Wednesday, 8 March 2017

5 Labels Every Woman Should Invest In

The other day I chanced upon an article that suggested, “The 10 Labels every woman in her 30s must invest in”.
As someone who has spent enough time in the fashion industry, I am no stranger to such a list. Every fashion magazine and website is busy telling women what to invest in. What are the things that will transform their life. What are those must-haves without which they are incomplete.
Plus Size Fashion Blogger
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I have decided to share a list of my must-have labels. I have worked very hard at compiling this list. It has taken me years to figure out which labels are the right match for me. Personally, I feel every woman should get herself well acquainted with these 5 labels and start investing in them.
5 Labels Every Woman Should Invest In
I identify myself as a feminist.  I am blessed to be surrounded by many women and men who also identify themselves as feminist. Sadly, there are quite a lot of women and men who shy away from using the word “feminist”. Some find it too harsh, too complex and others think it is not inclusive. So they opt for generic terms like humanist and equalist.
I’ve heard enough people ask, “Why do you call yourself feminist? Why don’t you just say you’re a believer of human rights and equal rights for all?” 

One of the reason some people shy away form using the term and/or identifying themselves as feminist is because it has the word “fem” in it. While you may dislike the word, remember, feminism started as a women’s rights movement that aimed to get equal political and legal rights for women. 
Calling feminism by any other name would be doing a major disservice to what the movement stood for and the significant impact the movement has had on women and men’s lives.
Using generic terms like humanist and equalist instead of feminist is to deny the specific and particular problem with gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been oppressed, marginalised and excluded. Yes, feminism is a part of human rights, but it is also very much about women’s empowerment and emancipation. 

It’s the feminist movement that fought for women’s rights to education, vote, inheritance, to get an abortion, marry anyone of your choice, work and report rape. So while you enjoy your rights, not so long ago, most of them were just male privilege. 
It was the feminist movement that worked at freeing women and men from the shackles of patriarchy and decided that women have had enough and will not be treated as second class citizen. 
While most of them did not get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work, what gave them faith is that their legacy will be carried on. That the next generation will be a step closer to fulfilling their dreams and goals of gender equality. 

For me, feminism is a way of life and I take great pride in calling myself a feminist.
5 Labels Every Woman Should Invest In
A guy once told me, “You’re very high maintenance woman, Amena.”
Back then I never understood why he used that one specific term to describe me. However, I was well aware that it was a pejorative term. Over the years I have noticed this term is often used for women who are extremely opinionated. Women who don’t shy away from asking for more. Women who raise their voices. Women who take up space and make noise. The reality is, nothing scares the patriarchal society quite like an opinionated woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself, her rights and call out what is wrong. A woman who is vocal about her needs and desires, who is not ashamed to voice her views, even if its an unpopular one. An opinionated woman is one who doesn’t hesitate to say no, is not shy of getting angry and demands what is rightfully hers. 

Since time immemorial society has worked very hard at silencing women. Their views, feeling, and opinions were never really taken into account. And whenever a woman did raise her voice she was called names and silenced. 
Thanks to the feminist movement, women now have a voice. They are free to express themselves. The more women freely express their views and opinions, the better.
Being an highly opinionated woman doesn’t make you a bad person or a diva or a drama queen, in fact, being a highly opinionated woman makes you a strong person.

Feminist, Opinionated, Ambitious, Independent, Body Positive
Since we are little girls we are taught that we have limits. You can do this, but this is your limit. You can’t cross it. The limit is so ingrained in us that we normalise it. We grow up keeping that in mind. We are raised to believe at some point in life we need to compromise, adjust, and be more flexible. 
We are constantly asked to shirk ourselves to fit in. Shirk our thoughts, views, bodies, ambition and desires. Being an overtly ambitious women is frowned upon. A woman who puts her needs, her career and wants before everything else is often shamed and called selfish for doing so. Instead of celebrating female ambition, we shun it. 
Indian pop culture is full of examples where women with too much ambition are the “bad, other woman”, often depicted as the conniving vamp or characterless home wrecker. 
This has to stop. Women should not be shamed for being ambitious. There is no such thing as too much ambition. We need to stop telling girls that having it all is a fairy tale. That at some point it is this or that, but never both. 
We never tell our boys that too much ambition is a bad thing. Boys are taught to exalt, soar, climb and strive. They are pushed to excel, they can have it all and then some more!

