Vitiligo (Un)Masked: A Contemporary Fashion Label Creates A Unique Face Mask
(Left) Rakhi Kanwar (Right) Saran Kohli

Vitiligo (Un)Masked: A Contemporary Fashion Label Creates A Unique Face Mask

As the daughter of a person who struggles with vitiligo, the sense of otherness is habitually reckoned with. I have also never felt embarrassed or unproud of my father. Having a strong sense of never giving up and still working hard, no matter what, he inspires me to no end. Yes, people have been unkind, rude and blatantly disregarded my father’s humanity. But, there also has been a tremendous sense of support, care, and love.

I look to journeys, experiences and anecdotes of others who might have experienced vitiligo or a similar autoimmune disease to be reminded of the solidarity and community that exists in the world in these stories.

It also brings me to question standards of beauty, health and our societal reactions towards someone’s surface-level appearance. The cure to vitiligo hasn’t been found, although, new research has come to the forefront. Saran’s story is incredibly inspirational and sheds light on the adversities we can overcome to become the truest versions of ourselves.

Saran Kohli is a British-Indian fashion entrepreneur, designer, choreographer, and music connaisseur. An incredibly multi-faceted person, Saran talks about his beginnings, “I was brought up both in Delhi and London and to me being creative, early on, was about dance and performing,” he goes on to describe the influence his mother had on him, “My mum was doing an exhibition, she’s also a designer, and I was given the chance to control this space and we also had a crew of four who would help us with the show. It was up to me to be entrepreneurial and organise my first fashion show and my mum gave me the chance to. In two weeks, we produced the show and it was great!” Saran was massively involved in the execution, organisation and choreography of his first show from an early age.

Asking Saran about the necessary nuances we must look into when we talk about vitiligo awareness and advocacy, he narrates his own personal journey, “It’s been a journey of self-awareness and mental health. The NHS doesn’t provide much assistance since the majority of people in the UK are white and vitiligo doesn’t show up on their skin as it does on brown or black skin.” The National Health Service in the UK is a publicly funded healthcare system. Saran goes on to reiterate the myths and facts associated with vitiligo and his journey of learning how to create more safe spaces for solidarity and community. He says, “I consciously choose to employ models with vitiligo,” when photographing campaigns for his self-titled fashion label.

The Vitiligo limited edition masks are, as described on the label’s website, “digitally printed design on the premium cotton fabric.” The “reusable masks look like Vitiligo and each mask is as unique as our own skin is! The hope is to begin open conversations and further educate people about Vitiligo via these visual representations, on now, an essential protective piece. ” This particular mask is being made in collaboration with illustrator Mira Abad to holistically represent the skin condition. Talking further about his influences for creating this mask, Saran says “Masks are being used as a secondary language. I was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the many ways we share, talk and engage with stigma,” as he reiterates the power of symbols and how it leaks into much-needed revolution in how we represent people.

Saran narrates how when he meets kids with vitiligo, he tells them, “you’re one of the X-MEN” demolishing any strain of stigma. It’s a superpower. Saran tells the New Asian Post, “Many years on, equipped with a better understanding and the confidence to express who I am, I welcome the conversations about Vitiligo! It’s a part of me and I’m proud of the skin I am in. I’ll never hide away again and will continue to connect with people like me and educate the ones who want to know more.”

Inculcating choreography, music and fashion Saran Kohli truly represents the artistic vision amalgamated with the adversity of personal experience that creates a path, paved for those who follow and flourish after.

You can view Saran Kohli’s label here.

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