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Indian exotica on the ramp

After blue-eyed blondes, models of mixed Indian parentage are the fashion fraternity’s new fixation.

fashion and trends Updated: Mar 09, 2011 14:18 IST
Rochelle Pinto

When Punjabi-American model Liza Golden first moved to India from New Jersey, US, she didn’t anticipate the frenzy that would follow. Now cornering campaigns for designers Ritu Kumar and Monisha Jaisingh and pouting on almost every magazine cover, the dark-haired beauty says, “I’ve ranked much higher in India than in New York. Everyone thinks of me as a model who has achieved great things, but to get ‘there’ in New York takes years.” She attributes her meteoric rise to her half-Indian parentage: “It helps to have that Indian touch as we all thrive on dark beauty here.”

Moving on from the blonde-hair, blue-eyed model obsession of a few years ago, models with mixed origins, Indian and foreign, seem to be the toast of the town. Last season, Punjabi-English Ashika Pratt stormed the ramp. This time, models like Gia Johnson Singh (Punjabi-English), Angela Johnsson (Indian-Icelandic) and Golden are the most sought after. “When Gia shot for the Kingfisher Calendar last year, she hadn’t added Singh to her name. I told her she’d need that Indian flavour to make it here,” says photographer Atul Kasbekar. “Now the buzz around Angela Johnsson, who first appeared on the calendar, is unbelievable.”

Fashion strategist Sabina Chopra attributes this trend to India’s new position as a global fashion market. “Girls with mixed parentage see opportunities that didn’t exist before. Also, most start their careers at a young age abroad and are already better groomed and more professional than Indian models of the same age.” Explaining the end of the fashion fraternity’s ‘firang’ fixation, Chopra says, “I don’t think we can deal with blonde hair anymore, but we’re fine with models having dark hair and light skin.”

Mark Luburic, founder of Anima Creative Management, the agency that handles Singh, Pratt and Golden, says, “It’s a niche market for blondes here. Most clients need models to connect with their target consumer, so brunettes seem to fit the mould better.”