Kamala’ has drawn attention on Facebook in the last few days. Kamala is a fictitious name and the photo shoot is, at the moment, her only brush with glamour.
The mother of two works as a maid to make ends meet. She just happened to catch the eye of Mandeep Nagi of Shades of India, who was on the lookout for a model to showcase their new collection.
“The emphasis of our new collection, Cinnamon, is on textures and I wanted someone extraordinary,” says Mandeep.Extraordinary doesn’t refer to tall, svelte models in the spot light of fashion weeks.
20s to the 80s
Mandeep and team are used to working with unlikely models. “Sometimes it’s a colleague or someone we know of. The age group has varied from 24 to 82,” she says. While she was mulling over a photo shoot for Cinnamon, she chanced upon this dusky housemaid at her friend’s house.
“She carried herself with grace and confidence,” recalls Mandeep. She bounced her idea off her colleagues, who had their doubts.
“I wanted to give it a shot, nevertheless. I spoke to ‘Kamala’ and she wanted a day to think over it. She returned and said she’d do it. She was concerned about the kind of clothes and where the images will be used. We explained the process to her and she was game.”
Kamala went through a hair and makeup session at Mandeep’s house before the shoot.Fashion houses and designers try to make both prêt and couture more appealing to the buyer with photographs featuring women from different walks of life.
The idea is to break the monotony and show that the clothes are designed to appeal women of all sizes. Designer Gaurang Shah recalls a photo shoot in Goa where the models were in the 50 – 70 year age group.
Recently, Gaurang, Bailou and Mira Sagar did a photo shoot with women from different professions to launch their new collection.
“Ours is a clientele that’s comfortable in a sari. Some of our saris have big borders and buyers hesitate, assuming these borders will look good only on tall, slim models. When we show them a photograph of such a sari worn by shorter, maybe heavier women, they are convinced it will work,” reasons Gaurang.
For this forthcoming collection to be showcased at Lakme Fashion Week, Gaurang is contemplating a photo shoot with unusual models. “Otherwise, there is no difference in photo shoots done by leading designers,” he cites.
Smaller labels that hope to get more eyeballs on social media have also been roping in regular women to model their collections.
Occasionally, weavers and artisans are also part of the photographs. This further establishes the grassroots connect.
The rawness that these models might lend to the photographs is a plus.
“Trained models know how to pose. Others take some time to become at ease with the camera. But once they do, they are quick since they know how to carry off a sari. In about seven hours, we shot these women in more than 20 saris,” says Gaurang.
A welcome photobomb
Mandeep concurs it was a similar experience with Kamala, who exuded confidence once she warmed up to the camera. Kamala’s case reminds us of Jumoke Orisaguna, a bread seller in Nigeria who literally walked into a photo shoot. The photobomb had a happy ending with her getting further modelling assignments.
Kamala’s case is still recent to gauge which course it will take. “Those who saw the photographs have been mostly appreciative. A few felt it’s inappropriate to have Kamala model for clothes she cannot afford,” admits Mandeep, while also sharing that she’s doing her bit to help Kamala, “I don’t know if this shoot will change her life. I know that she cherishes the experience.”