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!
“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.
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