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Luxury & Brands
November 14, 2018

Jayshree Gupta Of Cazaro And Actor Rytasha Rathore Expound The Benefits Of Customised Lingerie

Text by Sadaf Shaikh. Photographs by Debarati Sanyal. Styling by Shweta Navandar. Hair and make-up by Lakmé Salon

In a country that is yet to normalise the functional aspects of innerwear, Jayshree Gupta, owner of lingerie studio Cazaro, is working fastidiously to debunk the misconceptions about undergarments for plus-size women. Playing the muse — and ultimately devil’s advocate — for the day, television and theatre actor Rytasha Rathore spends a humid afternoon in a thought-provoking fitting session.

I’m on my way to a lingerie studio in Powai and if this were a television commercial, I would mercifully be handed some prickly heat powder to alleviate my annoyance at the stifling October heat. This, however, is real life and I’m squirming in my seat trying to pry my shirt away from my perspiring body, but there is an obstinate item of clothing that clings passionately to me. Everything about my bra is nettling me at this point — the straps are digging into my shoulder, the band is causing my skin to break out into a rash and the cups have transformed into vessels of sweat. I convince myself that I’m going to join the #FreeTheNipple movement as soon as the day ends, but before that I am scheduled to meet — and the irony isn’t lost on me — the owner of a lingerie studio, along with an up-and-coming television and theatre actor.

Soon, I am at Cazaro Lingerie Fit Studio where Jayshree Gupta and Rytasha Rathore are about to launch into an intense trial session, surrounded by bras of all shapes and sizes. I’ve met Gupta earlier so I have a fair idea of what she does. The ‘lingerie doctor’, as she likes to call herself, was working with an airline when motherhood came knocking at her door. Gupta wanted to take a break from her tedious nine-to-five routine and began to think of ways to fill up her days once she had finished serving her notice period. Being in the travel industry exposed her to a plethora of foreign brands and Gupta found that she was most fascinated by the lingerie industry abroad. She realised that international brands prioritise cup size in addition to the measurement of the bust. “I had problems with my own undergarments and concluded that I may have been wearing the wrong kind of lingerie all my life, but nobody would’ve been able to help me in India at that time. I quickly grasped that I could either lament the situation or find a solution myself. I picked the latter. It’s been 10 years since I founded Cazaro and I’m just as passionate about helping women find the ideal bra today, as I was when I started out.”

Meanwhile, Rathore is examining an array of bras and gives me a helpless smile as our eyes lock. It doesn’t take long for me to work out the meaning behind that cryptic smile — much like me, the 25-year-old actor has a bone to pick with the concept of bras in general. I first stumbled upon Rathore’s Instagram account during one of my routine scrolling sessions and was quite taken by Kaarnamey, her series of now inactive daily chronicles in which she would assume various personas. She played the stereotypical Indian aunty to perfection in one sketch and morphed effortlessly into a pretentious teenager with a British accent in the next. However, these comedy segments took a backseat when she made her television debut as the titular character in Badho Bahu (September 2016 — May 2018), a show that was lauded for turning the village belle trope on its head. Rathore admits that although her character was progressive by Indian television standards, it was still a far cry from the kind of feminist she is in real life. She explains, “My character’s name was actually Komal but I was nicknamed Badho because it is the equivalent for the word fat in the Haryanvi dialect. I had an issue with that in the beginning and asked the producers to reconsider their decision of rolling with it because the show was trying to promote body positivity. They went ahead with Badho anyway, but what I really liked about Komal was the fact that she remained confident and headstrong throughout the show’s run.”

Gupta proceeds to educate Rathore about the styles of undergarments she specialises in and picks out a t-shirt bra, a sports bra, a strapless bra and a body-shaper. The lingerie expert deftly measures the actor’s bust and hands her a strapless bra. The actor looks ill at ease as she emerges from the trial room in a floral off-shoulder blouse and confesses that she is accustomed to the fit of her own bras. Before we can offer a solution, she begins to bounce up and down methodically. Much to the lingerie expert’s and my bewilderment, this continues for a whole minute. Rathore stops jumping and catches her breath long enough to explain that she was checking for the probability of ‘boob spillage’ in the absence of straps. She clarifies, “I was at my first-ever theatre workshop and I had no idea what to expect. I did not foresee that there would be so much movement. The bra I was wearing at the time had a very deep cut and let’s just say that my breasts were having their own workshop under my kurta. To top it off, my chemise was white so there was a lot of sly adjusting going on while performing to the best of my capabilities. I just wanted to check if this bra had the power to make my breasts behave themselves.” She takes a quick peek into her shirt and sighs dismally, “Guess not.” Gupta takes great pride in her title of being a lingerie doctor and offers a foolproof remedy. “Maybe you should try a size smaller,” she surmises. A quick change later, Rathore gives the experiment another go and remarks, “Well, my breasts are certainly inside my bra, but now I feel like they’re being punished.” Gupta laughs good-naturedly and assures her that the bra will mould itself to her body after a few washes and won’t feel so constricting anymore. Rathore looks satisfied with this explanation.

