success on the catwalks of her own country and an international
modelling career can be measured in inches -- two of them.
"I wish I had endless legs. I could be cat-walking with the Heidi
Klums of the world," said the Bangalore-based Vishwanathan who stands
five feet nine inches (175cm) in her bare feet.
"But you've got to be at least 5'11" for any international fashion
house to come near you," she told AFP during the recent New Delhi
Compared to the West, career modelling is still in its infancy in
India, although it has made huge strides on the back of rapid economic
growth and the growing profile of Indian fashion designers.
Only a handful of Indian models have tasted success abroad, with the
likes of Lakshmi Menon and Ujjwala Raut modelling for Gucci and Yves
Menon walked for Jean Paul Gaultier shows in Paris and went on to
become the face of French luxury goods maker Hermes, replacing
Ukrainian Daria Werbowy.
The financial pay-off for those who do break out of the relatively
low-paid domestic scene can be enormous, and Raut is quite frank about
why she is no longer seen working the Indian fashion shows.
"They can't afford me," she told the Times of India in an interview last week.
Whispered allegations of racism have been made by some who tried and
failed overseas, but Vishwanathan believes the main barrier is the
natural body shape of Indian women.
"We are genetically more voluptuous and curvaceous," Vishwanathan
said, adjusting her tight mini-skirt as she sat down during a break in
her daily round of make-up sessions, hair-dos and fittings.
"Agencies abroad want girls who are really thin, almost skinny. It is
tough for us to fit into their requirements.
"I have been around on the Indian fashion scene for 10 years and would
have absolutely loved to make it big internationally. But even if you
have a little body to you, you're out of the race," she said.
Another factor is that Indian models tend to start their careers much
later than their Western counterparts, with parental pressure often
keeping them in college until their early 20s.
"In the international context it means they are already over the
hill," said Anjana Sharma, fashion director at IMG Reliance.
"Gisele Bundchen started modelling at 14, Kate Moss was discovered at
14 and by 16 she was a known face," she said.
Once frowned upon in conservative India as an immodest career choice,
modelling grew in popularity -- and acceptability -- in 1994, the year
former Indian models Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai took the Miss
Universe and Miss World titles respectively.
Both went on to successful and lucrative film careers, fuelling the
aspirations of millions along the way.
More recently, the launch of Vogue India in 2007 heralded the start of
a new fashion era and an overhaul of wardrobes of the nouveau riche.
"You name any international magazine and they are now in India," said
popular dress designer Samant Chauhan.
"It has opened the outside world to India. Models in India are now
more aware, assured and ambitious."
Rikee Chatterjee, a 24-year-old up-and-coming model said her family
fully supported her decision to take up modelling even before she
finished her college degree.
"They understood and backed my choice," she said. "A lot of parents
now are happy enough to see their kids in the limelight."
But there are some limits.
Indian models generally hesitate to do lingerie work, or other shows
that involve baring a lot of skin, and most lingerie ads in Indian
fashion magazines use foreign models.
"The question is not so much of modesty -- but of negative public
opinion," said Nonita Kalra, editor-in-chief of the Indian version of
Elle fashion magazine.
There are also complaints of a bias against darker-skinned models in
India where a light complexion is widely considered synonymous with
beauty and skin-lightening creams rack up annual sales of 500 million
Top Indian model Dipannita Sharma ruffled feathers earlier this year
when she accused not just the fashion industry but the country as a
whole of being "obsessed" witn fairness.
"We will take another hundred years to completely get over it," she said
Source : Yahoo.com.sg