London eye


London eye

Meet the city’s young Indian talent who are steering the British capital’s fashion narrative

By Vatsala Chhibber  April 28th, 2015

Identity politics and the wish to find a fresh, new language to speak of their roots simmer beneath the fashion ideologies of these British-Indians, all under 30, and steadily gaining cred on London’s fashion scene. A blogger and a model proudly representing their marginalised community, a young brand ambassador making history and designer twins reimagining the classic English aesthetic with an unmistakably Indian stamp. Here, the city’s newest fashion players flex their style muscles wearing the country’s most iconic brand.

Pardeep Singh Bahra, 23
Blogger

In August 2012, six people were gunned down at a Wisconsin gurudwara by a white supremacist, who then killed himself. “The shootings affected me for a long time,” says Pardeep Singh Bahra, who founded the Singh Street Style blog the following year, and produced the viral video ‘Don’t Freak I’m Sikh’, an attempt to dispel the growing phobia of bearded, turbaned men. “My turban, just like that of every Sikh who wears it, is a crown. It is a reminder of who we are,” he says. And once he started to look around, he was confronted everywhere by well-crafted, distinctive personal style — “I do feel Sikh men are more confident and comfortable with fashion.” Bahra, whose blog has been featured in The Guardian and Time magazine and earned him the ‘Sikh Sartorialist’ title, also retails his menswear line (all of which bear colourful Sikh caricatures) on Singh Street Style. All his work remains rooted to the belief that no matter where you go, fashion is “influenced by where we come from”.

Jatinder Singh Durhailay, 27
Model and artist

Durhailay developed an interest in the visual arts early; as a child he was making regular trips to Tate Modern with his family and collecting photographs of his favourite paintings. Modelling gave the artist (his works have been exhibited at Art Basel and Tate Modern) a new avenue to increase Sikh representation — “Modelling was never my intention, but at the time, there was no one [in fashion] except Waris Ahluwalia who kept their beard and turban,” he says. Last year, Durhailay made international news after becoming the first Sikh man to model for Louis Vuitton in a Financial Times special. The monogrammed turban, silk trousers and structured jacket Durhailay wore for the editorial fit perfectly with his own aesthetic. “I was always inspired by the royal side of the Sikhs,” says Durhailay, whose modelling portfolio includes brands like adidas, Levi’s and Topman. “Sometimes I look like a maharaja in shorts and a T-shirt. Trends don’t interest me as much as expression does.”

Mandeep and Hardeep Kaur Chohan, 28
Designers

It was an old family album — vintage photos of elegant ancestors with their royal acquaintances — that inspired twin sisters Hardeep and Mandeep to team up and launch their fashion label Nom De Mode in 2012. With no background in design, the twin sisters developed a blueprint they could work with: “Our design aesthetic is a combination of our Indian heritage and European eye,” says Mandeep. The result was no-fuss silhouettes with luxe fabrics like brocade, cashmere and silk. The label found instant takers at their debut showing at London Fashion Week last year; even Olivia Palermo was seen sporting Nom De Mode’s signature sleeveless coat. Their latest Fall/Winter collection, with dreamy organza and brocade pieces, is inspired by Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, a popular (and glamorous) painter of haute bourgeoisie figures in the 1920s. Like Lempicka, the Chohan sisters opted for a bolder colour palette: Hardeep declares, “Burgundy carries a certain mystery, and is a strong colour for autumn. Black is not always the answer!”

Tarun Nijjer, 20
Model

Nijjer’s first ever pay cheque came from a modelling assignment for Burberry. “I opened and closed their Fall/Winter 2013-14 show at London Fashion Week. Not a bad way to start,” he admits. Nijjer’s days are now spent hopping in and out of flights to other fashion capitals and working alongside modelling A-listers like Cara Delevingne. “The amount and variety of work has risen intensely,” he says, a possible consequence of being the first Indian male model to be the face of Burberry. This achievement, though, Nijjer quickly underplays — “It is a novelty that comes with being one of the few Indian models around in London.” When not studying “terrifyingly prophetic books” like 1984, the literature student at Bristol University is also mentoring another young model — his pug Winston. “I walked down the catwalk with him for a charity event and he was completely unfazed,” says Nijjer (who is represented by D1 Models) with some admiration. “I think he’s the one that needs a modelling agency.”   

