SANYFW: JORE’s Prediction on the Future of Fashion
Ever since the rise of human civilization, fashion’s had a profound impact on the way we present ourselves to the ever-evolving world. Even without trying, humans made a statement using fashion even if it was strictly for survival purposes. In early civilizations, fashion served as a symbol of prosperity. As social hierarchies made their mark in human civilization, you’d see a division of wealth—and that came with the division of clothing styles. The more money you had, the more your freedom of choosing exquisite jewels and vibrantly colored fabrics increased. Fashion played a pivotal role in class distinctions based on the usage of how it was presented. Members of society with a higher socioeconomic status used fashion mainly for decorative purposes. Meanwhile, if someone stemmed from a lower socioeconomic status, chances are that they mainly used fashion for functionality to keep up with day-to-day life.
Launched by fashion entrepreneur Shipra Sharma [in partnership with Hetal Patel], SANYFW has been aiming to uplift the authenticity of South Asian fashion by highlighting designers that take inspiration from a fusion of traditional and modern cultures. Within a span of two weeks, we have observed beautiful designs created by over thirteen different designers all with a mission to showcase South Asian excellence through storytelling fashion. The setting for the runway experience felt like a wonderful escape to a realm of ethereal beauty and rich cultural history depicting ancient times.
As mentioned in my previous article, we have seen a slight change in the fashion narrative. What started off as a means of functionality sort of metamorphosized into a display of individual expression in the age of increasing cultural consciousness. Since the 20th century, the fashion that dominated the catwalks consisted of many appropriated designs and forms stemming from South Asian fashion—a product of colonizing ideas from “the Global South.” Since we’re living in a period where information is easily available, more and more people are understanding the importance of the need for an inclusive stage to celebrate designers who descended from the pioneers of these inspirational styles.
For many years, our diaspora witnessed diluted displays of unique South Asian fashion fabricating styles to appeal to the majority demographic which dominated the industry ever since New York Fashion Week manifested into existence. Alongside the appropriation of designs, we’ve watched them being poorly mass-produced to keep up with demands for sleeting trends, which led to the growing waste that persists in the industry. SANYFW took on the initiative of reclaiming stolen ideas and honoring them by highlighting designers [i.e. Mayyur Girotra, Nomi Ansari, and more!] who can better explain the origins of the craftsmanship. The designs we saw these past couple of weeks are reviving stories lost to history [or so we thought!]. Thanks to these fabulous designers, the world was able to get a glimpse of the vast range of traditional and modern styles that’ll go down in the books for making New York Fashion history!
The Fashion Spot:
Racial Diversity Report
One of the biggest themes that came to play during this fashion week was inclusivity. New York Fashion Week [in general] has made some pretty significant strides in creating an inclusive industry…but there’s still a long way to go. While NYFW has improved in showcasing models from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, it’s still lacking age, gender, and size diversity. A report from The Fashion Spot examined time series data from 60 different presentations where the results were categorized based on race, gender, size inclusivity, and age. NYFW 2022 featured 54.9 percent models of color—which is higher than the majority of the previous years but still doesn’t top Spring 2021 [which holds a record of 57.1%].
SANYFW came to fruition during one of the best years of South Asian representation in popular culture—I mean the timing is pretty spot on! The combination of both South Asian culture and Western ideas makes for more genuine narratives to bridge gaps in representation while breaking some stereotypes in the process. Representation is psychologically beneficial for South Asians—seeing someone of a similar background to you go through something you’ve experienced reassures us that our own feelings towards a multitude of social concerns. From what I’ve seen, SANYFW has done a great job in tackling colorism and height discrimination within the fashion industry. It was really refreshing to see models [from different heights and many different levels of melanin] stride the runway in designs complementing their South Asian features. While this is a great step forward in breaking outdated standards of beauty, there was still one factor that hasn’t really been addressed—size inclusivity.
One member from our diaspora who vocalized her opinion regarding this issue was Renuka. In her TikTok, Renuka initially expressed her excitement for a platform where South Asian creatives can come together to celebrate desi fashion. But then the TikTok transitioned to where she conveyed her concerns around the requirements to become a model for SANYFW. By stating that it's fully up to the designers to make the decision on who they want for the show and they will heavily prefer someone who’s already signed to a modeling agency or has years of modeling experience. According to her, if you’re on social media for like 2 seconds then you already know that the vast majority of that category are…“you guessed it—thin.” This [unfortunately] further perpetuates the notion that you have to look a certain way [tall and skinny] to be qualified to walk for the show.
By no means is this meant to be a clap back to SANYFW, nevertheless, it’s important for people to be able to visualize themselves in outfits without worrying about body shaming. Fashion is meant to be a mode of expressing your authentic self, so it’s imperative to open up a more inclusive space that includes all body types. This globalized society has reached a point where it’s almost impossible to not be up-to-date with social justice issues. So an industry that’s basically reliant on consumer behavior must adapt to create a more accurate output of fashion to reflect the populace.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a HUGE toll on this industry due to concerns regarding close contact—so the industry resorted to displaying the runway shows digitally! This is pretty revolutionary when you put this in perspective because digital platforms [for the most part] are accessible to the general public. The fashion world has a trickle-down effect—what starts off as a huge trend slowly tricks down to the general public. Therefore, presenting runway shows on different digital platforms—including but not limited to social media—opens up more options for accessibility in an industry that was notoriously exclusive. SANYFW’s partnership with the Nate app is bringing fashion from the runway to your fingertips! Even those who missed out on attending any of the events can still check out the trending looks by shopping from the app.
This shift into another paradigm is paving different formats of presenting fashion without a strong emphasis on the overall production. Now, we are focusing on elements of the actual collections through fashion storytelling. South Asian designers are now engaging with the audience with fashion storytelling to navigate crucial conversations on gender, identity, accessibility, and sustainable creation. This is further reinforced by the role social media plays in sharing these stories with the greater population.
So, what does all of this mean for the Future of Fashion? Well…here’s my prediction of what the future has in store for this multi-billion dollar industry:
When I see the Future of Fashion, I envision a world free from the constraints of outdated beauty standards. A world that rids itself of class distinctions—since fashion has notoriously created socioeconomic disparities. A world that allows us to be our true authentic selves where distinctly ethnic designs and apparel aren’t being commercialized by historically dominant groups who “make these rules.” A world that is mitigating the environmental damage brought forth by the industry—creating a platform for the rise of the sustainability movement. Hell…I even predict a world where fashion will further strengthen social justice reforms to open a larger platform for marginalized communities pridefully celebrating their beautiful identities. As Sruthi Jayadevan, Hamel Patel, and Anthony O. Gomes beautifully put it, fashion is about staying true to your authentic self and expressing yourself in a way that makes you feel happy and confident in your identity.
The Future of Fashion…is decentralized—and we’re just getting started for the best is yet to come and that’s on PERIODT!!