Fashion has historically been geared towards the ultra-skinny, sample size-fitting model, and not really representative of the diversity of what bodies look like. This has been a discussion that has been around for decades. Sure, there’s talk about moving towards a body-positive runway, but often it feels like there’s nominal follow-up action.
That is, until this year’s New York Fashion Week.
Debuting for the first time on the NYFW scene, Preserve, an Indian-wear rental company based in New York City, proved that featuring people of different sizes, identities, and forms can be the default, not the exception.
The objective of Preserve is to offer the latest saris, lehengas, gowns, anarkalis, and other clothing (resort wear and everyday wear) that is sized to the individual; there is no “one size fits all” mentality and the goal is to ensure that the wearer feels confident, comfortable, and fashionable in their rented outfit regardless of their culture or background. Plus, the collection comes at different price points (starting in the low $100s and onward) to ensure that there’s an outfit for each budget.
The brand was founded by Lindsey Marie Chakraborty, who married into Indian culture and realized how difficult, expensive, and time-consuming it is to source Indian clothing in the U.S. She wanted to bridge the gap between South Asian designers living overseas and the Indian wear needs in the States for all types of functions, social events, and communities. So, she took the money that was originally intended for her wedding festivities and created a rental business that not only preserves South Asian culture — an homage to her brand’s name — but also joins the conscious consumerism movement.
Although this was Preserve’s first fashion show, they succeeded in showcasing models of all shapes and sizes. The runway highlighted models who were thin, curvy, gender-fluid, trans, male, female, and everything in between. Yet the commonality was the assurance and poise they possessed when wearing outfits that were both familiar to and part of the South Asian diaspora.
This way of selecting models that are rarely featured (such as nonbinary digital creator Ayman in a red, pre-pleated sari and a naath, or a woman with alopecia in an orange bedazzled evening gown with a high slit) demonstrates that fashion transcends a certain “look” or way of being. After all, Preserve’s goal is to build a reputation of being accessible and create a fashion brand that caters to all, which they seamlessly did on the runway.
Maybe that’s what fashion is all about: allowing the wearer to dress in an article of clothing that does not segregate him or her or them into a category based on gender or sexual orientation, or what society prescribes is “appropriate” for someone to wear.
Often, fashion has proven that often aspects of ethnic cultures are misrepresented or borrowed without proper attribution (i.e. Sarah Jessica Parker being presented as wearing a “sari” instead of a “lehenga” in the Sex and City reboot). But Preserve ensures that the original designer’s intentions and artistry are maintained. Both Preserve’s underlying mission statement and this year’s focused theme are to respect and honor the art of the designers while also highlighting up-and-coming and underrepresented brands.
If Preserve is any indication of the direction of fashion progression in 2022, I can only enthusiastically await next year’s runway.