Next up is the trusty sports bra and the actor is more than happy to oblige with the umpteenth costume change while alternating between squats and lunges. I’m curious about the functionality of this specific style of undergarment and wonder if it really warrants a trial with an expert. Gupta is quick to quell my misgivings. “Many women are subconsciously aware of jiggling body parts when they work out and avoid committing to the exercise with the required intensity. Then there is also the issue of pain because when your breasts bounce without any support, they become very sensitive to any kind of rigorous movement over time. That’s why, the sports bra has to be a very technically-designed garment, especially for athletes and gym fiends because it protects their Cooper’s ligaments. These are the breasts’ connective tissues that help maintain structural integrity. These tissues stretch over a period of time due to gravity and if they aren’t well-supported your breasts will eventually sag and cause back aches. So there really is a science to wearing sports bras.”

For our next segment, Rathore slips into a snug cocktail dress that hugs her curves. The actor tries to offer an explanation for her belly weight (genes on her mother’s side), but I think she looks gorgeous anyway. She beams at me and something about her self-assured smile makes me realise that she hasn’t always loved her body in the unabashed way that she does now. “My friends and I went to Goa after our board exams like most teenagers do in India. All my friends were skinny and hot — or at least that was my perception of ‘sexy’ at the time. We were getting into the pool and I suddenly got really awkward because of my body type. I asked my girlfriends to make a wall around me so that I could get into the pool without anyone seeing me.” Gauging from the nonchalant way in which she now poses in swimsuits for her Instagram images, Rathore has come a long way since her days as a meek adolescent. “I embraced my fatness many years ago so that nobody could shame me about it. Before I went to drama school, I would inform people that I was fat before they could even brief me about the character I would be playing. With time, age and a drama school education, I have become truly shameless in the best possible way because now I know that I’m beautiful no matter what other people say or think.”

Gupta is now looking at us with a cheeky expression on her face as if to say that she has saved the best for last. A black body-shaper is proffered to Rathore and when she puts it on, she notices a discernible difference in the way the dress now frames her body. She’s the same stunning woman with the same captivating curves but the actor inspects her midriff and concludes that it looks as if someone took a roller to her belly and just smoothened out the edges. Rathore then looks at Gupta in mock surprise and remarks, “Oh look, Jayshree, you’ve finally managed to make me conform to society’s beauty standards.” Gupta smiles at her accommodatingly and praises her for being so vocal about issues pertaining to body image. For the entrepreneur, education and awareness about the importance of wearing the right sized undergarments remain the biggest challenges. “Some of my clients come from extremely orthodox families and are quite shy about getting measured for a bra. Many times, their husbands come to inquire about customisation services and it astounds me because undergarments fulfill such a functional purpose. With the introduction of online purchasing, my sales have definitely risen but I still believe that a large percentage of women are not talking about it and are therefore wearing the wrong size.” Rathore concurs, “Often, the stores you go to buy lingerie at as a middle-class woman don’t have any experts on the floor and the sales executives just recommend any styles for you so that they can meet their targets. I think it’s great that somebody like Jayshree is catering to the needs of the average Indian woman. Most women in our country don’t have a safe space for dealing with their lingerie and breast-related issues. That being said, I also believe that people are loyal to a particular brand of bra once they have it all figured out. So I may not necessarily buy into Jayshree’s notions or wear the size she asks me to wear but I do think I could put the body-shaper to good use when I become a huge celebrity.” Rathore laughs self-deprecatingly at that last statement and Gupta indulges her with a giggle of her own. Perhaps I will have a change of heart about my aforementioned undergarment situation, but for now, I’m still being conspiratorially suffocated by my own bra.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Jayshree Gupta has also partnered with German lingerie brand Anita to make post-mastectomy bras with special prostheses available in India. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you can make use of these resources to understand more about the disease and donate towards research if you or someone in your life is affected by it:

Dr. Sumeet Shah of Breast Cancer India – +91 93222 37630
Dr. Amit Gandhi – +91 8104 225500
Cancer Helpline – +91 90300 88120
The Breast Cancer Patients Benefit Foundation – 098110 61709
Dr. Priyanjali Datta of Aroogya – +918383820651
The Pink Initiative – thepinkinitiative@gmail.com

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