India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Fashion
January 13, 2018

An Undefined Narrative: Blurring The Boundaries Between Fashion And Gender

Text by Ojas Kolvankar

We join hands with Lakmé Fashion Week and Godrej India Culture Lab to spotlight India’s young designers who are blurring the boundaries of gender, and learn that they are questioning, recreating and producing an alternate vocabulary and imagery to make the industry more inclusive and diverse

“I think there is a strong trend of queerness running through Indian fashion – both on the ramp and off it too. On the ramp – there are so many instances – whether it is in the sindoor-wearing men that Rohit Bal sent down the runway in 2003, Narendra Kumar Ahmed’s short film about lesbians, The Marriage of Shayla Patel (2017), that previewed his ramp show last season, or the transgender model Anjali Lama walking the ramp at Lakmé Fashion Week in February 2017. Off the ramp, many Indian designers such as Wendell Rodricks and Suneet Varma have spoken out passionately about LGBT rights and live their lives very openly as gay men. Above all, Indian fashion is an inclusive space for queer talent to flourish in. As a run-up to the 2018 Pride, our event aims to celebrate this inclusiveness.”

-Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab; editor–at-large, Verve

“Every season at Lakmé Fashion Week, the endeavour is to encourage voices from different sections of the society that use fashion as a lens or language to express stories that need to be heard for triggering a mind-set change. Our initiatives such as the #TagFree show at LFW in February 2017 that celebrated people of different sizes and body shapes, or the sari shoot featuring transgender models during LFW in August 2016, which showcased some of the most talented classical dance artists in our country, created a more inclusive energy in fashion. The millennial crop of designers today are empowered and have strong conviction about the fashion they want to create, where style meets substance and conscience meets commerce. I feel extremely inspired and motivated to be a part of this change, which celebrates diversity. This movement is using the power of fashion to create a kinder and more compassionate world.”

-Gautam Vazirani, fashion curator, IMG Reliance

Bobo Calcutta

Be it a psychedelic colour palette or striking graphics (think faces in a lip lock), the label treats garments as an art form to initiate conversations about topics that make some people feel uneasy.

“It is very important to accept one’s true self before trying to convince others. Bobo Calcutta is loud and unapologetic. We celebrate one’s right to love freely and live without fear. Our garments are for people who are not fearful of attention and are confident about their choices. As a brand, liberation of sexuality is at our core.”
-Ayushman Mitra, founder, Bobo Calcutta

Kaleekal

Fuelled by minimalism and functionality, Kaleekal’s aesthetics often-times conjure up eccentric clothes that question propriety and the norms of conventional fashion and garment construction.

“The concept of gender is limited by the constraints of the body, a limitation extending to our wardrobes. The contemporary closet is often rigid and stale, bound by its own unwritten rules and structures, limited by popular ideas of masculinity and femininity. Kaleekal explores sensuality through ‘ungendered’ garments, a departure from the strict, utilitarian apparels that perform just the basic function of a piece of clothing – protect and cover, much like armour. This is an attempt to lower the guard and explore the vulnerability of the self.’’
-Alan Alexander, founder, Kaleekal

The Pot Plant

The Pot Plant explores transposing flowing fabrics like Chanderi, silk and bandhni — that are perceived as ‘feminine’ — into garments that are gender-non-conforming entities. If gender norms and labels are irrelevant in defining oneself, then why must they box us into a visual representation of who we ought to be?

“Queer aesthetic for us is about finding relief from the limited options available that are still by and large ‘traditional menswear cuts’. When power suits are acceptable for women, why must men shy away from rocking a sheer number, a flared pair of pants or a beautiful skirt? With our organic fabrics and fuss-free silhouettes, gender fluidity comes naturally to our design language.’’
-Resham Karmchandani and Sanya Suri, co-founders,The Pot Plant

Two.Two

Anvita Sharma and Asit Barik, the designer duo behind Two.Two, believe that beauty exists in every soul and it’s all about accepting and endorsing it as their own. The label produces artisanal garments with clean lines and careful detailing.

“Two.Two as an agender brand aims to create a third identity which stands for neither of the binaries, and yet for both. We incorporate colours, details and silhouettes, which might be categorically considered feminine or masculine. We amalgamate them to blur the lines differentiating the two. We understand and accept that anatomy differs among the genders but we believe in uniting and celebrating these differences. Stereotyping is what we want to annihilate.”
-Anvita Sharma and Asit Barik, co-founders, Two.Two

Anaam

Anaam’s clothes are tailored without busts. Asymmetric cuts, fluid drapes, drop-crotch pants and the use of darts have become synonymous with the label’s brand philosophy. Sumiran Kabir Sharma gathers his inspiration from queer characters in Hindu mythology and Sufism.

“Gender-fluidity comes organically to me. Growing up, I saw gender roles being swapped – my mother sometimes wore a shirt with a sari, while my sisters’ clothes were often passed down to me. When asked if I design menswear or women’s, my response usually is: ‘I design for people.’”
-Sumiran Kabir Sharma, founder, Anaam

Kristy De Cunha

Kristy De Cunha plays with bold prints, eccentric patterns, bright colours and structured silhouettes. These are not just mere adjectives for her. The label is reflective of the untold stories of love, longing, loss and finding oneself — chaos in technicolour.

“Acceptance brings about change. I wanted my dandy prints to demonstrate how change can be daring and revolutionary. There is still a conservative demographic that doesn’t quite understand what I’m trying to convey via my creations. Having opinions isn’t necessarily a bad thing – at the very least, it encourages conversation. I think the world just needs to look at their half-empty martini glasses through rose-tinted lenses.”
-Kristy De Cunha, founder, Kristy De Cunha

Queer Aesthetics Now! will take place on January 20, 2018, from 11.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. at the Godrej Culture Lab, Vikhroli. A special exhibit and an engaging panel discussion will be held at 4.30 p.m. For full event details, go to www.indiaculturelab.org

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