Amar Daved, 28
Photographer 

Daved entered the fashion industry as a model, but realised quite early that his real calling lay behind the camera. “Around the same time, I assisted some photographers and decided to completely change careers,” he says. He wasn’t a complete amateur either; Daved’s playthings while growing up were old film cameras gifted to him by his grandfather, a landscape photographer. His editorial work has featured in publications like Homme Style, Esquire Weekly, Paper magazine and ELLE UK, and he has shot some of the modelling world’s most talked-about faces, including Neelam Gill. And while Daved enjoys the challenge of a new backdrop — his most recent outing had him shooting in a desert in Dubai during a minor sandstorm —  for moodboard ideas, he can always count on London. “I’m lucky to live in a city filled with creative people. There’s always something to inspire me here,” he says happily.

Hannah Desai, 21
Blogger

A good measure of Desai’s internet stardom is her Instagram profile — over 44,000 followers turn to her dependable stream for #OOTD inspiration. Desai’s fashion credibility comes from her blog Cocobeautea, which became Desai’s pet project while she was still a media communications student. Her trend breakdowns, beauty hacks and crisply-edited how-to videos are all influenced by the diversity she encounters on London’s streets. “The city inspires me to be more daring with my style,” she confesses. “Right now, I am so excited to see the ’70s trend come into full swing. I love a good flared pant so I’m really looking forward to styling this season’s pieces.” With new fashion blogs sprouting by the second, how does Desai fight for Google visibility? Through Vlogs. “YouTube adds a whole new depth to blogging,” she says. “If there’s any comments section that truly voices opinions, it’s YouTube.”’

Monikh Dale, 26
Blogger

The fashion design graduate and Topshop personal shopper has a past full of sartorial disasters (and too many photographs of them) that she is eager to leave behind. “I only choose classic staples that I can mix and match for years,” she says. “I hate the thought of looking back and saying ‘What was I thinking?’” Her blog, Tres Monikh, is an extension of this belief, with foolproof versions of intimidating trends (jet-black flares and lots of oversized leather to ride that ‘70s wave) that you can bag on the spot. The challenge, she says, is adapting to London’s fashion pin codes. “Styles In West London are generally tailored, slick and very minimal,” she explains. “East London dressing is a lot more relaxed, but has more edge.” For those struggling to keep up with fashion week updates, Dale has an all-season solution — “There’s something about a simple pair of black jeans, a white shirt and an impeccably tailored oversized jacket that screams confidence.”

Photographs: Amar Daved; Styling: Nidhi Jacob; Assisted by: Minal Omer; Make-Up: Holly Silius; Assisted by: Ashley Haines; Hair: Elvire Roux/Phamous Artists

Identity politics and the wish to find a fresh, new language to speak of their roots simmer beneath the fashion ideologies of these British-Indians, all under 30, and steadily gaining cred on London’s fashion scene. A blogger and a model proudly representing their marginalised community, a young brand ambassador making history and designer twins reimagining the classic English aesthetic with an unmistakably Indian stamp. Here, the city’s newest fashion players flex their style muscles wearing the country’s most iconic brand.

Pardeep Singh Bahra, 23
Blogger

In August 2012, six people were gunned down at a Wisconsin gurudwara by a white supremacist, who then killed himself. “The shootings affected me for a long time,” says Pardeep Singh Bahra, who founded the Singh Street Style blog the following year, and produced the viral video ‘Don’t Freak I’m Sikh’, an attempt to dispel the growing phobia of bearded, turbaned men. “My turban, just like that of every Sikh who wears it, is a crown. It is a reminder of who we are,” he says. And once he started to look around, he was confronted everywhere by well-crafted, distinctive personal style — “I do feel Sikh men are more confident and comfortable with fashion.” Bahra, whose blog has been featured in The Guardian and Time magazine and earned him the ‘Sikh Sartorialist’ title, also retails his menswear line (all of which bear colourful Sikh caricatures) on Singh Street Style. All his work remains rooted to the belief that no matter where you go, fashion is “influenced by where we come from”.

Jatinder Singh Durhailay, 27
Model and artist

Durhailay developed an interest in the visual arts early; as a child he was making regular trips to Tate Modern with his family and collecting photographs of his favourite paintings. Modelling gave the artist (his works have been exhibited at Art Basel and Tate Modern) a new avenue to increase Sikh representation — “Modelling was never my intention, but at the time, there was no one [in fashion] except Waris Ahluwalia who kept their beard and turban,” he says. Last year, Durhailay made international news after becoming the first Sikh man to model for Louis Vuitton in a Financial Times special. The monogrammed turban, silk trousers and structured jacket Durhailay wore for the editorial fit perfectly with his own aesthetic. “I was always inspired by the royal side of the Sikhs,” says Durhailay, whose modelling portfolio includes brands like adidas, Levi’s and Topman. “Sometimes I look like a maharaja in shorts and a T-shirt. Trends don’t interest me as much as expression does.”

