BOY GODS OF STYLE

GREEK GODS, MOVE OVER! THESE MALE MOD­ELS OF IN­DIAN ORI­GIN ARE OVER­SHAD­OW­ING OTH­ERS ON THE FASH­ION RAMPS OF MI­LAN AND PARIS. WHAT THIS TELLS US: THE ‘IN­DIAN LOOK’ IS THE MOST HAND­SOME OF THEM ALL!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - NEWS - Text and styling by Dr­ishti Vij Pho­tos shot ex­clu­sively for HTBrunch by Dolly Devi

“WHeN I WAs toLD tHAt LoUIs vUIt­toN WANteD to BooK Me eX­cLU­sIveLy to De­BUt For tHeIr sHoW IN PArIs, I WAs IN to­tAL sHocK!” —tUHIr BrAHMBHAtt

N in­eteen-year-old Tuhir Brahmbhatt and 17-year-old Amar Direnzo look like boys next door. They’re nei­ther mus­cu­lar nor the em­bod­i­ment of Greek gods. Yet their lux­u­ri­ant locks and ra­zor-sharp fea­tures pro­duce a com­pelling pic­ture. And their suave moves make even a bland T-shirt look cool.

It’s this in­nate tal­ent that got Tuhir on the ramp for 164-yearold French lux­ury la­bel Louis Vuit­ton, dressed in the cou­ture house’s first ever AfricanAmer­i­can creative di­rec­tor Vir­gil Abloh’s streetwear-in­spired crea- tions. The same goes for Amar, who pre­sented fash­ion provo­ca­teur and punk icon Vivi­enne West­wood’s cre­ations, in ad­di­tion to those of Bri­tish menswear prodigy, Grace Wales Bonner. Clearly, the two of them rep­re­sent some­thing more than good ol’ good looks.

tHe GoLDeN AGe

Why would Abloh, the most talked about de­signer of 2018, choose a boy from Ahmedabad to walk for his de­but col­lec­tion? Espe­cially when the boy con­cerned once had no in­ter­est in fash­ion at all?

“I wasn’t in­ter­ested in modelling,” chuck­les Tuhir. “But my un­cle, Har­shad, is a Lon­don­based stylist and pro­ducer, and his sto­ries fas­ci­nated me enough to spark an in­ter­est in fash­ion. When he saw how tall I had grown (al­most 6’3), he sug­gested that I try modelling. I wasn’t very good at my stud­ies, so I thought I should def­i­nitely try.”

Urged by that in­ter­est, Har­shad helped Tuhir send his pho­to­graphs to modelling agency An­ima Cre­atives. “The very next day they called and asked me to come to Mum­bai,” says Tuhir. “My first cam­paign was for Zara and my first show was for Louis Vuit­ton. So, I think I’m ex­tremely lucky. I didn’t have to strug­gle at all.”

The call from LV was a huge sur­prise for Tuhir. “I was in Lon­don and I went to my agency for fresh dig­i­tals. When I got there, I over­heard my man­agers telling a client over the phone that I would not be avail­able to­mor­row. And then they told me that Louis Vuit­ton wanted to book me ex­clu­sively to de­but for their show in Paris! I was in to­tal shock,” he ex­claims.

cross­ING Bor­Ders

Tuhir knew that sign­ing an LV show was a huge step in the world of fash­ion. “A cou­ple of hip-hop artists like Kid Cudi were sup­posed to walk for the show too, so I knew it was a big deal,” he says. “I was pretty ner­vous at first and my agency gave me a few tips on how to walk. I also looked crit­i­cally at cam­paigns and watched the doc­u­men­tary on Alexan­der McQueen to know more about the in­dus­try I was en­ter­ing. And I met an­other In­dian boy, Mustafa (Please see box ti­tled Hy­der­abad

Meets High Fash­ion on Page 12), who was also sup­posed to walk

“I WAS SCOUTED ON IN­STA­GRAM, AND I WAS 16 WHEN I WALKED THE RAMP FOR VIVI­ENNE WEST­WOOD” —AMAR DIRENZO

for the show. We started hang­ing out and be­came friends. Af­ter the re­hearsal, I felt more con­fi­dent. And, the mu­sic cer­tainly helped. It gave me power,” he re­mem­bers, starry-eyed.

Tuhir’s fam­ily and friends couldn’t have been hap­pier for his ac­com­plish­ments. “My mother is a sin­gle par­ent and she has al­ways sup­ported what I do. She was work­ing as the gen­eral man­ager at a jew­ellery store and quit her job to be­come an an­chor. She’s happy to see me suc­ceed,” he says in what must be the un­der­state­ment of the year. “My friends are re­ally proud of me as well. They show my work to their ac­quain­tances and that gets a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing at times. In fact, some long-lost friends (and girls) have a new-found in­ter­est in me and they want to meet me now.”

