Sometimes, you must take another path. The January 2022 issue of Vogue India ushers in a new era, a new beginning: a VOGUE RESET. This issue sets out to champion the spirit of creativity in India, spark conversations, highlight excellence in the fashion industry, celebrate the diversity of the subcontinent and set forth a new visual language, one where there is room for everyone
Megha Kapoor, Head of Editorial Content, Vogue India on the January 2022 VOGUE RESET issue:
My time in this industry began 12 years ago as an intern at Vogue India, an experience that set in motion a chain of events that has now come full circle, allowing me, with immense gratitude and pride, to present Vogue India’s January issue as its editor.
To RESET involves change, to begin from the baseline. It’s an exciting opportunity to take stock, recalibrate and start again. For our talent, this idea of a RESET was both personal and universal. Whether it be dismantling long held beauty ideals, reprioritising business models towards a more sustainable ethos around the transferral of joy, or a daily ritual of reconnecting with nature, it is a concept that resonates on many levels.
A collaboration with British-Indian designer Supriya Lele felt like the obvious choice for christening this new path. In the past five years, her signature fusion of Indian dress codes with a sensual ’90s minimalism has set her apart as the darling of a new wave of design talent taking centre stage. I was thrilled when she agreed to come on board as a creative collaborator for our cover story.
But even as the cultural landscape continues to spin beneath our feet and we struggle to find our moorings, one thing is undeniable: the urgent need for representation. I thought it was both important and necessary to ensure our cover star was a true role model. Zinnia Kumar fit that vision. Her work as a scientist, ecologist, activist and model sets her apart as someone who lives by her values.
This thread of being unapologetically Indian also comes through in my conversation with Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the architect of the blockbuster Indian wedding. Having shaped his empire on the romantic idealisation of Indian culture while building a truly contemporary brand, he credits embracing his identity to be at the core of his success.
I hope we can all embrace our collective identities in this new way going forward. I hope you come with us on that journey. Enjoy the issue.
Given below is an excerpt from Vogue India’s January 2022 cover story:
THIS TIME IS OURS
British-Indian designer Supriya Lele inhabits the space between her familial roots in Jabalpur and her life growing up in the UK’s West Midlands. And in her clothes, she fashions this push and pull that lives within her. As a result, what is born is not a dissonance but a delicate view of a new India
Words by Akanksha Kamath
Photographed by by Dan Jackson
Styled by Kate Phelan
Five years after starting her label in London, what stands out about Supriya Lele, the Royal College of Art alumna and her oeuvre of whisper-thin organza pieces is the focused female gaze she brings to the industry. Case in point: the slinkiest pieces from her spring/summer 2022 collection which she has handpicked for this cover shoot she co-created. “Sexy…” she says, letting the word linger, before continuing, “is so subjective. Confidence is sexy. Attitude, vibe and spirit can all be sexy.” It is serendipitous then, that the subject for her brave clothing is modern multi-hyphenate and fellow South Asian Zinnia Kumar. “I think Zinnia embodies the essence of what I am trying to say with my brand,” explains Lele.
Far from the maximalist, magpie India we have often seen represented in fashion rhetoric, what the LVMH prize winner serves up is a rethought and remixed version of our country. Celebration is seen in bold strokes of colour. The sari’s asymmetrical drape is found in the twisted tissue-like wrap of a dress. It’s a vision that is curated from a place that is familiar yet far removed. “A gesture, not an appropriation,” she explains.
“What’s happening in India right now is so exciting. There are creatives and artists breaking rules and doing incredible things that aren’t on the global map just yet,” she says, having wrapped up a collaboration with Delhi based photographer Sohrab Hura for her spring/summer 2022 campaign. “I am hoping that, over time, by making connections and shining a light on those individuals, this will change.”
While Lele’s cultural identity is a conversation starter, it is her deliberate work on building a modern wardrobe rooted in luxury that makes her a cultural and design phenomenon. “I think individuality is really important. That’s what people want from young designers, a new perspective.”