We need to stop teaching girls to compromise, adjust and be more flexible. And encourage then to aspire for more. We need to teach girls not to be ashamed of asking for more. Wanting more. Demanding more. There is nothing wrong, shameful or selfish about having ambition and putting your needs and wants ahead of others.
Plus Size Fashion Blogger India
For centuries women have been depended on the men in their life for everything. Not always by choice but because women had very little agency over their own life and body. From what to wear to whom to marry, all the decisions were taken by the men in their life. What women felt, thought or needed was never even taken into consideration. 
With the advent of  the feminist movement, women were finally able to take control of their own life. Over the years more and more women have become self-reliant and independent. 
From being financially independent to sexually liberated to emotionally uninhibited, women are finally in control of their own life and bodies.
CALAE Top - Plus Size Fashion Brand India
One of the most politicised things in the world is the female body. From what we should wear to how we should look to what we should do with our reproductive organs, everything is up for debate. For the longest times women have been told that to fit in they need to look a certain way, have a certain kind of body and speak in a certain manner. Anyone not conforming to these rules was always castigated. Over the years women realised these rules are nothing but patriarchal society’s way of controlling women and restricting them. Women soon realised that self-love and acceptance is key to women’s empowerment and emancipation.
Instead of hating the way they look women finally started embracing their bodies.
Body positivity is that radical notion that all bodies are good bodies. Bodies of all sizes deserve to be respected, loved and represented. 
The body positive movement has worked hard at normalising all, especially non-thin, plus size and fat bodies that have been marginalised. The movement has opened up a new dialogue on self-love, fitness and eating-disorder. Most importantly, it is working towards a more inclusive society. 

Whether you are skinny, thin, regular, plus size or fat - you can be body positive at every size. Body positivity is for everyone. However, being body positive doesn't just mean loving and respecting your own body. It mean respecting ALL body types and sizes. It means celebrating ALL body types and sizes. It means representing ALL body types and sizes. It means making space for marginalised bodies – People of colour, transgender, fat people and differently-abled people - and letting them have voice and visibility too.
Body Positivity, Fat Positive, Feminist India
Calae Top | Marks & Spencer Pants | Ted Baker Clutch | Pavers England Pumps |  Vogue Eyewear Sunglasses | Accessorize Necklace and Bangles | L'Oreal Paris Star Collection Lip Color Pure Amaranthe | Loreal Paris Superliner Waterproof Gel Eyeliner | Maybelline Volum Express Colossal Waterproof Mascara

The term label often has a very negative connotation. However, I don’t think all labels are bad. In fact, many of them have a positive impact. For me, the above 5 labels are a part of my identity. They have contributed into making me who I am.  These labels function as positive affirmation that have helped me become a better and stronger woman.

Photography by Shreyas Hegde

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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Can Plus Size Be Aspirational?

At the previous season of Lakme Fashion Week a designer’s PR manager politely asked me, “can plus size ever become socially acceptable and mainstream? Can plus size be aspirational?”
One would assume, with India finally having its first ever plus size fashion show such questions would be a thing of the past.
No such luck! For someone who has been plus size most of her life, questions like these are common. However, what is infuriating is, the more inclusive the fashion industry strives to become, the louder these questions get. 
The one thing that is holding the fashion industry back from including plus size and visibly fat bodies is a set of rigidly imposed rules and norms.
It is the same rules and norms which made us believe that dusky and dark skin can not be beautiful and to be anything in life we all need to be fair and lovely!
Plus Size Fashion Blogger
The real question is: how can something that represents more than 60% of the country’s population NOT be mainstream?
It's no secret that the fashion industry - in India and globally - has long struggled to adequately represent plus size and fat women, failing to offer her quality fashion, fair representation, and excluding her from runway shows and editorials.  

Before plus size can become mainstream and aspirational, it first needs to be normalized and socially accepted. 
Since plus size and fat bodies have been marginalized for a very long, it needs a serious change in the attitude and narrative. For fashion to become an inclusive industry, we need to fight and end all kinds of size hegemony. 

