2018 was witness to several movements in the fashion industry that establish new forces of style sensibilities and redefined older ones. From making an indelible mark in arenas like sustainability, gender fluidity, inclusivity, street wear, and intimates and underwear the fashion industry grew leaps and bounds and crossed all borders and confines. Here are the five revolutionary ways Indian fashion changed this year and reinvented itself through the efforts of young, irreverent, and individualistic Indians.
I. Feat. Artists Leads The Charge Against Beauty Standards
The fashion and modelling industries aren’t usually welcoming towards those who don’t adhere to the Eurocentric idea of beauty that champions women who are tall, thin, and light-skinned. This exclusive nature of fashion and modelling is a cyclical phenomenon: the more society is shown a certain standard of beauty, the more it is conditioned to believe that only those appearances should exist and be aspired to. But a new modelling agency, Feat. Artists, is changing that narrative and how. Founded by Nikhil Dudani, a well-reputed Mumbai stylist, and Smita Lasrado, an accomplished international model, Feat. Artists has been actively looking for models who believe in individuality. This agency’s models have already gone on to do major projects for the likes of Elle, Bazaar, Vogue, and GQ.
Feat. Artists, under Nikhil and Smita’s guidance, is cutting across several intersections of beauty: region with models like Kangkan, who is northeastern, size with plus size women like Runah, age with elderly women like Janette, hair types with Madhur, who sports dread-locks, body modifications with Alisha, who wears her piercings proudly, and skin colours with Roselynn, who loves her dark skin. Although Feat. Artists is still building its roster and working hard to establish itself, it is sure to bring non-conformism to the forefront of India’s fashion and beauty industries.
II. India’s Underwear Industry Gets New Body Positive Faces
In a world where everything is so obviously influenced by our physical appearances and the kind of clothes we wear, underwear – the most intimate item in our wardrobes – continue to exist as an afterthought for people of all genders. In India, shopping for innerwear is still considered a taboo by many: women still feel the pressures of stigma to the point where they believe that they must be discreet about their need to purchase new underwear and men are conditioned not to care about it at all and simply pick up the first pack-of-three they see on a shelf. In this process, taking your time to comfortably choose this important piece of clothing is forgotten altogether. Although still a nascent and relatively unexplored concept, ‘innerwear’ is slowly being established as an industry of its own that is equally affected by concerns of body-positivity, sustainability, and inclusivity. This year, we found brands like Tailor and Circus making body positive pieces, The Underworld Co merging intricate graphic design with traditional style, and Buttalks that brings a unique subscription model to the world of underwear.
Taking shame away from an item of clothing that is brings comfort and security and is considered a necessity, this year, young Indians have boldly taken it upon themselves to redefine what inner wear and underwear looks and feels like.
III. Gender Fluidity Takes Centre Stage On – And Off – The Runway
This year, the concept of gender fluidity found more representation than ever in mainstream fashion spaces. The talk of Bombay town was Lakmé Fashion Week’s #GenderBender showcase that attempted to break the gender binary in clothing with four labels– Bobo Calcutta, Anaam, Bloni, The Pot Plant. “The models I’ve cast have struggled with their own identities as trans, androgynous, and gender fluid people. They’re misfits. So, when I thought of how to put them together as a performance art piece, I wanted them to be like a painting that was in a restoration process,” says Sumiran Kabir Sharma, designer of Anaam, about his vision for the show. Also on display at the #GenderBender showcase were Bobo Calcutta’s outfits embroidered with art of androgynous faces and Bloni and The Pot Plant’s neutral silhouettes and colours that could shape shift as appropriate on any individual because they had no markings of gender
Even off the runway, there seemed to be a growing frustration with conventions and traditions in India’s fashion industry. Railing against strict gender roles, fashion labels are now boldly carving out individualistic spaces in a traditionally exclusive industry by incorporating sustainable and gender-neutral thinking in their work. BISKIT, co-founded by siblings Harsha and Shruti Biswajit, is one such fashion label. “Our philosophy is comfort, functionality, and durability. We want to give choice back to consumers. Let them decide what they want to wear,” says Shruti confidently. This opinion informed the creation of one of their collections, BSKT, a unisex line that caters to any and all genders because they are tailored with a dropped crotch for pants and dropped shoulders for the shirt. 2018 was the year gender neutral clothing started becoming increasingly popular with young, urban Indians who question everything around them.
IV. Sustainability And Fashion Become Unlikely Partners
Indians sadly have a notorious reputation for not only generating immense waste, but also irresponsibly disposing into the depths of our innocent oceans or landfills; and our hurried lifestyles that are carefully built around fast food, fast travel, and fast fashion show absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Of course, the fact that India is home to the largest youth population in the world has much to do with increasing waste levels. But, in 2018, this same generation that seems to always shoulders blame for social issues, stepped up to the plate to improve the situation and how.
Whether LOTA founded by Delhi-based couple Adhiraj Singh and Shradha Kochhar, Kosha, an outerwear and travel gear company or the Bamboo Tribe’s bamboo fabric products, young designers are increasingly and majorly upcycling and maintaining zero waste workspaces to do their bit for a greener earth. From using sustainable and organic materials like cotton, jute, and even hemp fibre, young, to ensuring the most optimum use of their resources like water, labour, and scrap material, firebrand Indians are discarding old and tired ways of producing fashion in favour of cleaner methods of creation.
V. The Undeniable Rise Of Indian Street Wear And Sneaker Culture
The past few years have seen the street culture in the country grow phenomenally. From India’s first festival dedicated to street culture to sneakerhead communities sprouting in different parts of the country– street culture is no longer an abstract idea. Street fashion as a genre of its own has emerged as a pioneering form of expression for the youth today that is moving towards individuality. Street wear is composed of a wide range of stylistic elements from traditional aesthetics to pop-culture like films, music and so much more. Always perceived to be an underground movement, nourished within small meetups and reddit threads for ‘real’ sneakerheads, street wear is in fact the exact opposite– a burgeoning community with a surprisingly transparent open-door policy.
With unprecedented growth in the fashion world, on social media, and general everyday conversation this past year, streetwear is definitely here to stay as a strong representative of the diversity of Indian youth and the things it cherishes and stands for. Among many others, disruptive and unique labels like Nixon Bui created by a designer in Arunachal Pradesh, Tribe Fiction founded by brothers John and Joel Sailo, Tiasunep Aier’s OldCabin, and Capsul with its global streetwear offerings are heralding in this new era of street wear in India.
Feature image credit: Feat. Artists
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