KOCHI: Last year, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, India’s foremost bridal designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee who was recently named one of the top 25 global luxury influencers by Hello! magazine, uploaded a post on Instagram which read ‘There is nothing more beautiful than self-confidence’. But what caught the attention of his followers were two pictures accompanying it. For the very first time, fashion enthusiasts in India were looking at a curvy model with a dusky complexion in full bridal regalia, being represented by a major design label. The model, Varshita Thatavarthi became an overnight sensation. Ever since, she has become a poster girl for body positivity. TNIE caught up with the 25-year-old who was in the city recently.
Varshita was quick to admit that the post changed her life forever, notwithstanding some of the backlash it received, with people calling her presence mere tokenism on the designer’s part. “They would have a point if I was only called on-board for the Women’s Day campaign. But the brand signed me for its next campaign as well. I also modelled for his jewellery collection. What surprised me was how people were quick to cry tokenism, but very few actually appreciated the example he set and urged other prominent designers to follow suit.”
Over the past year, Varshita has been vocal about being stereotyped on the basis of her figure and size. “When my friends introduce me to someone as a model, people find that hard to believe. They are forced to add the ‘plus-size’ or ‘curvy’ label. I recently met a lady at an event who was about the same size as me. She told me that she picked same lehenga I wore for Sabyasachi for her wedding. She took a screenshot of my photo from the campaign, went to the boutique and asked for just that. I was delighted to hear that. Later, I wondered why even though a greater percentage of women relate to my body type, brands still get women who look nothing like them for endorsement,” says Varshita.
The tide is changing but ever so slowly. Despite achieving considerable popularity, Varshita acknowledges it is still hard to find work as a curvy model. “The entire fight is to normalise what is considered today as ‘plus-size’. The average Indian woman is between size 14 and 16, yet many mainstream fashion brands carry clothes that only go up a size 10 or 12. We need to change the perception of fashion retailers to include a better size range. I want people to say ‘let’s book Varshita’ and not ‘that plus size girl from the Sabyasachi shoot’,” says the model who dreamt of being an actress ever since she was a kid.
Since western countries have made significant strides in ensuring equal representation across the fashion and beauty spectrum, Varshita hopes the same be replicated in India. “The SavagexFenty show will stand as a beautiful demonstration of change.”
After a stupendous year, the model is looking forward to auditioning for a web-series. She reveals her agency, Inega is in talks with a major international brand.