Size matters

Anjali Jhangiani
Sunday, 8 July 2018

Designer Narendra Kumar and actress Zareen Khan, who recently judged the plus size model audition for Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2018, talk about having a healthy relationship with your body and enjoying fashion for the sake of it

Everyone wants to look nice. Everyone wants to be able to choose what they want to wear and not just wear it ’cause it was the only thing they could find in their size. Everyone deserves to be able to enjoy fashion. While in an ideal world, this might be the norm, in reality, society still has a long way to go.“It’s a really unique time in fashion right now. If you were to talk to me about five years ago, I’d say that models required to be of a certain size with certain stats. Now we look for models who have a certain attitude,” says fashion designer Narendra Kumar, who was judging the plus size model auditions for Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2018 along with actress Zareen Khan last week. 

Who is plus size?

About 5000 people, according to Narendra Kumar, showed up to audition for the plus size models. Impressed with the turnout, he says, “It’s a huge number! For the regular auditions, I’ve seen about 500 people show up. From among them, about 350 models are auditioned and 100-110 are chosen. The fact that so many people came for the plus size auditions shows that this community is large and plays a big role in society.”

But Zareen says that most of the people who came for the auditions didn’t know whether they qualified for the plus size category or not. “Technically, you have to take measurements like your height, weight, waist circumference and more into consideration and there’s a whole calculation to it to see if you fit into the plus size category. But if I have to explain it in layperson’s terms, I’d say that a person is plus size if they can’t find their size of clothes in any regular apparel stores,” she says, adding, “So many people, who were just a little overweight, thought they were plus size. We had to explain to them that they do not qualify. I blame the society for this confusion. Even if you’re little overweight, society makes you think you’re plus size.”

Limited fashion

“When I was in college, if I had to attend a function in the evening, and I did not have new clothes to wear, I could not walk into a shop and pick up something because they did not have my size. You needed to get clothes stitched. I would have no choice but to cancel. It felt like fashion was only a privilege of thin people,” says Zareen.

But thankfully, times have changed. A number of brands that cater to plus sizes have stocked their shelves. Narendra says, “It’s true that now we have brands for plus sizes, but there is a limited range of fashion that they can choose from. Thankfully, people are now becoming aware about these issues that were earlier just swept under the carpet. There are conversations about it, which will lead to solutions.”

Just a different body type

Narendra will also be showcasing an all-new plus collection this season. “I haven’t thought of it as a  ‘plus size’ collection. It’s a regular collection, just in different sizes for a different body type. My point of view was not what a plus size person should be wearing to look slimmer, but what I would like to design irrespective of the size,” says he.

His collection is called ‘Never Hyde’. “Many plus size people tend to live double lives — one what society expects them to be like and the other what they really are like. Like Jekyll and Hyde. My collection is about not having to live like that. Don’t hide who you really are, flaunt it instead,” he says.

The collection features athleisure apparel in colours like emerald, neon green, maroon with innovative prints, a hot trend worldwide. 

Be fit, not necessarily slim

While there is a debate online about how the plus size modelling industry is encouraging obesity, Zareen believes that this is just a chance for those who have been treated like “outcasts” in the fashion world to be a part of it. 

“Fitness is very important, I have adapted it as a lifestyle now. I know that there are people who are fit, but big — you can’t tell them that fashion is not for them to enjoy,” the actress says. 

Narendra adds, “You can endeavour to be fit regardless of your size. It doesn’t mean that everybody needs to be a size zero. Be confident about yourself and don’t bother about other people’s opinion about you. Nobody should be able to tell you, ‘Oh you’re this size, so you can’t wear this.’ The word slim is irrelevant today, fit is the correct word to use.”

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