The only way to normalize plus size and fat bodies is by breaking all stereotypes and myths about it. 
Let’s start by breaking the most common myth: All plus size women are fat.
This is absolutely not true. All plus size women are NOT fat. But all fat women are plus size. However, that doesn’t stop society from labelling every non-thin woman as ‘fat’.

The first step is to reclaim all negative words and terms associated with plus size bodies.
Plus Size Fashion In India
Who Is Afraid Of The F-Word?
FAT: It is that one word women are indoctrinated to detest. Just a mention of it has then freaking out and there is no bigger insult than being called that. A three letter word that has forced women of all ages to go to war with their bodies. The fear of ever being labeled that has been the root cause of body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
In a thin-obsessed society, being a fat woman is to fail on every single level; it is not just a physical flaw but a moral one as well.

Now, thanks to the fat acceptance movement and fat activism, the word ‘fat’ is losing its negative status. For many of us it is just another word, an adjective, that describes us.  Fat and thin are just descriptors. Neither is fat an insult nor is thin a compliment.
Plus Size Fashion Blogger
“Does This Make Me Look Fat?” 
The ultimate aim is to pretend you’re not fat. Instead of telling plus size and fat women to be comfortable with their bodies, women are encouraged to “look slim”, to buy clothes that are “flattering” and to avoid certain type of clothes because they don’t hide the fact that fat women are fat. We have been taught to want to look smaller than our natural size. More often than not, we shun an outfit because it makes us look our real size and is not “flattering and slimming”. 
Plus size and fat women need to understand that designers and brands are not magicians. They can’t make your body looks 4 sizes smaller with their clothes. 
Let’s face it - If you’re fat, you’ll look fat no matter whatever you wear, and the sooner you accept that, the better. 
Indian Plus Size Fashion Blogger
The fear of “looking fat” or being called “fat” has terrorised women to such a large extent that they will torture their bodies to avoid that label. This is also one of the reasons why most plus size and fat women don’t experiment with fashion and deny themselves the joy of fashion. 
First, you need to accept you are plus size/fat. Whether or not you choose to label yourself as fat or plus size is your individual choice and not a norm or compulsion. You just need to acknowledge it to yourself.
Once you do that, it will give you the freedom and confidence to dress the way you want for the body you have, instead of trying to dress in ways you think will give you the body you don’t have.
Plus Size Fashion, Body Positivity & Fat Activism
One Size Doesn’t ‘Fit’ All
Even though over 60% of India’s population is plus size, disdain around “the f-word” is one of the main reasons why plus size fashion hasn’t yet managed to gain mainstream momentum in India.
Plus size and fat bodies are often depicted as the unhealthy ‘other’, the unattractive ‘before’, a warning sign for heart diseases and a poster child for obesity epidemic. 

Like all forms of media and pop culture, fashion too is a part of the body politics.
Plus size hasn’t been an aspirational look because mainstream media is constantly selling: “Look at this woman. Don’t you want be her?”
Women are not just taught to hate the word fat; they have been brainwashed into believing that being plus size or fat is a temporary point in their life and they should not buy clothes for their body as it is now.
The not-so-subtle message being sent is, for women to participate in fashion they first need to become the ‘after’ picture and they should only buy stuff when they reach a socially and fashionably acceptable weight.
With so much negative stereotyping how can any one expect plus size to be seen as aspirational?
Can Plus Size Ever Be Aspirational?
When you constantly tell plus size and fat women that their body shape should be considered temporary, that their current body is not the body they want, how can you expect them to look at plus size fashion as an aspiration? For then, plus size fashion is a means to an end, something to cover their plus size or fat bodies, not something they want or desire. 

