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  • Amira Hassan

South Asian Designers Taking Over New York Fashion Week Scene

Any fashion fiend fantasizes about the iconic New York Fashion Week—the buzzing atmosphere, the flashing cameras, bass-boosted music, the countdown before the models strut down the runway. The world of fashion is a fantasy of glitz and glamour painting a robust lifestyle packed with the greatest social events of the season. Any self-respecting fashion enthusiast is well aware of the hustling nature of New York Fashion Week. But, have you ever heard of South Asian New York Fashion Week? Well…you’re just in luck because, for the first time in NYC fashion history, SANYFW is debuting this September! Between September 8th to the 14th, fashionistas everywhere will get a chance to check out some runway shows AND hit up some vendors to purchase their own unique couture items while learning more about South Asian culture.

Founded by entrepreneur, Shipra Sharma, SANYFW aims to “highlight and share the history of our fashion and culture, while celebrating the fashion pioneers who have been trailblazers for our community universally.” According to Sharma, this innovative initiative is designed to bring together South Asian designers from around the world to the fashion capital of New York City. SANYFW has been established as a platform to showcase and uplift South Asian fashion inspired by traditional and modern South Asian attire and culture. Between the 8th to the 14th SANYFW will provide the audience with access to mesmerizing runway shows featuring streetwear, sustainability, menswear, traditional, bridal, and Indo-western styles! With this extensive range, it will totally open the catwalk to promising designers across the South Asian Diaspora.

On September 10th [from 12PM to 6:30PM] SANYFW is hosting The Bazaar so everyone can shop from these amazing brands!

Historically, New York Fashion Week is a bi-annual event with several runway shows to highlight the collections—from both renowned and upcoming designers—to mark what’s in style for the next season [which will be Spring/Summer in this case]. Legacy brands like Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Coco Chanel, and Gucci dominated the runways with magnetic pieces embodying the feeling of luxury. These European labels maintained a symbolic representation throughout society as a display of wealth, status, and occupation.

The hold fashion has on people around the world is unlike any other. Since the Golden Age of Hollywood, we’ve witnessed stars like Audrey Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe enchant the audience by adorning themselves with haute couture from top fashion houses of the Western World. American fashion during the 20th century was influenced by what was trending in the streets of Paris—taking what was fashionable in the elite upper-class society and making it more accessible to the general public. But what was the inspiration behind Parisian fashion? Simple…colonization.

Many of Hubert de Givenchy’s designs mirrored the draping of South Asian saris [as seen in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" where Audrey Hepburn was dressed in a cream-colored sari—making her stand out at the house party].

By no means is this an attack on renowned designers. Rather, it’s an informative approach to showcase the importance of giving credit to the minority groups that pioneered these designs pre/post-colonialism. For instance, any fashion enthusiast knows that Givenchy’s designs showcase flowing drapes and making that a symbol of elegance because simplicity can flatter all ages and body types. Fashion aficionados back then believed him to be a man ahead of his time in design innovation by creating a standard of style where less is more. Needless to say, the draping of the long fabrics on his favorite muse [Audrey Hepburn] stems from the saris that women of South Asia had worn years before they became “trendy.” Using a part of someone’s culture as inspiration and excluding people from that culture as well is a form of theft.

The iconic orange silhouette evening dress [designed by William Travilla] paired with a long embellished scarf was worn by Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” This has strong desi influences from the way the scarf draped around Monroe’s neck—just like a salwar kameez or Anarkali suit!

While the fashion phenomenon gained much traction in the streets of Europe, it most certainly isn’t a European invention. SANYFW is creating a platform where designers can rewrite fashion history while presenting styles with the very same forms and designs previously diluted by the traditionally Eurocentric history. South Asian fashion is not a social institution—it’s also a reflection of the economic endeavors the people of Southern Asia underwent during the many years of European colonialism. Cultural appropriation is a common occurrence in the fashion industry and oftentimes historical credit isn’t properly acknowledged. The appreciation for the aesthetics is surface-level and the history behind its relevance is wrongfully neglected, leading to cultural erasure because the appropriated designs are appealing to the interests of dominant demographics.

Fashion is a wonderful element of immersive storytelling—it’s truly an experience—SANYFW aims to do just that and then some more! I predict the future of fashion to be decentralized where people aren’t forced to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards that dominate the runways. Decolonizing fashion means decolonizing those precedented standards to open the floor to designers who are harnessing their talent to redefine fashion through visual epics that’ll surely lead to a standing ovation.

Mayyur Girotra

“A tale as old as time, tinkling laughter echoing in empty courtyards…glittering jewels and silken drapes adorn a bewitching visage—history holds testimony to an endless saga of love.” Mayyur Girotra, renowned for his Zamani Couture, is one of the headliners for SANYFW this September 9th. Known for his bedazzling and glittery themes, he has tastefully combined lavishly intricate designs with hints of Middle Eastern forms to fashion the style. The layers of cultural influence evoked from his designs are sure to captivate the audience and transport them to an ethereal world of ancient times in South Asia. In this runway show, Girotra intends to “preserve the rich legacy of Indian crafts and textiles.” The level of attention and care dedicated to each piece is truly remarkable and is just a preview of what’s yet to come.

Nomi Ansari

Known as “The King of Color,” Nomi Ansari has become a sought-after designer in Pakistan since the establishment of his studios back in 2001. It’s no surprise that Nomi Ansari Studios is headlining SANYFW because of the level of care [and details!] Ansari puts in his designs are truly exquisite! Much of his inspiration stems from his Pakistani heritage which is extremely vibrant and festive in nature. The saturation of the many hues in his collections truly pays homage to his love for Pakistani culture and you can really feel the love that comes with the creation of these designs. If you look closely, you can see some tribal influence in the pattern work which complements the spirited hues. From the details to the contrast in colors, zardozi, and crystal embellishments, you surely don’t wanna miss out on these gorgeous outfits dominating this weekend’s runway!

These are just some of the many designers being featured in SANYFW who are claiming that power of expression back to themselves and honor the history while empowering the skilled artisans showcasing their emotions through their craft. Many Western fashion labels today don’t appreciate [or even respect] the people who join together to capture the story of humankind in the form of varying styles personifying perseverance amid strong colonial chains of oppression. However, with fashion constantly progressing and the world just becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse place overall. I can see a more diverse and inclusive future for the continuously moving fashion industry.

In addition to checking out these shows, SANYFW is creating a marketplace [The Bazaar] packed with several vendors alongside an interactive collaboration with the app Aina (Nisha Saboo) that helps shoppers virtually try on clothing to see how it fits their body sizes [I mean how cool is that!]. To end this energetic week, everyone will have a chance to get tickets to a health and wellness pop-up [hosted by The Wellnus Hub] for some sunset rooftop meditation, reiki & a sound bath led by renowned wellness warrior, Thara Natalie; a cacao ceremony presented by Elements Truffles; a yoga class taught by Shereena Master; a chance to immerse yourself in Ayurvedic rituals; try natural Indian beauty remedies, and so much more!

So, with that in mind, if y’all are interested in spicing up your weekend with a cool experience, then be sure to check out these SANYFW shows hosted at the quintessential NYC venues!

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