10 plus-size models walked down the ramp for the first time at Lakme Fashion Week. We went behind the scenes
There’s pizza at a model fitting. Pizza and cola. Not the thin-crust, or the wholewheat stuff. The big, fat, cheese-laden calorie bombs. Half a dozen boxes. The cola’s real, too; not the diet nonsense.
It’s an anomalous lunch, sitting on a table surrounded by 10 models. This should be the realm of salad, championed by kale, with a cold-pressed juice passing for a cheat.
Then again, modelling is a realm dominated by 6ft-something bodies, impossibly fitted with 24-inch waists. The upkeep of which must require kale, surely.
Of late, though, the realm has been infiltrated. Plus-size is the new buzzword. And the global catwalk its unlikely champion. And once the West starts something, it’s a matter of time before we follow.
This is a little different, though. We’re following, sure. Not gingerly, though, but in confident strides.
ALL, the plus-size fashion brand, picked an opportune moment to approach Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) for a show. And LFW, the picky gatekeepers of high fashion, agreed.
They also brought in perhaps the most deviant member of India’s current fashion tribe: Shilpa Chavan (in her forties, reportedly; she wouldn’t share her age), or, Little Shilpa (the name of her brand, and an oblique reference to the petite designer, milliner and stylist).
In an open audition, 160 aspirants (reportedly) turned up. And now, in this room, stand the final 10. Chavan lines them up — the petite marshal, a Daenerys in shiny, golden sneakers — deciding her battle formation (or model sequence) for the big day (on Sunday).
“I know you want more jewellery and accessories. But I want you to sparkle instead,” she says. With that pep talk, Marshal Chavan sends her troops off. Not before they’ve clicked selfies with her. It’s not every day that you model for a designer of international calibre, whose fantastical headgear has adorned a head as famous as Lady Gaga’s.
Chavan’s not showing her collection this season at LFW. She’s saving it for Milan, and Paris, she says. Which means, she was free to style this show. But her reasons go beyond. Unlike most other designers, she stakes claim to have broken the body stereotype already. She’s had friends, “real people”, as she calls them in fashion parlance, walk for her shows.
“Fashion Week is a business. While designers show in model size, most outfits are ordered in larger sizes. It’s about time we acknowledged that,” she says. And things are changing. “Zara now does sizes 14 and 16,” she points out.
For this show, the model criteria were clear: minimum waist sizes 34 (women), and 38 (men). Chavan’s giving them none of her dramatic headgear. She says she wants the looks to be wearable. “I want it to be real. Otherwise, the idea of doing this is defeated,” she says.
But as they walk down the ramp at LFW, does it signal the fall of the empire of the 24-inch waists? Chavan is realistic. The demand for thin models will always exist, but there’ll be space for others: “Fashion needs to have all kinds of people. It can no longer afford to be snooty.”
The ALL plus-size show, styled by Little Shilpa, took place at Lakme Fashion Week on August 28.
The writer tweets as @saritray2001