At the close of LMIFW, for the grand finale (a phenomenon unique to the Indian fashion weeks) 40 designers came together to celebrate the Supreme Court verdict on IPC Section 377. They made clothes in rainbow colours, which stylist Gautam Kalra put together in a single, celebratory show.
As I sat on the front row and watched, I had mixed emotions. The clothes were colourful, beautiful, and the models twirled with all the energy of a Gay Pride Parade — heck, some of the models were indeed gay (and transgender persons; the spoken-word artist Taksh walked for Huemn). In that moment, I felt acutely safe, celebrated, accepted. After all, fashion has often been the only industry that has allowed queer people to thrive, and even reach their true potential.
The Rainbow Show was all that, but it was also something lesser. To reduce it to its bare bones, it was simply designers from across the country making one garment each in rainbow colours to contribute to a group show that rode on the hot topic of the time. And while I have nothing but the greatest respect for the people who organised it, it left me with a few questions.
For example, how many designers out of those who participated in the show ensure that they employ transgender people in their factories and studios? How many of them make it a point to create safe, non-discriminating workspaces for queer people; for even within the fashion industry, the sad reality is that gays are caricatured on a daily basis. How many of them regularly use transgender models, without a thought towards using that choice as a gimmick? I could go on.
What saved the show, for me, was that it symbolised an owning, a claiming, of the queer workforce in Indian fashion by the industry as a whole. And that’s a good start, at least. The public spectacle and press it generated will, in a larger way, contribute to the conversations we need to have on queer-ness in the public sphere in India. And for that, as the show ended, I clapped the loudest and longest.