It’s about taking it all in in a perfectly measured stride.
A model walking the ramp appears to be the veritable conductor of the enormous orchestra of the fashion industry. On scrutiny beneath the arclights, she is the clothes she wears, and a small mistake can ruin it all.
“Maintaining your composure, your poise and that smile even if the clothes you’re wearing are ill-fitting takes a great effort at times,” says Tinu Varghese, who’s had a 10-year career as a model. “But then, this is exactly what separates a great model from an also-ran.”
Varghese seems to have mastered human psychology. “As a model, it is negativity that you need to avoid. Hundreds of people around you try to pull you down because they are insecure and have no idea about what they would do after modelling,” she says, looking out of the cab taking us to Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, the venue for the five-day Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) that ends on Sunday.
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At the venue, we proceed towards the make-up room, where she is soon surrounded by Erika, Rachel and Maggie, her model friends.
The room is reminiscent of a Fellini film—girls in cascading silk dresses waft by, chortles rise in spurts amid a cloud of chatter and gossip, there’s cigarette smoke, perfume and the scent of hairspray. Fifteen minutes later, this coterie of laughing girls gathers backstage and proceeds to unspool into a train marching down the ramp as photographers jostle to click them.
“This is what we do,” says Varghese, her eyes fixed on the TV screen broadcasting the show backstage, before casting a sideways glance at the girls around her. “And this is what we are.”
Varghese flings her arm around Rachel, a fellow model from Bangalore, and they proceed to gaze into the mirror together, admiring each other, running their fingers through each other’s hair, smiling like little girls. “My lips look like a railway track,” says Varghese, and Rachel picks up the lipstick to do the mending.
Varghese’s life has followed a trajectory she hadn’t imagined while growing up in a Christian family in Kerala. “My life seemed to be a preparation for marrying off at 23 and I was told not to play basketball since it would affect my chances of finding a nice husband,” she says. She was also brought up to believe that black is not beautiful.
Her 23rd year arrived but instead of a marriage procession, it brought along the glitz of fashion. “I had always loved the idea of being a showgirl and had done a few shows at school and college,” she says. Today, innumerable ramp walks later, Varghese is one of India’s better—she says among the highest—paid ramp models. She lives in Goa with her partner and tends to her own farm, and is also a writer and DJ.
Backstage, Varghese stands at the head of a battery of models awaiting their turn. There isn’t a hint of nervousness, they just swing and sway to the music that seems to get louder with every passing moment. Our talk shifts to Fashion, the Madhur Bhandarkar film which attempted to portray the glamorous but difficult life of Indian models. As Varghese gets ready to go on the ramp, Maggie steps in to criticize the film’s depiction of the industry. As she prepares to walk, Maggie looks over her shoulder, smiles and says, “Life is easier than the movies. Thank God!”
Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) is on till Sunday at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.