By Merril Diniz:
Have you ever wondered why fashion runways have featured reed thin, fair-skinned models, for generations? A designer birdie finally tipped me off. Reed thin models have similar dimensions, hence, designers could invest less time altering fittings of exorbitantly expensive clothes. If one model dropped out, her replacement would be swift, with little fuss and feathers. With regards to white models, the concept of fashion shows originated in France during colonial times, where the buyers and customers, were primarily white.
In 2016, the cost of clothes has come down. We are not sporting Haute Couture, and the diversity of fashionistas has expanded widely. Instagram has visualised this reality, beautifully, by launching the #RunwayForAll. On this runway, you see models and fashionistas of every shape, size and colour, orientation and ability, who are epitomising style, in a diverse world. The movement has seen over 1000 posts in a matter of weeks.
In India, jewellery designer Himani Mantri Grover was a little ahead of the curve, when in 2015, she got a very unique model to showcase her handcrafted line of rustic high-end jewellery ‘Maya’. “Maashi is old, grey haired, wrinkled – everything that we don’t associate outer beauty with. Yet, she has a persona you cannot ignore, a presence so overwhelming that you can’t help but be smitten by her infectious zeal. She’s unafraid, enigmatic, sometimes coy and a mystery,” shares Himani, who met her muse at a friend’s house.
Hailing from West Bengal, Maashi apparently cooks “amazing” Bengali meals. And loves WWF. When Himani first bounced off the idea of capturing her on camera, this stylish grand dame, did not bat an eyelid. “She reacted like someone everyone is after! Like someone who’s been shot forever. She had no questions. No doubts. She took to the camera like a fish to the water,” shares Himani.
How did she respond to the camera, I asked. “Ask me how I responded to her being in front of me! I was nervous. And head over heals in love with her. I still am and will always be (very melodramatic but very true!),” shares the designer who’s always ecstatic when talking about Maashi.
Because Maashi has been more than a model. She is a muse, who has been most critical in the way Himani’s label Chicory Chai, shaped up, which is why all of Himani’s collections so far have been designed keeping her in mind. “Maashi is a beautiful metaphor of how I want my jewellery to age and be perceived. ‘Maya’ (the collection below) is a story about a girl who finds herself after a long journey in space and time. I don’t think she’d be any different in her 80s than the beautiful Maashi!” shares Himani.
Photographs: Himani Mantri Grover
Location courtesy: Swati Bhattacharya
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