39 year old Nagpur born Niraj Jawanjal is nothing short of a trailblazer. One could also call him the man who is slowly but surely heralding a change in how women view themselves. And that is nothing short of a feat in a largely misogynistic society with a patriarchal mindset.
It all started when I saw some models sashaying down the ramp in the video and also pictures of a fashion show by the Los Angeles-based plus size lingerie brand Parfait, in association with the suddenly famous India Intimate Fashion Week, in Mumbai, some time back. That this video and the pictures too went viral, the moment it was released, was not as important as understanding what it was that people saw in them. Mostly it was incredulity.
After all, everybody likes to see a good looking woman flaunting a beautiful beach body in a two piece. But the most astounding thing here was that they did not have those perfect 10 model bodies we are used to seeing. Instead there were women of all shapes and sizes with quite a few tummy rolls and jiggling hips and a bit of cellulite here and there and some really huge women.
And while I have always been a supporter for women accepting their body flaws and never a supporter of those who seek acceptance by dieting and slimming down and driving themselves crazy in the process, this video/pics was an eye opener and closer to home where we have so much of body shaming done if a woman gains weight and is therefore considered unattractive. And this shaming process is sadly enough, mostly initiated by women against women. Keeping fit is a good idea; losing weight to make people like you is not.
And the USP of this show, I would say, was the flair, the confidence, the attitude, the almost bewildering finger in your face attitude, as these bindaas women threw all taboo to the winds and enjoyed flaunting and showing off their catwalk, all the while exhibiting super sexy lingerie.
And all of the women had incredibly pretty faces. That’s a winner, I thought to myself while watching the video for many times at least. It signified women who didnt care two hoots for the societal image of them and walked the ramp because they always wanted to be models and had accepted their imperfect figures for what it was: reality.
And who created this whole platform? It was but this friendly, unassuming gent, Niraj, who, most of the models refer to as a very easy person to work with and whose team counselled the girls that needed this moral boost before they walked in teeny weeny bare basics in front of a packed audience.
As Niraj tells me, the motto and the agenda of the India Intimate Fashion Week, in its third season now, is to educate, research and make aware of women existing behind a curtain of weight issues, wrong sizes and kinds of intimate/shape wear and wrong attitudes that need to be released from their repressed state and encourage dialogue and change.
They use regular models as well but the plus size show is clearly garnering more attention! He smiles when I ask him, “Something like this, in India, is not easy. Mine as well as these ladies; everybody’s families needed convincing that this is the kind of retail idea whose time has come and we need to break all taboos around it.” Lingerie, shapewear and intimate wear shows are the norm abroad but in India, this is the first of its kind.
Current attitudes are westernised where whatever one wears inside must be as beautiful as the outer clothes; a key factor to feeling good about oneself. Thus was born this Fashion Week– IIFW in 2016 at the Leela in Mumbai. And now they are geared to hold a seven city tour with their shows, called the IIFW Next which begins with Pune, goes on to Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Bangalore Kolkata and Hyderabad.
More power to them and the gorgeous women who are setting a new benchmark in the fashion industry!_____
A few quick bytes with 36 year old plus sized fashion model Nisha Chandani, a single mother of an 8 year old boy and who is also HR manager with the company, Associated Capsules in Mumbai.
How did you manage to actually walk on ramp the first time?
A. It requires courage all the time and my family was not very happy initially. But now they are. My mom and my son both understand that this is what I do and it’s a lesson for my son as well, to respect women irrespective of their shape and size and clothes. What’s inside you doesn’t change and I am the kind of person who always wanted to model. Finally, I’ve got my chance.
What’s the response been so far?
A. It wasn’t easy. Even in office, where I work, initially a lot of people told me that it could backfire as everyone is image conscious and walking the ramp in a bikini or other intimate wear, even if one forgets that I am a plus size woman, is not something to appreciate. For me, it was more about following my aspirations and having the courage to break taboos and develop confidence, no matter what size I am.
Today, the response is overwhelmingly positive. It’s the right time to do this. People are understanding that when changes happen, we need to accept that and not push them away with a regressive mindset.
On March 8, Women’s Day, I was invited to lead a session on ‘Women and Existent Body-Shaming,’ that I conducted joyfully and supported with my real-life examples. That clinched it for me, along with all the shows that I will now be a part of! That’s victory for me.
Catch the video here..