Published: 13th October 2017
How Ayush Kejriwal's Instagram posts are telling us that dark is beautiful and body shaming isn't cool
Fashion is more than just clothes. Who will explain this better than the leading designer Ayush Kejriwal who depicts his designs with his characters that challenge social evils
Most designers use Instagram to showcase their clothes. Ayush Kejriwal is no different. Except, he's using insta-stories and his clothes to battle social evils that India faces even in the 21st century. Domestic abuse, discriminations of widows and dark-skinned biases have been plaguing our society forever and Ayush — a London-based fashion designer who is originally from Kolkata— believes that his designs can make that change happen. But how? Through his Instagram and social media stories.
Try this on for size. "I AM BIG, I AM CURVY, I AM BOLD, I AM BEAUTIFUL — that's what one of his insta-stories screams while modelling clothes for plus-sized women. Another story on his Instagram feed reads 'The story of Uma and Nandini — Do you think they lived happily ever after?', portraying an image of two evidently intimate (Read gay) women wearing his designs. And just like these stories, his insta posts battle many societal blocks including domestic abuse, extra-marital affairs, trouble with inter-caste marriage and victims of divorce.
Honestly, the idea came up because I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. As a designer, it was an obvious choice for me to cater to people of shape and size
Ayush Kejriwal, designer
Ask Ayush why he does this, and pat comes the reply, "Honestly, the idea came up because I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. As a designer, it was an obvious choice for me to cater to people of shape and size," he says, admitting that it initially started out as a marketing idea. However, the response he got for the campaign and its out-of-the-box designs and models encouraged him to do more socially-relevant designs. "The kind of responses I got were overwhelming. Women appreciated my designs because they helped them gain confidence and hence, beauty," he says.
For all the discrimination and size-zero love that designers generally exude, his approach endeared the average woman to him. "I had women thanking me because I gave them confidence. One of them wrote, "I was rejected by a prospective groom because of my dark skin even though he was an unemployed man. But with your stories, I feel beautiful". Another said, "Thank you so much for building a stepping stone for a girl like me who hasn't learnt to love myself but am trying to." I just want to tell them that I appreciate the trust in me and feel their pain. And I will continue to support them," he says.
I had women thanking me because I gave them confidence. One of them wrote, "I was rejected by a prospective groom because of my dark skin even though he was an unemployed man. But with your stories, I feel beautiful
Ayush Kejriwal, designer
The extent to which these problems still exist in an age that we consider 'modern', shocked him, "These responses tell us a lot about the regressive society. There are certain characteristics in each one of us that we don't like but that should never stop us from living our lives. India, as a country, is extremely critical, loud and misguided about the concepts of beauty. It should change," he says.
But why is an already established fashion brand fighting on behalf of the society? Ayush explains why. "It comes to me naturally. Two reasons, my mother was a widow when I was really young. She was blind too. So, it was my job to pick clothes for her and I made sure that she doesn't wear whites, as the widows are supposed to wear. So, for me design and progress go hand-in-hand," Ayush says and admits, "It is simple logic — style attracts and the stories interact. If you use fashion effectively, it can bring some real changes in any society we live in," he says.
Perhaps, this is the idea that helped grow his business portfolio from a mere seven sarees to where it is now. "I still have those initial designs. They are my favourite," he says. When asked who does he think is his toughest client, he says it is his mother. "She was one who initiated this in me and she is very difficult to please. She tells me that just because the world likes my design, she won't love it," he laughs off.