The fashion vocabulary is evolving to accommodate the ripples of change with bending gender norms being the focal point of discussion. Meet Durga Gawde, Anjali Lama, Priyanka Paul and Porus Vimadalal who give an insight into their journey and what it took to smash stereotypes.
Artist, Activist and Educator; Non-Binary, Gender Fluid
India’s first performing drag king, Durga Gawde, is on a mission to take queer expression and trans narrative to the international platform. Identifying as the pronouns they/ them, Durga considers themselves as a ‘pixel’ in the LGBTQIA+ section. On self-expression, they say, “As an artist and a queer person, I found my voice in different ways, one of them being the art of drag. My style and choices are authentic to how I perceive myself in an ephemeral and fluid way. I have been feeling my masculinity a lot lately and the experience is similar to going through a second puberty. I am focusing on bodybuilding to change my physique to a point that it decreases the dysphoria that I feel on my chest. The way I used to feel in the clothes owned previously, is completely different now. I love to play with colours and my own form as a sculptor. Being comfortable in my skin gives me a deeper understanding of anatomy, biochemistry, biology and psychology. When I dye my hair or wear clothes, it is to make a statement that I am not afraid to embrace my personality and identity”, concludes Durga.
From scorching runways for fashion mavericks like Gaurav Gupta, Shantanu & Nikhil, Abraham & Thakore, among others, Nepalese model, Anjali Lama had to break the shackles of gender stereotypes to be reckoned as one of the first transgender models in India. She represents inclusivity and diversity within the industry and opens up about what fashion means to her. “For the queer community, fashion is often viewed as a reclamation of your authentic self. India has amazing potential and representation here can be more diverse when compared globally. It will take its time but the balls are rolling”, says Anjali. Fashion keeps her on the edge and her style depends on her mood, occasion and how con dent she feels on a particular day. She further adds, “Genderless fashion as a concept has been explored further in India for the last two to three years. While globally, it’s at the brink of normalisation, I cannot wait to see that seep into the norm here in India.”
Illustrator, Poet and Activist; Queer
A young force of change to reckon with, Priyanka Paul has led powerful conversations on diverse issues including body-shaming, casteism, gender inequality, among others, with her conceptual artwork. Identifying as queer, she digs deep to come out of the social construct. Says Priyanka, “Fashion is a strong medium of self-expression for the queer community. I believe fashion in so many ways, fortunately, or not, has de ned so much of who we are. I see more diversity, important stories and fluidity coming out internationally than I do from India.” On gender-fluid fashion, she adds, “The Indian lungi or mundu are some of the most gender- neutral pieces of clothing that have been worn for centuries by people of all genders. Mainstream designers need to learn from our roots, not from colonisers who’ve stolen and rede ned our fashion.” Her fashion choices are an extension of how she views the world as an artist. She loves pastels, glitter and sequins. Priyanka adds, “As a queer person, fashion to me is liberating and a way for me to assert who I am. It is evolving, like my hair, that I change the colours of ever so often.” She believes that queer people should be comfortable in their fashion choices and smash the standards of heteronormativity. “The idea shouldn’t be to create new ‘genderless’ fashion, it should be to stop gendering clothes and fashion in the first place”, concludes Priyanka.
Award-winning photographer Porus Vimadalal, has carved a niche for himself while working along the lines of his re ned interest in people and the clothes they wear. He throws light on the role of fashion within the queer community and shares, “Fashion, as we know, is an effective and highly creative medium of self-expression. Within the queer community, it serves as the perfect platform to express their identity or even make a political statement via clothing, makeup and style. Fashion is also a refuge for many because a lot is said without literally having to speak.” On personal style, Porus adds, “Fashion and art have been a big part of my life. I studied fashion design before switching to photography. Colours, shapes and forms always interest me. My style is neat and put together, both of which come effortlessly. I especially like to invest in vintage pieces and outfits.”
He is happy that Indian designers are embracing inclusivity but it is important to be patient as everyone cannot be on the same page at a given time. The key is to keep the conversation and momentum going, and hope that shyness experienced by others will hopefully dissipate.