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

Till then, tra-la,
    Amena!!
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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

Till then, tra-la,
    Amena!!
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Monday, 22 August 2016

Plus Side Of Indian Fashion

What does it mean to be a plus size woman in the India?

For starters, you are relentlessly reminded that there is something wrong with your body and you need to change it. You’re told to shrink your body until it fits into the prescribed (narrow) beauty standard. 

Next, you need to perform the near impossible, herculean task of finding fashionable clothing that fit your fat body.
Plus Size Fashion Industry Of India
Having worked primarily in the Indian fashion industry for the last ten years as a designer, stylist, consultant and blogger — and as a plus size consumer — I can confidently say that the plus size fashion industry in India is as good as nonexistent.
Fact is, while a large percent of women in India fit into this category, plus size fashion is mostly ignored, overlooked and under-represented.

Fashion’s problem with plus size is a complex issue. It is no secret that the film industry and the fashion industry have constantly equated beauty with thinness. Unfortunately, for the longest time, fashion industry’s outlook has been that plus size and fat bodies are not meant to be celebrated, validated, or seen.
When it comes to plus size fashion, the major problem is the elitist attitude of the fashion industry that believes fashion exclusively belongs to a select privileged slice of the population.
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
No Plus Size Representation
It is not just the Indian fashion industry that has ignored the existence of plus size women. The is applicable to most industries. Especially, the entertainment and media industry. 
Knowingly or unknowingly they have ignored plus size women to such a large extent that we have become invisible. There has been passive discrimination against plus size and fat bodies by formulating most dialogue around thin and straight size bodies only.
This is not restricted to just clothing. From toothpaste to dream vacation and from detergent to mobile network, it is only straight sizes bodies that are visibly using it, selling it and endorsing it.
The question is: would your product not sell if a plus size woman was seen using it and endorsing it?

Globally there are full-figured and plus size women who have broken body serotypes to prove that talent comes in all shapes, sizes and colour. From Adele to Mellisa McCarthy, from Gabourey Sidibe to Tess Holliday and from Ashley Nell Tipton to Gabi Gregg (Gabifresh) plus size and visibly fat women have had immense success in all aspect of fashion and entertainment industry.

On the other hand, Indian entertainment and fashion industry has been plus size averse.
India don’t have a single body positive, plus size role model young girls can look up to and aspire to be like. The complete absences of plus size representation is why a country of 1.25 billion people doesn’t have a single plus size role model. NOT ONE!
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
We have a handful of plus size people in Bollywood and the entertainment industry. The most recognisable face is comedian Bharti Singh. And she is famous for her self-deprecating, fat shaming brand of humour.
When one of India’s biggest fashion weeks, Lakmé Fashion Week, wanted to host the first ever plus size fashion show in India, they needed to do an open audition. The fact that we don’t have plus size models in the Indian fashion industry speaks volumes about our discriminatory attitude towards plus size bodies.

The dearth of plus size bodies and lack of attractive plus fashion in mainstream Indian magazines is especially disconcerting when you consider that more than 60 percent of women in India wear some amount of plus size clothing.
The only time plus size consumers are represented in fashion magazines is when the magazine does its annual “shape” or “curve” or “body” issues inspire by the global body positive movement or when they want to cash in on the novelty factor. Otherwise, the magazines are mostly devoid of any plus size representation. 
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
The best way to bring about an attitude change towards plus size women is by normalising plus size bodies. This can only happen with equal and fair representations. Plus size women need to be seen alongside straight size women on a regular basis and not once a year.
Celebrating body positivity, body diversity and plus size bodies is not the same as celebrating Diwali, Eid or Christmas. It needs to be done regularly and not sporadically.
Lack Of Plus Size Clothes
I am a plus size woman who loves clothes. I am extremely passionate about about plus size fashion and I try out as many different looks as a I can with whatever limited clothes I can find in my size. But more often than not, a major part of my fashion life is spent yearning for things I can’t have and I am forced to make do with what is available. 

