By Caitlin Ball
The beginning of Easter Term brought with it Durham’s first ever catwalk-based celebration of South Asian style and culture in the form of Kohinoor South Asian Charity Fashion Show (KSACFS). Saujanya Vinayy, a member of Desi Soc’s exec, very kindly agreed to chat to Style about the behind-the-scenes of the show, and why it is such a welcome presence within Durham’s long-standing fashion scene.
What was your impetus for the show/your motivations for making it happen?
As DU Desi Soc, we’ve always endeavored to be as representative of the beautiful Desi cultures (cultures from the countries in and around the Indian subcontinent) that there are, and we realised that we didn’t have that representation in terms of fashion here in Durham. South Asian cultures are quite well-known for their exquisite fashion and jewellery and extravagance so we felt that it would be the perfect way to celebrate that beauty and share it with Durham.
While Durham may be known for its fashion shows, I don’t think its necessarily known for its cultural diversity
As Durham’s ‘first ever culture fashion show’, did you feel a certain amount of pressure?
As much pride as it gave us in being Durham’s first ever culture fashion show, I think there was definitely pressure on not only representing the cultures and doing them justice but meeting the high standards that fashion shows in Durham have already set. As one of the three people coordinating the models, looks and outfits, there was show much we wanted to show and also pull off also in terms of the performances and I hope people were able to see the efforts we put into it.
And why do you think it’s taken until now for a cultural fashion show to take place in Durham?
While Durham may be known for its fashion shows, I don’t think it’s necessarily known for its cultural diversity despite its diverse student population. I feel like it’s one of those things where everyone loves the idea of it and would partake in it but they’re just waiting for someone else to do it first. I’m very happy and proud that we were that first and I hope it’s just the beginning of many more beautiful celebrations of culture and diversity.
Who were some of your designers, and how did their designs coincide with your creative vision?
The majority of our outfits, headpieces and accessories were sourced from India and Indian designers so that we could honour the cultures and maintain authenticity. Some of the pieces also belonged to our models themselves so we could represent their cultures. As with everything, many of the designs we got fit exactly with our vision and some of them we had to make do with what we got with the styling and alterations. Some of the pieces belonged to our models themselves so we could represent their cultures. As with everything, many of the designs we got fit exactly with our vision and some of them we had to make do with what we got with the styling and alterations.
Some of the pieces belonged to our models themselves so we could represent their cultures
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
Personally, I absolutely adore getting all dressed up in the elaborate outfits with the matching jewellery and hair and everything. But what makes South Asian fashion so special is its background where every piece of clothing or jewlery is attached to a rich culture that has an incredible history and significance. I think the variety and elegance you can get from just one South Asian culture along with the fact that the clothes and jewellery alone can tell their own story, is what makes the fashion so stunning. Additionally, the fashion was truly made for every type of person, body and build. It’s truly fashion that doesn’t discriminate.
Looking back, did everything go how you had planned? And how was the planning process?
I think just like any event, it never goes exactly as planned. There were hiccups along the way whether it was the music for the walks or being unable to find a specific jewellery set for a model, but everything is a learning curve and an experience at the end of the day. The planning process was both one of the most exciting and exhausting things I’ve done. With my other two model coordinators, we decided every single outfit and look along with necessary matching jewellery as with South Asian fashion they aren’t accessories but rather a part of the outfit itself. We also planned styling the models’ outfits on the day as some outfits are one long piece of fabric that quite literally need to be draped on the models and aren’t as simple as putting on a dress. There were trials and errors and lot of it was playing dress up to see what works the best. Something that we planned to be a trademark for the show was the mehendi/alta that all the models and members had on their hands. It’s a skin decoration and temporary tattoo stain of sorts that is common in South Asian cultures, especially when celebrating something.
What was the atmosphere like on the night?
The atmosphere on the night was honestly a plethora of emotions. There was incredible excitement, anticipation and tension. Since so many people had worked so hard, we all wanted to showcase the best we could. As I was backstage in the dressing room, I could only rely on hearing the cheers from the audience to gauge the vibe and I’m happy that the show was received so well and that it received so much love.
The fact that the clothes and jewellery alone can tell their own stories is what makes the fashion so stunning
Do you plan on making Kohinoor Fashion Show an annual event?
Desi Society would absolutely love to make the South Asian Charity Fashion Show an annual event and personally, I would definitely like to experience it again. Not just for the opportunity to represent and share the culture with everyone but also because there is just so much to showcase and so many endless possibilities.
What would you say to anybody wanting to get involved with either Kohinoor Fashion Show or Desi Soc?
First and foremost, you definitely don’t need to be part of, or identify with, a culture to celebrate it. Both the society and the show exist for the celebration of culture and it’s only possible when people from all cultures partake in it. There are opportunities to be a part of Desi Soc both as an exec member and just a part of the committee since we hold numerous events throughout the year. For those who’d like to get involved with the fashion show, join the society and stay tuned for news concerning next year!
The show was so incredibly wholesome, breathtaking and empowering! Let alone well organised. It was simply beautiful to see talented and gorgeous people representing so many different parts of a culture coming together to display their history traditions and fashion. And all in the name of some great and vital charities, I couldn’t have asked for more!
I must say it was a truly remarkable experience. The event was a perfect blend of fashion, culture and philanthropy. It not only highlighted the beauty and diversity of South Asian culture but also managed to make a positive impact on the community. I would highly recommend this event to anyone who wants to experience the richness of South Asian culture while contributing to a worthy cause.
Image credit: Aathif Anpudeen