MUMBAI-BASED Neha Parulkar never imagined that one day she would walk the ramp at a fashion week. The 24-year-old content editor says she has always been body-shamed for being fat and overweight.
So when she got a chance to walk the ramp at the Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Winter/Festive 2016 for its plus-size show, she was ecstatic. “I always thought fashion and the glamour industry were only for slim people.
The thought of walking the ramp at a fashion show was an alien idea for me. So I was super-excited to be chosen as a model for the LFW’s plus-size show. The fashion week has opened doors which people like me never thought existed,” says Parulkar.
The fashion industry in the country has started becoming increasingly inclusive now. Today, there is something for everyone. From plus-size shows to promoting sustainability, Indian handlooms and the transgender community, Lakmé Fashion Week, for one, is working actively to break all stereotypes. Ongoing in Mumbai currently, the LFW this year saw its first-ever plus-size show in collaboration with aLL—The Plus Size Store and designer Shilpa Chavan.
Additionally, it also saw designers promote Indian textiles and local weavers by showcasing their handloom collections as part of LFW’s ‘sustainable fashion and Indian textiles’ initiative.
Designers like Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango, Anavila Misra, Darshan Shah of Weavers Studio, Bina Rao, Hemang Agrawal, Alan Alexander Kaleekal, Pallavi Dhyani of Three, Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama of P.E.L.L.A., Padmaja Krishnan, Preeti Verma of The Runaway Bicycle, Anuradha Pegu of Naturally Anuradha, Pranami Kalita of Pariah by Pranami, Aditi Holani Chandak and Jasonanshu of The Small Shop showcased collections as part of the sustainable fashion initiative on August 25.
“The aim is to deepen buyer and designer engagement, while enhancing the business of fashion,” says Jaspreet Chandok, VP and head, IMG Reliance, which organises the LFW in collaboration with Lakmé, about the sustainability initiative.
That’s not all. In a first-of-its-kind initiative for the Indian fashion industry, designers, in the run-up to the LFW, styled transgender artistes for a photo shoot with the objective of promoting inclusivity in fashion.
While Garg chose an organza silk sari handwoven in chanderi, Pegu adorned her artiste in a Eri silk sari handwoven by the Mising tribe weavers of Assam.
“This is a revolutionary initiative and a much-needed one in the fashion industry today. Fashion and art have no gender and, for fashion to be sustainable, it has to be inclusive,” Garg says.
The four transgender artistes who were models for the shoot were Narthaki Nataraj, a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer and recipient of the 2011 Sangeet Natak Puraskar; Maalika Panicker, a Bharatnatyam and Mohiniattam dancer; Varsha Vardhana, a Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi dancer; and Lakshya, a Bharatnatyam dancer.
“Through my classical dance performances, I aim for acceptance for the transgender community. I hope this initiative by the LFW will strengthen my cause,” says Vardhana.
The plus-size show is another revolutionary step for any fashion week in the country. Explaining why they decided to host one, Chandok says, “Plus-size fashion is extremely serious business now. The intent is to start a conversation that will, hopefully, lead to a greater focus on creating fashion for all body types.”
Manish Aziz, business head, aLL—The Plus Size Store, which collaborated with the LFW for the special show, says the time has come to get over our fixation on size zero.
“The fashion industry in India has been fixated on size zero for a long time now, but this has gradually been changing globally. So we thought it was the right time that we, too, initiated this revolution in India,” says Aziz.
Styled for the LFW by designer Shilpa Chavan, 10 models for the show were selected from auditions that saw over 160 models from across the country taking part.
The fashion week also saw the launch of the first-ever Indian Women’s Standard Size Chart by designer Wendell Rodricks. The chart, Rodricks feels, will benefit designers, buyers and retailers alike.
Talking about the decision to make the LFW more inclusive this year, Purnima Lamba, head, innovation, Lakmé, says, “Beauty in India is truly diverse, and fashion must reflect this diversity. LFW believes in creating fashion for all. While it’s a nascent idea today, it is bound to gather momentum.”