Yes, there are many plus size and fat women who are not happy with their shape and size and genuinely want to change it. However, that should not be used as a yardstick or an excuse for all plus size and fat women. Just because some women are not comfortable with their plus size/fat bodies doesn’t mean you assume all women are.
A lot of women have found a balance between fat and fit. I am one of them. I have always strived to be fit and healthy, both, physically and mentally, rather than kill myself trying to be thin. I don’t see thin as a prerequisite for being fit, healthy or stylish. 
Fat activist and body positive advocates like me don’t see fat as a temporary phase of our life until we figure out a way to get the ‘perfect body’. My current body is my perfect body. I should not be told to lose weight so I can fit into a top I like. I should not have to workout till my back breaks so that I can fit into a pair of jeans. These things should be available to me, just like they are available for thin women.
Can Plus Size Ever Be Aspirational?
Why Plus Size Fashion Matters
Here’s how plus size brands play a significant role in changing fashion industry’s attitude towards plus size and fat bodies. Unlike other brands, they have chosen to create clothes for a marginalized section of society. In a way, plus size brands are also making the most invisible woman, visible. Props to them for doing that.
The pertinent question is, are the clothes created by plus size brands tasteful and fashion forward? Are they aspirational? Or are they just easy-to-make, tacky clothes with questionable aesthetics. Are plus size and fat women who are buying your clothes happy with it or are they craving for something better and stylish?
A question every plus size fashion brand and designer needs to ask: are my clothes a convenience because of size availability or are they a choice because of good aesthetics? Will women of all sizes buy them?
Globally, plus size and fat women are leading the body positive and fat acceptance movement. Fashion designers like Ashley Nell Tipton and Christian Siriano, plus size fashion brands like Lane Bryant, Eloquii and Torrid, magazines like Volup2, Slink and PLUS Model Magazine and events like TheCurvyCon are constantly breaking stereotypes and pushing towards making fashion more inclusive and diverse. There has been a conscious effort to create a space where plus size and fat women can express themselves, share their stories and celebrate their bodies.

Indian Fashion Industry Needs A Fundamental Change In Attitude
Unlike the west, plus size fashion in India is still struggling to find its footing. While baby steps have been taken in a positive direction, by large, plus size and fat women have no real representation. 
While some of us have been speaking about lack of size diversity and representation, our voices don’t really get heard nor does our work get noticed. There has hardly been any effort from the Indian fashion industry to include vocal body positive and fat activist into their narrative. In India, plus size and fat women like me are barely seen, hardly heard and never applauded. In the current social climate, the only time plus size and fat bodies are seen is when a brand or magazine want to create a social buzz. Otherwise, we are relegated to the back of the line. 
This needs to stop!
A serious attitude change is needed towards plus size and fat bodies. I have said this before and I say it again, lack of representation is the biggest hurdle for plus size fashion in India.
Until you don’t represent plus size and fat bodies in a positive light how can you expect plus size to become mainstream and be considered aspirational.
All around the word, it has been plus size fashion blogger, body positive advocates and fat activist who have fought to have their voices be heard. We need to do the same in India. 
Global Desi Embroidered Top | Global Desi Palazzo | Coach Bag | Van Heusen Sandals | L'Oreal Paris Star Collection Lip Color Pure Rouge | Loreal Paris Superliner Waterproof Gel Eyeliner | Maybelline Volum Express Colossal Waterproof Mascara 

Can Plus Size Ever Be Aspirational? 
Yes! First thing first, we need stop glorifying skinny and thin bodies and treating fashion as a thin privilege; an exclusive club where only a select few have access to it. We need to stop celebrating only thin bodies and and we need to stop looking at plus size and fat women as the “ugly, unhealthy other”. We’re not that. 
We need to change the narrative, create space for a new, inclusive narrative and let women of all sizes have a stake and say in it.
Photography by Abhishek Arora

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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week

When the theme for Met Gala 2016 was announced, a lot of people were intrigued by it. What does “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” really mean. Many wondered, what do fashion and technology have in common?
Contrary to popular belief, even before the digital age, fashion and technology have always coexisted together. In fact, technology is applicable in all aspects of fashion. From the yarn stage right up to the finished product, fashion and technology work hand-in-hand.
Taking note of the importance of technology in the field of fashion, Lakmé Fashion Week had a panel discussion on: “How technology is shaping the future of fashion”.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
As a fashion blogger and digital content creator, my work is predominantly in the digital space. Technology and apps are as important to me as fashion. From clicking pictures to sending mails to updating my social media, most of my work is done on my phone and it is very important for me to have a phone that can keep up with all my needs. And if I am getting all of this at an affordable price – that’s a boon!
LYF Wind 3 Smartphone Review
I recently had the opportunity to try out LYF Wind 3 4G smartphone and I decided to put it to good use at the epicentre of fashion – Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2016.