What infuriates me most is, brands that have a plus size range internationally don’t retail it in India. Forever 21 has an exclusive plus size range, but it is not available in India. H&M has up to size 20 in limited pieces; haven’t seen the H&M+ range in India yet. It’s one thing if a brand doesn’t cater to larger women globally, another, to have the range available in some countries and not in another.
Worse is, none of the major voices within the Indian fashion fraternity have questioned these brands. No one has asked them why they choose to ignore plus size women of India?
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
People often tell me, “but you get plus size clothes online. ASOS has great plus size pieces and they do free shipping to India. So, why are you still whining?” 
Here’s a scenario: Imagine if you don’t get electricity at your house. But your aunt who lives at the other end of the city does. Why whine about lack of electricity in your own house when you can go to your aunt’s place and use her electricity? Sounds about same, right?
Just because it is available online doesn’t mean we should not demand for more!
Online shopping is a great option but it is not the solution. What about impulse or urgent purchase? Some of us like to try things before we buy it. I don’t have the luxury to walk into a store like a straight size person and get what I am looking for. What is accessible for you is a privilege for me. That basic act of shopping that some have taken for granted is a luxury for me. ASOS may offer free shipping but most global plus size brands are charging quite a bit for shipping. So now, along with fat tax we need to also pay extra for shipping too. Ain’t that unfair?
Not just clothes but basic things like bra is a challenge to buy. Not one sports brand in India has sports bra my size. Same goes for many of the different types of bras. The choices are so limited most of us make do with whatever is available. 

If most women in India fall into the plus size category, why do so many designers and brands cater only to women who comprise the 0–12 straight size market? 
Truth is, most fashion designers and brands think plus size customers won’t buy what they make, won’t wear it, or don’t deserve it.
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
It will be completely unfair to say that no Indian brands are catering to plus size customers. We have a few progressive, plus size fashion brands like Alto Moda, All, Westside’s Sassy Soda & Gia that have chosen to to be size inclusive and body positive in their approach.
Indian brands like Global Desi, Biba, AND, Mustard, Fusion Beats and international brands available in India like Marks & Spencer, Dorothy Perkins, New Look, all offer plus size friendly clothing. 
While there are few brands in India who are making the effort to be more size inclusive, there is still very limited option for a country with a large plus size population. Most brands – Indian and International – only offer up to size 16, which is the starting size of plus size.
Misrepresentation of Plus Size
Plus size fashion is not only suffering because of lack of representation. Misrepresentation is making it even more hard to normalise plus size and visibly fat bodies.
While plus size starts at size 16, fashion industry often depicts women as small as size 8 as plus size. Not only is this misleading but it pushes real plus size women further into a corner and away from what is essential their space.
The term plus size was created for women who are size 16 and up and/or visibly fat. It is misleading to show a size 10 woman with a slightly protruding tummy or a voluptuous size 12 woman who is sitting on the cusp of straight and plus size as plus size. 
The whole misrepresentation of plus size bodies is not restricted to magazines and media. Very often, we see plus size clothes on straight size bodies. If you want a woman who is a size 22 to buy your clothes, you can’t expect a size 12 model to sell it. 
When I see plus size clothes that are made for me, I want to see it on a model who looks like me. Not someone who you think I should look like or your interpretation of what a plus size woman should look like. 
Showing plus size clothes on non plus size bodies is not only deceptive but also disrespectful towards plus size customers. To get an idea if a certain garment will work for my body type or not I need to see it on someone with a similar body type and not on someone who kind of looks like me, but not really.

We also need plus size voices to be heard. There are no plus size fashion columns advising plus size women what to shop, where to shop and how to style. And if there is an occasional op-ed piece, it is often by a straight size woman rather than a plus size one.
Even brands that keep plus size clothes haven’t made an effort to promote their clothes on larger and plus size bodies. Occasionally, international plus size fashion bloggers get mentioned in Indian magazines but we barely see any Indian plus size blogger in it. The absolute disregard for Indian plus size fashion bloggers and their work by the Indian fashion fraternity shows how prejudiced the industry is towards plus size bodies. 
Plus Side Of Indian Fashion
Global Desi Printed Tunic | Global Desi Printed Palazzo | Accessorise Clutch | Inc5 Sandals | L'Oreal Paris Star Collection Lip Color Pure Garnet | Loreal Paris Superliner Waterproof Gel Eyeliner |Smashbox Full Exposure Waterproof Mascara
The Future Of Plus Size In India.
The future of plus size in India needs a fundamental attitude change. If we want the plus size industry in India to become a profitable and attractive business, then we need to do a lot more than create a few extra garments.
First off, we need to stop all kinds of size discrimination and have a more inclusive approach. Fashion needs to let go of its elitist approach and constant favouritism of thin bodies. For plus size to become relatable and aspirational, celebrities, models and bloggers of all shapes and sizes need to be promoted equally. Plus size models and bloggers need to regularly be seen alongside straight size ones. On all fronts, plus size needs to move from the margin to the mainstream.

The dialogue has started. Now, the visuals need to match up to it. When talking about plus size, we also need to see plus size and visibly fat bodies as a part of it. That is the only way forward. 

Photography by Abhishek Arora

Till then, tra-la,
    Amena!!
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