Home >industry >Changing face of fashion: democratic, inclusive, diverse

Fashion is changing, globally and in India. It has become democratic and more inclusive and celebrates diversity. At the same time and partially due to the advent of technology there is tremendous amount of pressure on designers, photographers and models.

That is the message that came out from the session featuring Francesco Carrozzini, international fashion photographer, and Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova in conversation with Indian model and actor Lara Dutta at the eighth edition of Mint Luxury Conference in Mumbai on Friday.

“I think today, there is space in fashion for women of every body type and that diversity should be celebrated," said Kurkova. “And I think that diversity is more visible and accepted today than when I started some 17 years ago. Fashion is today accepting women of various sizes, curves, ethnicity and colours."

The fashion industry today is also celebrating imperfection.

“I think we are fighting something we created ourselves," said Carrozzini. “We created this model of perfection and now we are fighting it. I think it is also about the responsibility and the kind of message that we want to give out. Imagine, 14 and 15-year-old girls open a fashion magazine and all they see is tall, skinny blonde models. It is not how the world outside is."

More brands are now featuring women in their 40s and 50s in the ads. They are also opting for women in various other professions such as business or sports. The idea, Kurkova said, is to reach out to a wider audience, as people can relate more to the ads that feature actors who are similar to them in real life.

“When I started modelling as a 17-year-old, one of the first ads that I did was for a big, global brand and I was endorsing a wrinkle-control cream," said Dutta. “More brands are using older women in their ads now. And these women are not afraid or conscious of the image that will be published worldwide that celebrates who they are."

The other determining factor in the changing world of fashion is the advent of digital technology, be it the use of digital cameras, computers or the Internet and social media. Carrozzini believes it has completely revolutionised the industry.

“Most importantly, I think it has given the model a lot of control," he said. “Models can now click a photo, then jump behind the screen and see how the photo looks. So, they have a bigger say in how the photo looks."

“When photos were shot on film rolls, there was a certain kind of mystery associated with it. The anticipation was there to see the result; that’s the beauty of it," said Kurkova. “Today, despite the control we have as models over the photos, those aspects of mystery and anticipation are gone completely."

Today, everyone has a phone with a good camera. People click images and put them up on social media and, with a certain amount of luck in terms of number of followers, anyone can become a photographer overnight. The positive side of the story is that people can now do what they like. Click what they want in the way they want to. But there is a flip side, too.

“Back in my days, it was not this democratic," said Carrozzini. “There was a certain level of craftsmanship that comes only with time that is devoted to understand a particular subject."

What we have today is what Carrozzini calls image making. “The photographer as we knew in our time is dead," he said. The fashion industry has also become very fast. There are five-six collections every year; the gap between the time its is conceived and the availability of a product has narrowed to five weeks at most. “You really don’t have the time to sit and reflect over the concept and tune it to the finest details every time," said Dutta.

And this has resulted in immense pressure in terms of time and creativity on the designer, photographer and the model. The most noticeable casualty of this fast pace was Raf Simons who quit the post of artistic director of Christian Dior for women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections, in October after a three-and-a-half year stint. The reasons for the departure were said to be personal, and he seldom complained about the workload at Dior, but his frustration with the lack of time to create was well documented.

“When you do six shows a year, there’s not enough time for the whole process," Simons said in an interview for System Magazine, a London-based independent magazine on fashion that is published twice a year, some months before his departure.

“Technically, yes—the people who make the samples, do the stitching, they can do it. But you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important. When you try an idea, you look at it and think, Hmm, let’s put it away for a week and think about it later. But that’s never possible when you have only one team working on all the collections," he told Cathy Horyn, the former New York Times fashion critic and current critic-at-large of The Cut.

And this pressure is there in all the fields. There is just not enough time. “The phone calls that we get today are like, ‘We have six days to do this. Fly there. Send the photos over and then we will discuss further’," said Carrozzini. “Now, this can be done, but the quality won’t be like when the same thing can be done with some time in hand."

He also said that moviemakers, artists, photographers should try and not feed the system continuously. But making that choice is becoming more difficult today, especially “when loads of money is thrown at you".

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