It’s not every day that the country’s only milliner is roped into create a fashion history of sorts. On August 28, 2016, India will witness the first plus-size fashion show courtesy plus-size apparel brand All and Lakme Fashion Week (LFW). And curating the show is milliner Shilpa Chavan of the label Little Shilpa.
Chavan, along with show director Lubna Adams, was adamant about not wanting professional plus-size models for the show. Instead, they ran a social media campaign #allplusLFW inviting entries from plus-size people to walk the ramp. Ten people in the age group of 18 to 40 were shortlisted from the 160 who auditioned last month. Chavan’s task at hand is to style these ten people along with two models from All and a few plus-size social media influencers for the show.
“The idea of having audition for real people is brilliant, for that’s the only way you empower [them]. A small social media campaign got us 160 entries and we had to ensure that it was a fair audition. For instance, there were a few people who didn’t look plus-size, they were just big boned — there’s a big difference there. We immediately disqualified them,” reveals Chavan, who was part of the panel of judges for the audition.
Striking a pose
The selectors were looking for plus-size people with a little bit of confidence and, “a little bit of attitude because at the end of the day, it’s a show that will attract some media,” shares Chavan. So, the ones with a certain body language that said, “I am plus size, and I can dress well and be cool and walk the ramp,” won the judges’ confidence. In all, it’s an interesting mix of people: from IT professionals to students.
Chavan, who’s famously anti-trend as a designer, finds the concept of a plus-size show empowering. Rightfully so, given that fashion is not always perceived as an inclusive industry. “Social media has played a big role in pushing plus-size models and people to the forefront. So, it’s a great time to have a show like this. Individual confidence is very important to me as a woman,” says Chavan, who is nicknamed Little Shilpa because of her diminutive frame.
This isn’t Chavan’s first collaboration with a brand at LFW. She has, in the past, collaborated with Baggit and Lakme Hair Salon and feels that the success of those two shows was instrumental in All approaching her for the plus-size show.
Shifting the focus
Yet this show’s a totally different beast, and Chavan is mindful of that. The designer, known for her theatrical headpieces, has decided against using them for this show. “Using my headpieces will nullify what the show stands for. The headpieces are so larger than life that people end up looking only at them. I don’t want to overshadow the show with unnecessary large headpieces or accessories and try to make it look dramatic. We have real people walking the ramp. I don’t want to make it look gimmicky,” reasons Chavan.
It’s not easy to be at the helm of a show that’s the biggest talking point of Lakme Fashion Week this season. What’s her biggest challenge? To make the show look like it’s about the people who are walking the ramp. “It’s not a conceptual show, it’s a real show. For me, it’s a great movement. The main challenge is to live up to styling expectations. I don’t want to take away from the actual power of the show,” she emphasises.
What to expect
Chavan will be curating 15 to 18 looks built around the theme “Floral Meets Sports”, featuring jackets, check shirts, sweatshirts with stripes and floral prints for the ramp walk. She says, “There will be a lot of layering so that we can show many different ways of wearing a garment. The interesting point is that these clothes are not specifically designed for plus-size people, barring a few cardinal rules like no horizontal stripes or big prints. If you put this on a rack and don’t tell people that they are plus-size, they wouldn’t know. But in effect, the sizes are between 14 and 22 and the minimum waist size for a woman is 34.”
Chavan is confident that two rounds of fittings and two rounds of rehearsals are all the amateurs need to be runway ready. “They already know how to hold their own on the ramp. Besides, loud cheering from their friends and family would be a confidence booster too,” says the milliner, who’s off to London, Milan and Paris to showcase her hats right after the show.