Clothes don’t define gender: Eshan Hilal, India’s first male belly dancer

Eshan Hilal’s gender fluid look stole the show at the annual cultural festival of NIFT this year.

fashion and trends Updated: Mar 30, 2017 18:54 IST
Aditya Dogra
Aditya Dogra
Hindustan Times
Gender Fluid,Fashion,Belly Dancer
Eshan Hilal walks with designers Devanshi Tuli, Tamanna Mehra, Sonal Bhardwaj, Mansi Dua on the ramp at NIFT’s annual cultural fest, Spectrum.(Abhishek Lal)

Fashion graduate Eshan Hilal’s love for gender fluid dressing is something he takes pride in. “Clothes don’t define someone’s gender. Girls wear men’s clothing and are never questioned. Then why aren’t men allowed to do that, too?,” says Hilal.

He recently impressed all as he walked down the ramp in a gender fluid creation by NIFT’s student designers— Devanshi Tuli, Tamanna Mehra, Sonal Bhardwaj, Mansi Dua. The 24 year-old, India’s first male belly dancer was invited at the NIFT’s annual cultural fest, Spectrum. “I’ve never walked on the ramp before, hence I was nervous. I was apprehensive about wearing a lampshade like dress where, I had to bare my legs. But, I was told that I’ll be able to rock it,” says Hilal. The idea of wearing heels clicked, as it goes with his gender fluid sartorial choices.

He describes his childhood to be messed up, and says that once he understood and accepted himself as he was, there was no looking back. “My family calls it a phase and thinks I’ll get over it. I remember getting a septum piercing and was ridiculed. But, when actor Ranveer Singh wore a septum ring for a magazine cover, same people told me that maybe I was trying to copy him (laughs),” he says.

Fashion education was another reason for his love for gender fluid dressing, as he learned that heels (his ‘love’ as he defines them) were a thing men wore much before women.

Eshan Hilal strikes a pose during his ramp walk. (Abhishek Lal)

There is nothing that waivers Hilal’s confidence now and he says that his sartorial choices are not meant for just a show. “I’ve built my confidence over years and nothing shakes it now. I love wearing heels, skirts and accessories and always balance them well with masculine choices, too. I do it because it comes from within and I do not try to impose my choice on anyone. My fashion inspiration comes from designers like Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto and others who have always gone beyond the usual style in fashion and create art that they just don’t endorse but also wear,” he says.

“In fact, Belly dancing helped me become more confident. When I walked on the ramp at NIFT, I without speaking, told the crowd that ‘I am something. Look at me. You can love me or hate me, but you can’t ignore me’. And that worked wonderfully! I am now addicted and want to be a fashion gender fluid model,” he adds.

First Published: Mar 03, 2017 18:50 IST