As glamorous as the fashion weeks look from the outside, there is a whole lot of work that goes on behind the curtains. From live tweeting, to Instagram posts, and Snapchat stories, to designer interviews, photoshoot, and dozens of other stuff goes on between the shows. The one thing I need to depend on most is my smartphone. During fashion week days, my smartphone is not just a phone, it is my lifeline. It is very important that I have something that is sturdy and stylish and can last through the day without multiple charging. For fashion bloggers to survive fashion week, we need powerful and high performing smartphones.
LYF Wind 3 Smartphone Review
The LYF Wind 3 smartphone is a polished and sophisticated looking phone. The classic black colour with curved edges gives it a refined look. It has a compact design and compared to other Android phones it is light in weight. The phone is powered by a 1.2 GHz Quadcore Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor and it comes with 2 GB of RAM that ensures smooth browsing process even while using multiple apps simultaneously. The phone does not stutter or hang. It has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display that is sharp and crisp. The screen is made of scratch resistant Asahi glass, so you don’t have to put an additional screen guard on it. LFY Wind 3 offers 16GB storage that can further be expanded up to 32GB using a memory card.
The phones has an 8MP LED flash rare camera and a 2MP front camera. The camera clicks decent picture in natural light and well-lit conditions.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
Smartsphones have evolved and become far more than just phones. I don’t just use my phone as my primary source of communication and connectivity only. I also use it for entertainment. Many times while travelling or when I’m stuck in traffic, I use my phone to keep myself entertained.
For me, any phone that offers more than just the basic requirements is worth investing in.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
One of the best part about LYF Wind 3 Smartphone+ is, it comes preloaded with Reliance Jio Apps like My Jio, Jio Play, Jio On-Demand, and Jio Beats that adds value to the phone. These apps paired with Jio preview 4G connection, allows you to seamlessly listen to music and watch videos.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
Jio Beats is a music app. It offers HD songs in 20 different languages. Thanks to Jio’s 4G network, you can listen to your favorite songs anytime you like without downloading it or subscribing to third party apps. As a music lover, I need music to unwind and rejuvenate myself, it was always so easy to log in and listen to music on the Jio Beats app between shows at the Lakmé Fashion Week.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
If visual medium is more your thing, then Jio On-Demand app is perfect for you. It is a video streaming service that turns your phone into an entertainment device. From movies to TV shows to music videos to trailers, it has it all. The app has around 1 lakh+ hours of HD content. With the Jio 4G network, watching video content was effortless. No buffering whatsoever. The whole viewing process makes you addicted to the app.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
As much as I like, I just don’t get the time to keep up with all my favourite TV shows. Especially, during Lakmé Fashion Week. Most of the time I end up missing them. This time round, thanks to Jio Play, I could watch my beloved TV shows as and when I wanted. Jio Play brings live TV channels on your smartphone. It offers over 300 TV channels. The best part is, you can pause the live TV program and start from the point you left off. Plus, you get to watch missed episodes of prime shows aired in the last 7 days.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
Compared to most 4G, Jio 4G has amazing speed. Around 22-23 Mpbs download speed and around 8-9 Mbps upload speed. Which is twice the number compared to all the other 4G data service available in India. Jio 4G has been a boon all through Lakmé Fashion Week for me. Thanks to this high speed, I was able to upload twice as much as I could before. Previously, due to 3G traffic, it would take forever to send a photo tweet and Snapchat stories. With Jio 4G, I could tweet, use Snapchat and Instagram, without any hassle or lag. All my post used to get uploaded within seconds.
LYF On The Go at Lakmé Fashion Week
Reasonably priced at INR 6,999/-, LYF Wind 3 is one of the most affordable phones available in the market. It looks sleek, is light in weight and the display has Asahi DragonTrail glass protection. Overall, LYF Wind 3 is easy to use, has a good battery life and the best part, it offers amazing inbuilt apps and free unlimited 4G data service for three months. You get far more than you pay for.
LYF Wind 3 Smartphone Review

Heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Leo 
Alemao of Style File for taking time out from his Lakmé Fashion Week schedule and shooting these pictures for me. I am forever grateful to you.

Photography by Leo Alemao of Style File. Editing by Digital Daku

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