Given below is an excerpt from Vogue India’s January 2022 issue:
BEATING THE ODDS
A scientist, ecologist, activist and writer, Zinnia Kumar successfully subverts every conceivable trope of a fashion model, thanks to a lengthy scroll of accomplishments. In recent years, the iconoclast has harnessed her celebrity to confront colourism, dismantle long-held beauty ideals and encourage conversations around sustainability with a profundity that belies her age
Words by Sadaf Shaikh
Social entrepreneur, ethnic inclusion advocate, sustainability consultant, South Asian cultural advisor and CIEEM-accredited (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) ecologist—Zinnia Kumar wears many hats and dons each with discernible ease, a trait that has little to do with the fact that she is also a sought-after model appearing in campaigns for Miu Miu, Kiko Kostadinov and Off-White. The Australian-Indian multi-hyphenate uses her social media influence as a launchpad to fire emphatic missives to her 664K followers. In a post from 2018, she lambasted prominent Indian celebrities for promoting skin lightening products while the caption for a shoot out-take posted last year criticised luxury brands that outsourced their embroidery to India’s skilled artisans at below minimum wage. Considering the impressive range of qualifiers Kumar has to her name, her schedule is naturally chock-full of commitments—and the UK-based model prefers it that way, which is why she gladly allows her advocacy work to claim her weekends as well. In her first-ever cover interview with Vogue India, the polymath offers compelling insights on the politics of colour and representation.
Q. How did you develop an interest in conserving the environment and dismantling colourism?
Growing up, I was obsessed with birds and David Attenborough; I was all of five when I knew I wanted to work in conservation and ecology.
I come from North, East and South Indian lineage and have family members with diverse skin tones who were bullied or treated differently. It made me livid when the South Asian community in Australia would say mean things to my cousin, mum and grandmother because they were dark-skinned while giving me preferential treatment because I had lighter skin. The penny finally dropped when a young woman in the community died by suicide after being rejected by multiple male suitors.
Q. When it comes to Indian representation in international media and film, it’s clear that women with Eurocentric ancestry and features such as light skin and long locks have a higher chance of succeeding in their careers than those with traditional South Asian lineaments. What do you have to say about this phenomenon of skin tone bias within the same ethnic group?
Bollywood has always championed mixed-race Indians, like Helen, and continues to do so even today. Just look at the proliferation of biracial actors such as Alia Bhatt, Katrina Kaif, Dia Mirza, Lisa Haydon and Lara Dutta. While their burgeoning celebrity is a great tool for creating global reach, it has achieved little in terms of Indian representation, social belonging and visibility. Instead, it has further exalted the kind of features that reject and replace the beauty of an entire nation.
When we don’t use Indian models and talent in India, it leads international brands to believe we don’t find Indian talent desirable, thus they feel no need to use Indians globally. Today, mixed-race white Indians receive five international magazine covers for every cover earned by their monoracial counterparts. Despite constituting a fifth of the world’s population, we have a lot more ground to cover in terms of glass ceilings, colourism and inclusivity.
Q. You’ve been an advocate for widening the lens of representation in fashion beyond the runway, even leading by example through your very first high-fashion gig for Off-White. How important is it for creatives of colour to support each other in an industry that has predominantly been steeped in whiteness?
When I was rejected by every agency in Australia for being Indian, I felt like I didn’t belong in fashion. However, it was creatives of colour who kept advocating for me even when the mainstream industry did not accept me. Virgil Abloh was one of them. If visionaries like him hadn’t taken a chance on me when I was starting out, I would not be where I am today. Now that I have a platform and a growing position of power, it’s only right that I return the favour and advocate for POCs in every way I can. I’m actioning this through the creation of a diverse support network for underrepresented racial minorities that is free of contempt. This not only involves highlighting creatives on Instagram, but actually supporting and creating long-term careers, mentoring them, and fighting for them in the face of racism and other sociocultural barriers.