Mandeep and Hardeep Kaur Chohan, 28
Designers

It was an old family album — vintage photos of elegant ancestors with their royal acquaintances — that inspired twin sisters Hardeep and Mandeep to team up and launch their fashion label Nom De Mode in 2012. With no background in design, the twin sisters developed a blueprint they could work with: “Our design aesthetic is a combination of our Indian heritage and European eye,” says Mandeep. The result was no-fuss silhouettes with luxe fabrics like brocade, cashmere and silk. The label found instant takers at their debut showing at London Fashion Week last year; even Olivia Palermo was seen sporting Nom De Mode’s signature sleeveless coat. Their latest Fall/Winter collection, with dreamy organza and brocade pieces, is inspired by Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, a popular (and glamorous) painter of haute bourgeoisie figures in the 1920s. Like Lempicka, the Chohan sisters opted for a bolder colour palette: Hardeep declares, “Burgundy carries a certain mystery, and is a strong colour for autumn. Black is not always the answer!”

Tarun Nijjer, 20
Model

Nijjer’s first ever pay cheque came from a modelling assignment for Burberry. “I opened and closed their Fall/Winter 2013-14 show at London Fashion Week. Not a bad way to start,” he admits. Nijjer’s days are now spent hopping in and out of flights to other fashion capitals and working alongside modelling A-listers like Cara Delevingne. “The amount and variety of work has risen intensely,” he says, a possible consequence of being the first Indian male model to be the face of Burberry. This achievement, though, Nijjer quickly underplays — “It is a novelty that comes with being one of the few Indian models around in London.” When not studying “terrifyingly prophetic books” like 1984, the literature student at Bristol University is also mentoring another young model — his pug Winston. “I walked down the catwalk with him for a charity event and he was completely unfazed,” says Nijjer (who is represented by D1 Models) with some admiration. “I think he’s the one that needs a modelling agency.”   

Amar Daved, 28
Photographer 

Daved entered the fashion industry as a model, but realised quite early that his real calling lay behind the camera. “Around the same time, I assisted some photographers and decided to completely change careers,” he says. He wasn’t a complete amateur either; Daved’s playthings while growing up were old film cameras gifted to him by his grandfather, a landscape photographer. His editorial work has featured in publications like Homme Style, Esquire Weekly, Paper magazine and ELLE UK, and he has shot some of the modelling world’s most talked-about faces, including Neelam Gill. And while Daved enjoys the challenge of a new backdrop — his most recent outing had him shooting in a desert in Dubai during a minor sandstorm —  for moodboard ideas, he can always count on London. “I’m lucky to live in a city filled with creative people. There’s always something to inspire me here,” he says happily.

Hannah Desai, 21
Blogger

A good measure of Desai’s internet stardom is her Instagram profile — over 44,000 followers turn to her dependable stream for #OOTD inspiration. Desai’s fashion credibility comes from her blog Cocobeautea, which became Desai’s pet project while she was still a media communications student. Her trend breakdowns, beauty hacks and crisply-edited how-to videos are all influenced by the diversity she encounters on London’s streets. “The city inspires me to be more daring with my style,” she confesses. “Right now, I am so excited to see the ’70s trend come into full swing. I love a good flared pant so I’m really looking forward to styling this season’s pieces.” With new fashion blogs sprouting by the second, how does Desai fight for Google visibility? Through Vlogs. “YouTube adds a whole new depth to blogging,” she says. “If there’s any comments section that truly voices opinions, it’s YouTube.”’

Monikh Dale, 26
Blogger

The fashion design graduate and Topshop personal shopper has a past full of sartorial disasters (and too many photographs of them) that she is eager to leave behind. “I only choose classic staples that I can mix and match for years,” she says. “I hate the thought of looking back and saying ‘What was I thinking?’” Her blog, Tres Monikh, is an extension of this belief, with foolproof versions of intimidating trends (jet-black flares and lots of oversized leather to ride that ‘70s wave) that you can bag on the spot. The challenge, she says, is adapting to London’s fashion pin codes. “Styles In West London are generally tailored, slick and very minimal,” she explains. “East London dressing is a lot more relaxed, but has more edge.” For those struggling to keep up with fashion week updates, Dale has an all-season solution — “There’s something about a simple pair of black jeans, a white shirt and an impeccably tailored oversized jacket that screams confidence.”

Photographs: Amar Daved; Styling: Nidhi Jacob; Assisted by: Minal Omer; Make-Up: Holly Silius; Assisted by: Ashley Haines; Hair: Elvire Roux/Phamous Artists