Sinlung /
17 September 2013

‘Indian Runways Are Not Racially Diverse’

As the New York Fashion Week came to a close recently the spotlight stayed on the larger issue raised by a former model and activist Bethann Hardison regarding the lack of racial diversity on the runways. The former models, and modeling agents, raised questions on prevalent racism (intended or unintended) in the fashion industry and called for an effort by designers to hire models that reflect racial diversity.

Though on the international front, the issue is taking serious shape, in India, there’s hardly any debate going on especially considering the vibrant fashion industry in the Northeast with many talented models not being reflected on the top level fashion shows in India.

Fashionistas from the capital as well as from the Northeast agree that there aren’t enough models from that region walking the ramp in major shows.

Esther Jamir, a model and a fashion designer from Nagaland, shares, “I think the runways in India are not racially diverse. I think we need to have more of oriental and dark models because we already have plenty of white models apart from Indian ones.”

Designer Sourabh Kant Srivastava agrees, adding, “We have more and more foreign models entering our fashion industry, which is limiting the access of Indian girls. And since they easily work for less money, foreign models are preferred. If there would be more space in the industry for Indian girls, we’ll see the diversity too.”

Asked what could be the reason behind this lack of racial diversity, Esther says, “One reason could be the personal choice/taste of the designers, choreographers, clients. Another could be the demand of consumers, After all, the majority of consumers in India belong to a certain type of looks which is not oriental/black/ white.”

Sourabh on the other hand feels that it’s more to do with availability than racism. “If an organiser puts up an event, he works around the people close to their zone. That’s why we see a lot of Northeastern models in their local events. Also, I feel designers from Northeast should take the initiative and speak to Indian fashion industry regarding their representation on national runways,” he says.

Augustine Shimray, a tribal accessories designer at Featherheads adds, “A creation of some sort of forum by professional models and designers of the Northeast and Indian fashion industry would help bridge a gap between the two.”


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