India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
June 06, 2016

Entering The Enigmatic World Of Laxmi Menon

Text by Wyanet Vaz. Photographed by Tarun Vishwa. Styling by Shweta Navandar and Anuradha Gandhi. Make-Up and Hair by George P. Kritikos, Anima Creative Management

The 35-year-old supermodel talks about her high-flying world, the Prabuddha Dasgupta years and her epic career graph

(Click on any image to view in larger gallery and see what she’s wearing.)

Fresh off a plane from Goa, the Bengaluru-born five-feet-10-inch supermodel lets me into her surreal home in South Mumbai. It takes me back to Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. The vintage-looking space has a courtyard in the centre with gravelled flooring, and the sky for a ceiling. Blending in with the pastel blue walls, Lakshmi Menon is comfortable in an oversized blue shirt and boyfriend jeans. Her short summer crop is pulled back, and her face is dominated by clear aviators. Even this Netflix-and-chill look doesn’t conceal the lean proportions of her body. I am preoccupied by her chiselled jawline and measured motions as she takes a pull from a cigarette, blowing wisps of smoke into the air. This hypnosis, I reckon, is the reason she was picked by Jean Paul Gaultier in 2009 to walk for his show in Paris.

A mainstay on the international runway, she has walked for Hermès, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Chanel, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren. After a bunch of global editorials and campaigns, Menon was India’s first export to the Pirelli calendar in 2011. “You have to celebrate diversity in fashion. Today, your client is not only a white person,” she tells me. “I love high fashion. If you look at haute couture, those are works of art. There is a huge amount of thought and attention to detail that goes into making things that are so beautiful and desirable.”

Now a veteran on the scene, she is in a position to curate her projects, skip the usual bustle and is able to live it up. “I don’t do as many shows anymore. It takes a toll. I concentrate more on editorials and campaigns. When you start doing the whole run from New York to London to Milan to Paris, it is three months of excessive work, you’re on call 24 by 7, shoots run late, your body can’t keep up and you feel physically frazzled. If I planned a holiday, I would get an email asking me to come back to work.”

The few shows she continues to walk for include Riccardo Tisci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten and Chanel (the last event, she thinks, is always a surprise to the fashion world). She recollects one of her most elaborate appearances: “There was this show I did for Hermès’ India-centric collection. The whole background was an incredible vermillion, and once the show started, they started dropping sindoor. It was like a live red cascade. The tragedy was that all of us were covered in red by the end of it. We looked like we had played Holi!”

Her movements are less steady now as I watch her pluck out old memories. She sits at an awkward 90-degree angle, her legs loosely hanging from one side of the chair. “Working with Prabuddha (Dasgupta, celebrated photographer and her then partner) was the best. From that point I lost all my inhibitions in life. He would always create an intimate space between the model and the photographer. I learnt how to recreate that with others too.” Success certainly didn’t come easy and it was equally difficult to deal with his sudden demise. “Loss teaches you different things. It teaches you to learn to live with yourself. And then I fell in love with someone else.” She chooses to keep this under wraps, and for fair reason. “Sometimes I feel Prabuddha and I got jinxed, in the sense that everybody used to say, ‘You guys are such a great couple’, ‘You’re the ideal couple’ and I heard it so often that I finally felt nazar hi lag gayi. But it was beautiful while it lasted.”

Our freewheeling conversation is interrupted by the resident cats. They’re almost familiar to me, since they feature regularly on her Instagram account. Her polaroids are a reflection of her surreal aesthetic. In 2014, she shot her first campaign as a photographer for designer and close friend Savio Jon, which he later released on Instagram. “I’ve grown up with so many visuals in the last 15 years. It’s become part of my life. Fashion, art and life are kind of blending.”

With her finger on the pulse of fashion’s democratic wave, she stands up for diversity. “Today’s models are not just 16-year-olds, there are also slightly older women like Alessandra Ambrosio, Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls. It’s not just about a pretty face any more. You have a bit more of the cerebral kind. Kate Moss is timeless in fashion and Christy Turlington is actively modelling. You have a representation of every age group. Now, I feel it’s more democratic when you open a magazine.”

It is apparent that Menon enjoys the current pace of her life. She is able to run her home, do her own groceries, enjoy the company of her three cats and 14 dogs, and hustle between New York, Paris, Mumbai and Goa. She does not own a weighing scale, foundation or compact but swears by M.A.C’s Ruby Woo. All her beauty is much more than just skin-deep — she has an elusive quality that has developed over time…with a little help from her friends. “I was standing in the model line-up and Tom Ford said to me, ‘Darling, you look gorgeous, just be yourself’. I’ve always been myself…he just validated it for me. The timing was perfect.”

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