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Model Lakshmi Menon Talks About How Scenario For Indian Artists Has Changed Abroad

  • IWB Post
  •  September 12, 2018

Lakshmi Menon took over the international ramp over a decade ago when she walked for Jean Paul Gaultier. Menon’s first step was followed by a successful career as she walked and campaigned for Hermès, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Max Mara, Givenchy, H&M, J Crew, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom in the following years.

The 36-year-old supermodel will be walking for designers like Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren at the ongoing New York Fashion Week.

In a recent chat with Vogue India, she discussed her contribution towards visibility she’s created for Indian models, breaking barriers, and why she is slowing down the pace at fashion weeks. Excerpts:

On walking in fewer shows at the fashion weeks

“I’m doing a few shows: Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Escada. I mean, it’s not like the old days where one would end up doing four shows a day. Those days are over for me, I think. I’ve done it for so long now, it makes sense to do just the crucial, critical shows. Thankfully, I have an agent who’s completely on the same platform as I am, so there’s no conflict between us.”

On working with Tom Ford

“He’s one of the classiest men I’ve met in the business. He’s very charming, he’s very down to earth, very approachable. He’s a nice man. You know, you can actually have a conversation with him. You don’t feel that he’s detached from the people around him. He’s very warm and friendly—that makes a huge difference. More than anything else, it’s the people who you work with and the energy that one has that makes a difference in the work that you do. He is very inclusive. He appreciates diversity, which is how it should be. The world is made of different kinds of people, races, ethnicities… and all of that should be celebrated. You can’t just isolate one race and say, “This is the only beauty that’s around.” That’s just unfair. It’s important that beauty is represented in all of its forms.”

On flagging off Indian representation on Internation ramps

“When I first broke into the scene here, it was still all white girls. It was Russian, Eastern European, blonde girls that were dominating the shows. And there was constant talk about lack of diversity. When I started, I think Ujjwala [Raut] was the one just before me, and I think she had sort of stopped around that time. When I came in, I was the only [Indian] girl who was working, the one who was visible. After me, there was a whole bunch of other girls who have come in, and I’m very happy about it. It’s important.”

On future for Indians and Indian origin artists in the fashion world

“There are a lot of Indians in the industry—perhaps more on the business side of it versus the creative side. Of course, the one person who comes to my mind who has forged his way ahead is Ramesh Nair, who is at Moynat as the creative director of the label. Manish Arora also shows his collection in Paris every season. Then there’s Bibhu Mohapatra, Prabal Gurung—he’s from Nepal, but it’s all in that region: Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia.

So to answer your question, yes, I do, and of course, there’s room for more. I hope there will be more kids who will come out. There’s a girl at Central Saint Martins, Supriya [Lele], who just graduated last year and she’s doing interesting work. I think there’s some young and upcoming talent in the business now too.”

On the shift of mind for the fashion industry in India

“[The creative field] was not considered to be economically viable [back in the day]. That’s the reason why engineering, being a doctor, being a professional was what made sense. At that time, acting [was not an option either], especially for girls, because there was this whole prejudice of women in those fields being exposed to what was considered taboo. But now it’s all opening up, because they realise this is a serious industry. The film or fashion industry are all very serious professions. I think that the whole mindset has shifted. There are girls who are doing great stuff. I mean, Priyanka Chopra’s made it big here. She’s extremely successful in the US.”

On being away from social media

“I’ve given it all a shot. I tried Facebook for a bit. I realised it was not for me. I tried Instagram. Same thing. I mean, I don’t like the culture of narcissism and voyeurism. It’s very addictive. And the more time you spend on it, the more followers you get, the more likes you get. The more selfies you post, the more followers. It’s a weird algorithm. It’s an algorithm that feeds into your narcissism. We all have that narcissistic tendency amongst us, but it’s about whether you feed that part of you or don’t. I chose not to.”

On juggling personal and professional life

“I like being home (India). I was born there, raised there. I spent a considerable amount of time outside of India working, living, [and] I just chose to move back. I find my life there to be a lot more wholesome. Being closer to my family, my close friends…being at home grounds me. I live in Goa now. I moved there a year ago. I live in a house with 10 dogs. It’s the absolute opposite of New York City. I have a garden, the air is clean, I like to swim, I’m learning to windsurf, I do yoga, so it’s more of a holistic approach to my life there versus being in the rat race constantly. When I’m in New York my usual arrangement with my agent is that I come here for two weeks, I do as much as I can and then I go back home.”

On her evolution as a person in these years

“I think I’m a lot more self-assured. That’s something you gain by getting older. It comes with gaining more experience in the business. I’m a lot more confident than what I used to be then, I would imagine. [Back] in those days, I would sort of play it cool, but now I think I’ve truly just come into my own. The twenties are that decade of really exploring yourself and finding out who you are. I moved out of my parents’ home when I was 21; I moved to Paris. And that was the start of my own journey of self-discovery. And I think that’s the journey you experience all through your life. This is my thirties, it’s a completely different sensation of who I am, of the woman that I am and of being comfortable physically, emotionally, mentally. I think now I’m [now] interested in a more spiritual journey. I think that also kicks in. I would imagine that would be the critical difference.”

Advice for young aspirants

“Especially in this business, the minute you get self-conscious, you lose it. It has to be effortless. There has to be a sense of nonchalance, which is what actually makes that person attractive. The minute you know that you are beautiful, and you sort of present yourself like that, I think it’s over. You lose that spark, which really makes you who you are.”

H/T: Vogue India

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