Un­like Tuhir, Amar’s fam­ily moved to the UK − the home of cou­turi­ers like John Gal­liano and Alexan­der McQueen − at the age of three. The na­tion is di­vided to­day due to Brexit, but it is due to peo­ple like Direnzo that the Bri­tish fash­ion in­dus­try seems se­ri­ously in­ter­ested in In­dian faces. Where, a decade ago, the fash­ion mags fea­tured cover mod­els like Kate Moss, Heidi Klum and Gisele Bünd­chen, now publi­ca­tions like Vogue and i-D show­case peo­ple like Nee­lam Gill, Bhu­mika Arora, Rad­hika Nair, Dipti Sharma, Ko­mal Ga­j­jar and Pooja Mor. Per­haps it’s the suc­cess of these In­dian mod­els that makes Amar al­most un­afraid of lend­ing his own ideas to any project he un­der­takes. He knows his point of view counts.

“My dad, an Ital­ian Amer­i­can, re­ceived a job of­fer in Lon­don, so we moved there,” says Amar, a West Lon­don boy with the am­bi­tion of cre­at­ing a skate­board­ing com­mu­nity in In­dia. “My mother is In­dian. We visit Delhi fre­quently to see my grand­par­ents and the fam­ily on my mother’s side. I was scouted on In­sta­gram by an agency and be­cause of my con­nec­tions and fre­quent vis­its to In­dia, my

“MOD­ELS CAN NOW BE ALL TYPES OF PEO­PLE FROM DIF­FER­ENT BACK­GROUNDS, OF DIF­FER­ENT AGES, WITH DIF­FER­ENT LOOKS...” —AMAR DIRENZO

agency de­cided to pair me with An­ima Creative. I was 16 when I went to my first cast­ing and was cho­sen to do my first job for Vivi­enne West­wood – a real plea­sure. I was ex­tremely lucky and I learnt so much from it.”

Amar’s fam­ily, how­ever, learned about his de­but only af­ter Fash­ion Week ended. “I thought they would erupt in anger, but to my sur­prise, they were re­ally sup­port­ive,” he says. “I now un­der­stand that they want the best for me. My par­ents love it when I show them pic­tures. And they like the fact that I’m be­ing ex­posed to what the real world will bring in later in life. My friends, on the other hand, didn’t be­lieve that I was walk­ing for big brands, so I stopped telling peo­ple about it. It’s a dif­fer­ent story now, though.”

THE NEW NOR­MAL

Wise beyond their years and free of teenage angst, Tuhir and Amar un­der­stand the changes in the fash­ion in­dus­try. “Cast­ing agents are mov­ing to­wards a unique look that draws peo­ple in. Mod­els can now be all types of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds,

“BIG MUS­CLES WERE THE STAN­DARD EAR­LIER. TO­DAY, IF YOU’RE A MODEL, IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO WORK OUT EV­ERY DAY” —TUHIR BRAHMBHATT

dif­fer­ent ages and dif­fer­ent looks,” says Amar.

Tuhir agrees. “Big mus­cles and clas­sic looks were the only stan­dard ear­lier. Now leaner guys with in­ter­est­ing fea­tures are get­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties. We’re mov­ing away from clichés. If you’re a model, it doesn’t mean you have to work out ev­ery day. If you’re an In­dian model, it doesn’t mean you can’t have in­ter­na­tional suc­cess. And if you’re skinny, that doesn’t mean you won’t be signed by the world’s top brands. I have al­ways been my­self and never wor­ried about putting on a per­sona. There’s no point in chang­ing your­self for any­thing,” he says.

This is a strik­ing state­ment in an in­dus­try that is fickle by def­i­ni­tion. Styles must change and there’s no cer­tainty that what’s hot to­day will con­tinue to be hot to­mor­row. But these young men are a tes­ta­ment to the cul­tural shift that has taken place on global run­ways: mod­els from all eth­nic­i­ties, sizes, ages and gen­der are be­ing in­cluded in a larger social nar­ra­tive that de­sign­ers are try­ing to weave with their mer­chan­dise. Gone are the days when the ideals of beauty were strin­gently placed on two pre­req­ui­sites – white and bulky. The stan­dards for beauty can­not be ho­mogenised any­more – it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of all.

And who bet­ter to teach these lessons than our boys next door?

Amar Direnzo, 17, son to an In­dian mother and an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can fa­ther, walked his first show for Vivi­enne West­wood

“Some lon­glost friends, in­clud­ing some girls, have a new-found in­ter­est in me…”—Tuhir

“I would like to start a skate­board­ing com­mu­nity in In­dia. I visit my grand­par­ents here of­ten!” — Amar On Amar: Shirt and shorts, NorBlack NorWhite; shoes, Nike

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