India is slowly making way for inclusivity and warming up to the LGBTQI+ community especially after bidding goodbye to the archaic law decriminalising homosexuality. Although, 2018 has been a relatively better year for the community, it has been a great year for the world of queer or gender-fluid fashion.
Queer or androgynous (style which comprises both masculine and feminine qualities) clothing has been a runway staple in the West and it is making its way into the Indian market, dominating one runway at a time. But to rule out androgynous dressing as a western concept is preposterous in many ways.
It must be mentioned that flowy and feminine Angrakhas and kediyu tops of Rajasthan or the shirts paired with ghaghras in Haryana have been a part of India’s everyday wardrobe.
Queer style is all about nonconformity. It aims to break the gender binary rules of society through clothing and stage a silent protest.
This year, the runways witnessed designers collectively blending fabrics, experimenting with cuts and silhouette foraying into the world of gender neutral clothing.
During the 'Lakme Fashion Week Winter/ Festive 2018' four nouveau brands- Bobo Calcutta, The Pot Plant, Anam and Bloni, together through their collection Gender Bender, raised their voices against gender-based discrimination. Campaigning for gender positivity and self-acceptance through his brand Bobo Calcutta, designer Ayushman Mitra says, “Fashion has the power to inspire people and challenge regressive norms. This was aimed to start a conversation about the freedom of love.”
Akshat Bansal’s Bloni Label too sent out a loud message of equality and regenerate gender norms. "It's all in our head- how and what one should be like. All because of how we are being bought up and circumstances," he said.
Although a lot of people working in the fashion industry belong from the LGBTQI+ community, their creativity, owing to the lack of inclusivity conform to gender binaries.
Surprisingly, this year the “drag culture” also made an appearance. Designer Sohaya Mishra’s bold step to introduce drag culture through the fashion week on Day 1 left a lot of her contemporaries and the audience baffled. Bollywood actor Prateik Babbar and celebrity makeup artist Jason Arland in gender blending clothes walked the ramp hand-in-hand to close Mishra’s show.
While Babbar donned a grey skirt style pant teamed up with a black cape, red nail-paint, lipstick and completed the look with kitschy jewellery, Arland was seen wearing a beige frilled dress with thigh high boots. “I volunteered for this. We wanted to represent gender fluidity. We wanted to represent each other and most importantly, do it together,” Babbar said while addressing the media.
The Indian fashion fraternity for the finale of ‘Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2019’ celebrated the historic Supreme Court judgement of partially scrapping section 377 of Indian Penal Code and how!
Celebrating the rainbow flag created by American artist Gilbert Baker and now used as a symbol of the LGBTQI+ movement, almost 40 designers gave wings to their creativity while representing the different hues. From Manish Malhotra, Raghavendra Rathore, Wendell Rodricks, Dev r Nil to Ragini Ahuja and Lovebirds, everyone showcased their own rendition of flamboyant ensembles. Structured silhouettes took a break and flowy fabrics (linen, muslin, etc) with ruffles and deep necklines took over.
Transwoman Anjali Lama was seen wearing designer Gaurav Gupta’s sculpted gown replete with rainbow lights. Designer Suneet Varma celebrated the shade yellow by creating a sari with a ruffled neckline, while Anavila Misra gave a multi-hued twist to it.
Although the fashion industry is now venturing into the gender-fluid clothing, complete inclusivity and acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community is still a farfetched dream. This sudden acceptance of the 'queer trend' has left few from the fraternity livid. The kohl-eyed Kolkata-based designer and crusader for inclusivity, Kallol Dutta argues that making a man wear a dress and woman a tuxedo doesn’t mean androgyny. “One cannot expect someone to talk about queer fashion and politics while they are a cisgender (someone whose personal identity corresponds with their birth sex), straight designer, using cisgender models to showcase their ensembles,” he told DNA.
With a substantial shift from rigidity to acceptance of gender-fluid clothing in the local market, we can only hope that in the upcoming years, Indian designers take the ‘trend’ forward and break more norms. But before that, here’s to those who refuse to conform.