If the Lakmé Fashion Week’s runway over the years has been anything to go by, India is the land of the doppelganger zombie. Bulimic bodies sucking in their cheeks and tummies and staring at you deadpan while evaporating on and off the stage, are testimony to the growing western influence on everything we are and do, including our standards of beauty. But you don’t need to look far to learn what most of us really look like – just go backstage! It will be a flurry of voluptuous bodies, with animated expressions. And these women, who are various degrees of sun-kissed, commanding everything from tractors to multi-million dollar companies don’t shy away from vivid shades of fabric. Well, this year’s Lakmé Fashion Week finally decided that the backstage needs to take centre stage, and brought out all kinds of Indian women, at different life and career stages, with different bodies and backgrounds – to endorse fashion that complements all forms of beauty.
Reliance Retail led this onslaught at LFW 2016, with their online clothing portal AJIO, and up and coming designer Gaurang Shah was close on their heels. Here is a list of models who broke the monochromatic feel of LFW, and simply slayed on the runway!
Representing “Age No Bar” in AJIO’s themed fashion show, 70-year-old former actress Helen waltzed down the runway showcasing everything from signature moves from her popular cabarets, to expressions that melted the coldest of hearts. In a salwar-kurti with an eccentrically colourful aztec scarf, Helen’s walk of fame proved that you can take the diva out of the showbiz, but you can never take showbiz out of a diva!
Bharti is someone who defies conventions in her free time, and eats broken stereotypes for breakfast. As a stand up comedian who is feisty, goofy, witty, and quick on her feet, she has already become something of a walking-talking reminder that women are awesome and she has never yet passed up on an opportunity to joke about her own chubbiness. So, who better than her to represent a rather sizable section of Indian women when the whole world was watching? In a loose arctic blue dress with an embellished neckline and elegant peep-toe heels, Bharti became the poster child for “size no bar.”
India has taken its time to accept this woman who wears her sexuality on her sleeve, but she took to us with aplomb,speaking out in her intrepid, outspoken manner. The pornstar-turned-Bollywood actress, who chose to start her career with erotica, has always fought for promoting women’s sexuality with her candid interviews and narrations of her own story. No wonder AJIO chose her to state “choice no bar”, as she scorched the ramp in a white buttoned up shirt with a gorgeous ethnic ghaghra, accessorised with her most lethal weapon – the half-smile that says that she’s going to continue to do her thang.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a heartbreaker – she epitomises all the attributes of an Indian woman. The statement ‘round bindi’ signifying infinite strength in resolve, and lips bleeding sindoor red or maroon exemplify revolt. Mumbai-based Laxmi is a ‘hijra’, who has identified as a woman all her life. A battle she fought with unbelievable flair on stage – representing “Gender No Bar” wrapped in a royal silk saree, a statement bead necklace and an elegant black shawl.She fights with fiery tenacity off-stage, as a transgender rights activist, Hindi film actress, and Bharatanatyam dancer in Mumbai.
Out of all these unexpected appearances, Carol Gracias’ s walk of fame was my favourite. While the other models were invited to specifically represent a cause, Carol Gracias, now close to 5-months’ pregnant, was invited in spite of it. She walked for Gaurang Shah in a gorgeous handloom saree, without him making a big deal out of it, as if to say, she’s just a woman doing her job, and the fact that she is pregnant is irrelevant. Gracias, walking as if the runway was home to her, is known to have dodged many tricky situations including a much talked about wardrobe malfunction, with just a smile on her face and her usual ritziness in her step. She walked down the stage this time, hardly caring about her baby bump playing peek-a-boo under her saree.
If inclusivity found its way into an Indian fashion event–considered amongst the more shallow industries– there is reason to be optimistic that hearts will open up to unconventional beauty everywhere.