“Fashion is the most powerful art there is. It’s movement, design, and architecture all in one. It shows the world who we are and who we’d like to be.” Blair Waldorf once said that in a Gossip Girl episode, and that has stuck with me ever since I saw the episode all the way back in 7th grade. I have also looked at fashion as a place of comfort, especially when science begins to irk me. Within my safe place of fashion, it was difficult to come across a name that sounded like mine, difficult to see a face that looked like mine. Even during the mid-2010s, when I started to get really interested in fashion, diversity was not exactly on any casting directors’ or fashion editors’ minds for fashion week. While there has been certain progress regarding diversity in fashion compared to the early 2000s and 2010s, South Asian representation in fashion has remained only in South Asia, and has yet to be mainstream.
Of course, if I focus on the fashion industry specifically in India, I see no shortage of talented designers and editors, front and center. In mainstream American media, which is what is always the most prominent, seeing South Asian influence anywhere is rare. On the more positive side, I have identified and been inspired by those that are in positions of power in the fashion industry, and have contributed to increasing the South Asian representation we see in fashion today. Just to note, a very important and integral part of the fashion industry — the models — is not included on the list. Surprisingly, models like Pooja Mor and Madhulika Sharma have it in the bag in terms of both editorial and print work. With this, I am hoping to highlight South Asians in other sectors of the fashion industry, especially in positions of leadership and power, who are using their position to further not only diversity but also other things the industry lacks, such as sustainability.
To begin this list I, of course, want to discuss the newly Condé Nast appointed Global CEO of Chanel. After Karl Lagerfeld passed away, Chanel found itself trying to find a new footing with a new creative director, Virginie Viard, who did not necessarily thrive as a successor to her mentor. With the hiring of Nair, Chanel has seemed to turn a new tide. Leena Nair has been a champion for change and a firm believer in equality, very well seen throughout her career. She believes inclusion is at the heart of everything she does, so best believe her leadership will certainly shake up Chanel for the better.
A man that, in the fashion world needs no introduction, Imran Amed, MBE, founder, E-I-C, anc CEO of “The Business of Fashion” (BoF). BoF started as a blog on Amed’s sofa in 2007 and is now one of the fashion industry’s go-to newsletters for the more broad aspects of fashion. Amed has been called, “fashion’s most influential man” by many publications, as most working people wake up and read the BoF newsletters everyday, first thing. Amed take this power very seriously and holds accountable all things the fashion industry needs to improve upon, from sustainability to diversity and inclusion, and mergers to creative direction shake-ups.
Megha Kapoor is the current Head of Editorial Content of Vogue India (basically Editor-in-Chief) and was appointed by Anna Wintour herself. She herself is an immigrant, who has lived and worked in Australia. So her being hired to head Vogue India has truly assured a new era for the Indian publication, or as her first issue called it, “Reset.” Her first cover, January 2022, starred model and ecologist Zinnia Kumar and sets out to champion and celebrate the diversity of the Indian subcontinent and create a space that also champions and celebrates everyone. She strives to strike a balance between local and global content, one where Indian voices, of models and designers, are recognized in mainstream content.
Roopal Patel is the current Senior Vice President for Saks Fifth Avenue and plays an integral role in deciding what the store carries and basically predicts market trends, and also casually wears a Bottega Veneta camel suit with Cult Gaia heels as a work fit. Roopal is the ultimate cool-girl and one that wears her Indian heritage proudly.
My gratefulness for this man knows no bounds. His design and vision have brought South Asians designers into the spotlight, and his voice really shines through them. Look at any of his beautiful collections and you will see just how he emphasizes diversity and inclusivity and represents femininity elegantly.
Versha is a very recently appointed Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue who was given the most fabulous seal of approvals by Anna Wintour (and Condé Nast). Besides championing South Asian faces on Teen Vogue covers, like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, she has hosted events honoring South Asian people working in other fashion adjacent industries.
Radhika Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair, and quite possibly the first person that comes to mind when you think of the word “fabulous.” Another Condé Nast appointed E-i-C, she was the first woman of color appointed for this leadership role at Vanity Fair. And since her appointment, diversity has been at the forefront of her covers, writing, and overall content produced from Vanity Fair.