Splendid, Sustainable Styles
A look at the out-of-the-box, sustainable fashion collections showcased at the Green Fashion India Conference 2018
for their expression, these communities have played a monumental role in making fashion a medium of artistic expression that has garnered tangible value and validation all over the world. And in light of the recent legal changes to their status, they are now capable of being open and free in a society that has its traditions rooted in acceptance.
NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR CREATORS
In the immediate aftermath of the decriminalisation of Section 377, numerous public figures spoke out publicly in support of the change. Veteran fashion designer Suneet Verma spoke out in support of the verdict, as he had been forced to marry his partner Rahul Arora outside of India for fear of legal prosecution.
“To a large extent, today’s verdict has kind of restored my faith in the Indian judicial system. I think the real democracy in the country will only ever be judged by the security and safety of all citizens. Considering we are proud of our country for being the largest democracy in the world, we really need to kind of live like that as well,” said Suneet Verma in an interview with Indo-Asian News Service (IANS). He added, “Everybody, whether they are daily workers or someone living in a palace, everybody’s right should be rightly their own, which makes them feel secure and proud citizens of the country.”
Similarly, Padma Shri award-winning international fashion designer Wendell Rodricks told IANS, “At last, future generations of Indians are freed from the tyranny of Section 377. And at 58, I am no longer a criminal. God bless the wisdom of the Supreme Court of India. We are living through a historic time and judgment.” Numerous other creative people such as jewellery designer Akaash Aggarwal and fashion designers like Manish Malhotra, Gaurav Gupta and Rohit Bal also spoke out in celebration of the change, with Bal posting on social media, “Today’s judgment heralds a new dawn for personal liberty and is a major victory for the LGBTQ community that has been fighting this battle for freedom.”
It is hard to imagine how many people from all backgrounds and circumstances have remained hidden for fear of persecution. Since 2009, when the first legal battles for equality found footing, thousands of people, young and old, have figuratively ‘come out of the closet’ and made their desire for equality known. Many influential figures in the fashion and entertainment world have made it possible for mainstream Indian society to gain a better understanding of this minority in that time.
And now, as the legal system has done justice to this group, the fashion industry has a higher chance of unleashing its pool of talent to its full potential, unhindered and unashamed to pursue their careers while being their true selves. We can not only expect resurgence in creative output but also a wave of new talent that is no longer bound up in uncertainty and fear. The typical trend of talented individuals leaving the nation and settling abroad, taking their unique talents and abilities
away from the motherland, was akin to a ‘forced brain drain’. In light of the current changes, there is a whole new network of opportunities that is now open, helping this talent to return and the new generation to work to grow even further.
NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR BUSINESS
While for most, the rescinding of Section 377 may appear to be a social cause with no business impact, they could not be more wrong. The law posed a significant hurdle for several industries such as hospitality and tourism, entertainment, and fashion. Moreover, the law also negatively impacted global perceptions about India’s societal stability, disincentivising numerous investments from international players. By changing the law and accepting the natural diversity of all people, Indian businesses are now rejoicing as well.
According to research from the World Bank, India was losing nearly 0.1-1.7 per cent of its GDP in 2012 due to this discriminatory law. This represents over US$30 billion in value represented by the LGBTQIA+ community in India, a figure that is only rising over time. Marketing agency, Out Now Consulting, estimates that India is home to nearly 60 million LGBTQIA+ consumers who collectively represent nearly US$113 billion in spending power. And for the longest time, they
WE CAN NOW EXPECT THIS CONSUMER DEMOGRAPHIC TO HAVE MORE INFLUENCE IN THE FASHION BUSINESS.
have not been catered to as consumers on their own terms due to the nature of the law. We can now expect this consumer demographic to have more influence in the fashion business, driving trends, styles, products and fashions in new yet unknown directions.
In the fashion industry, this enthusiasm represented far more than others, as not only had a new segment of customers become available for queer-centric fashion, but it also started the movement towards a fashion aesthetic that was genderless, queer, and transformative–a significant global consumer trend already in motion. In fact, beyond fashion, many other businesses and brands such as Godrej, Google, IBM, Tata Group, Cafe Coffee Day, Facebook, Flipkart, Microsoft, Swiggy, etc. have voiced their support for this change.
This not only indicates a holistic change that is coming up in the business environment but also the eagerness of businesses to engage with it for growth and profit. As the influence of business further acts to normalise the perceptions and clear the misconceptions surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, we will not only see rewards in the national economy but also in the very nature of our society. And this is a change that will be far more valuable in the long run than anything else.