In a glitzy nightclub in Ukraine, models sashayed down the ramp wearing beautiful evening gowns and edgy hats. What made this showcase unique was not the sartorial glamour, but the spirit of the models — who were either wheelchair bound, or lacked the power of vision. These ramp strutters relished their Cinderella moment and flashed super smiles during Fashion Chance, an event put together by 28-year-old Yulia Kozluk, a differently-abled woman who dared to think out-of-the-box, and infused confidence in many.
Will India dare to be different?
Apart from the differently abled, recent fashion campaigns in the West have also used octogenarians and even transgenders as models. Will desi designers too break the norm of usinng wafer-thin, leggy models and give a chance to those who are different? “It’s a great idea to explore such people in fashion shows, who could be unique in themselves, and therefore make for interesting muses. But, we are so glamour-struck that even when we experiment, we do it in a very Bollywoodish way,” says designer Gaurav Gupta. He recalls watching one of John Galliano’s shows as a student, where the British designer had old women wearing his cotoure creations. “It’s time we started representing things differently. It gives you a true feel of a show,” adds Gupta.
We need a mindset overhaul
Designer Rina Dhaka agrees that designers must take on the challenge of not using regular models and do something exciting. But, she adds that it’s usually the fear of negative publicity that deters designers from doing so. “Art and design is still too conservative in India, and people don’t dare to be different,” she says. “Two minutes of fame for those who are marginalised could bring them a lot of joy,” she adds.
Designers Kapil and Mmonika Arora also give a thumbs up to the idea of using real people. We must kill the clichés. Why do drab shows where you see faces and bodies that look like clones ? It will be super exciting to see real people show off my designs,” Kapil says. “It’s often the fear of backlash that delfaltes our spirits. But, it is time we started respecting those who are different,” he adds.
The designers will soon have a show where people from the LBGT community will walk the ramp wearing their creations.
The west is already creating a stir:
French fashion house Lanvin’s Fall 2012 campaign features the 81-year-old dancer Jacquie ‘Tajah’ Murdock. Fashion brands abroad do not hesitate from using transgender models as well. US brand American Apparel’s latest print campaign features transgender model Isis King. King has been walking the ramp for more than a decade.
We have talent, but where’s the spirit?
While finding a job for the differently-abled is a problem that plagues many countries, the absence of an anti-discrimination legislation in India makes the situation trickier. “Some of the differently-abled people are very good looking and modelling can be a career option for them,” says technology consultant Pranav Lal who was born blind. “But sadly, unlike the West, there are hardly any takers for such ideas,” he adds. Transgender Danish Khan aka Chahat’s modelling dreams too are yet to materialise. “It is sad that we have remained regressive while the world has got rid of prejudice against those who are different,” she says.