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Gender-agnostic fashion shines at India Couture Week

From Kunal Rawal’s androgenous blazers to Falguni Shane Peacock’s male model in a lehenga, designers embraced gender-fluid styles at this year’s India Couture Week 2023.

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There was no shortage of sparkle at this year’s India Couture Week, with the country’s best and brightest designers presenting their latest creations from 25 July to 2 August.

Barbiecore exploded onto the ramp at Falguni Shane Peacock’s show, with model Kiara Advani clad in a hot pink lehenga complete with beaded tassels, and designer Suneet Varma took the humble chunky necklace to the next level with his blouses made entirely from jewellery.

But this year’s showstopper was queer model Rabanne Victor, who strode the ramp wearing a dazzling Falguni Shane Peacock lehenga.

The 34-year-old Mumbai-based model obliterated stereotypes and looked resplendent in a golden fishtail lehenga complete with sheer veil. His first-time walking in heels, he had a little stumble early on but composed himself like an absolute queen and went on to steal the show.

Gender-agnostic modelling has recently taken off in the Indian fashion landscape, with desi models such as Nitin Baranwal and Tarun Panwar leading the charge for inclusivity.

Closer to home, we’re seeing more intersectional representation, with Indian-Australian social media icon Jeremy Franco absolutely slaying at Sydney Fashion Week in a very colourful patchwork coat from Iordanes Spyridon Gogos paired with a dazzling set of acrylic nails.

 

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Victor is part of this vanguard, serving looks for the likes of Sabyasachi and Bergdorf Goodman in gold sequin dresses and floral jumpsuits. Though perhaps not the first time we’ve seen gender-agnostic modelling in India, it’s a rarity on the runway, making this walk one for the history books.

Victor’s trailblazing moment certainly wasn’t alone, with designer Kunal Rawal opting for a gender-bending square-shouldered kurta blazer and a mind-bending dhoti-patiala, all in white. Another model was decked in an all-black Punjabi suit ensemble with a straight-cut blazer and mermaid flare sharara pants.

But perhaps our favourite androgynous moment from Rawal’s Dhup Chao show was Ranbir Kapoor in a navy-blue button-up kurta, which became even more dapper when paired with a half-pant, half-lungi which delightfully resembled a slip-skirt.

 

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Rajesh Pratap Singh had us chasing away the gender ghosts of the past, with his eerie, nocturnal Desert Rose collection, presented in a candlelit room in true seance fashion. Sheer hoods and chainmail jewellery were the MO, with one model decked in a futuristic black PVC lehenga that wouldn’t look out of place at an emo wedding.

Finally, actor Ishaan Khatter gave us desi Harry Styles vibes at the Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna showcase, in an embroidered black blazer and oversized necktie combo. ‘Equinox’ also featured lots of cropped, slicked-back hair, and floaty pyjama-esque ensembles which could also just as easily fit in Styles’ wardrobe.

Ishaan Khattar
(Photo: Pallav Palliwal)

It’s great to see Indian fashion embrace gender-fluid silhouettes and gender-agnostic modelling, and this year’s Couture Week heralded the beginning of a new era for the queer community. Indian designers innovating beyond the gender binary is a promising sign – here’s hoping it leads to greater conversations on queer representation, not just in fashion, but in everyday life, as LGBTQIA+ Indians still fight for marriage equality.

READ ALSO: Kudrat Makkar’s Mastani: A Melbourne fashion brand rises

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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