understand the world around them. “The play environment itself encourages and informs exactly how children see and interact with the immediate environment,” says Leahey.

There are plenty of factors that affect those interactions, from the area surrounding the park itself to the materials used in the park’s construction. Nature-themed interactions encourage childhood curiosity and an interest in the natural world. For example, woodland play areas do a great job of reinforcing the “natural” element of play.

“This is part of why material choices are so important,” comments Leahey. “Playgrounds should be visually and physically stimulating, but using more natural materials in construction can teach children about the importance of sustainability growing up.”

Lessons learned

The evidence indicates just how indispensable playgrounds are to childhood development – not merely from a play perspective, but in enhancing and enriching a child’s wider experience and interactions in an uninhibited environment in which they can be free.

The big picture indicates just how much of a problem the lack of funding for public-use playgrounds can pose. With less opportunities for children to socialise, understand their differences and the world around them, emotional and social development could become inhibited.

And, with less opportunities to be active, children’s health may continue to struggle. Though childhood obesity has slightly decreased between 2022 and 2023, levels have failed to drop below pre-pandemic levels, indicating the importance of dedicated play spaces for child health.

“So,” surmises Leahey, “we cannot understate the importance of outdoor play spaces. They teach our youth vital lessons, give them safe places to explore, exercise, laugh and more. If these budget cuts continue, our children will be missing out on an invaluable community resource.”

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