Indian models out of fashion overseas

NEW DELHI - For top Indian model Apoorva Vishwanathan, the difference between success on the catwalks of her own country and an international modelling career can be measured in inches - two of them.”I wish I had endless legs. I could be cat-walking with the Heidi Klums of the world,” said the Bangalore-based Vishwanathan who stands five feet nine inches in her bare feet. “But you’ve got to be at least 5’11” for any international fashion house to come near you,” she told AFP during the recent New Delhi Fashion Week.

Compared to the West, career modelling is still in its infancy in India, although it has made huge strides on the back of rapid economic growth and the growing profile of Indian fashion designers. Only a handful of Indian models have tasted success abroad, with the likes of Lakshmi Menon and Ujjwala Raut modelling for Gucci and Yves Saint-Laurent. The financial pay-off for those who do break out of the relatively low-paid domestic scene can be enormous, and Raut is quite frank about why she is no longer seen working the Indian fashion shows. “They can’t afford me,” she said.

Whispered allegations of racism have been made by some who tried and failed overseas, but Vishwanathan believes the main barrier is the natural body shape of Indian women. “We are genetically more voluptuous and curvaceous,” she said. “Agencies abroad want girls who are really thin, almost skinny. It is tough for us to fit into their requirements.” Another factor is that Indian models tend to start their careers much later than their Western counterparts, with parental pressure often keeping them in college until their early 20s.

Once frowned upon in conservative India as an immodest career choice, modelling grew in popularity - and acceptability - in 1994, the year former Indian models Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai took the Miss Universe and Miss World titles respectively. Both went on to successful and lucrative film careers, fuelling the aspirations of millions along the way. More recently, the launch of Vogue India in 2007 heralded the start of a new fashion era and an overhaul of wardrobes of the nouveau riche.

Rikee Chatterjee, a 24-year-old up-and-coming model said her family fully supported her decision to take up modelling even before she finished her college degree. But there are some limits. Indian models generally hesitate to do lingerie work, or other shows that involve baring a lot of skin, and most lingerie ads in Indian fashion magazines use foreign models. There are also complaints of a bias against darker-skinned models in India where a light complexion is widely considered synonymous with beauty

Popular Posts

Blog Archive