The Inside Story

The Inside Story

With Indian models refusing to endorse lingerie brands,the sector is completely dominated by girls from foreign countries.

At first glance,Alana Tamanini looks like one of the many young foreign tourists that one would run into. Yet the 18-year-old Brazilian student is not in Mumbai just to soak in the city’s sights and smells. She is,in fact,there on work; her most recent assignment being a fashion show for Triumph,a lingerie brand. “I have already walked for several lingerie brands back home,so this is not exactly new to me,” she says post the show. She adds that the lure of a decent sum for a few hours of work made her take it up.

Tamanini is no isolated case,for many such foreign models make a living inside India’s lingerie industry. From ad campaigns and shoots to fashion shows,the Indian lingerie sector depends almost exclusively on foreign models.

While the promise of a quick buck attracts foreigners to the job,the lingerie companies blame unavailability of Indian models. “It’s not a conscious decision on our part. But Indian models are apprehensive about lingerie assignments,” says Anuja Mashruwala,business development manager for the lingerie brand Soie.

This skepticism among Indian models has to do with our mindset,says fashion photographer Vikram Bawa. “Indian models are not comfortable posing in lingerie. As locals,they have their family and friends here and they don’t find the notion of exposing their social circle to such intimate pictures very palatable,” he reasons.


Veteran model Anchal Kumar agrees; she herself is not keen on doing such shows. “For foreign models,it’s common to be photographed in lingerie but in India,it is still frowned upon. Moreover,no Indian model wants to be typecast as a lingerie model,” she says.

Adman Prahlad Kakkar agrees. “In a country where actors and models are often stereotyped as being ‘easy’,a lingerie model risks more damage to her reputation,” he says. Choreographer Lubna Adams also points out how lingerie models are subjected to unwelcome scrutiny. “Obviously,that’s something Indian women aren’t comfortable with. So even if they consent to doing a show,they invariably put across some conditions; for instance,they insist on wearing a sarong,which just doesn’t work for a lingerie show,” she explains.

Besides social scrutiny,money factors also keeps Indian models away. “On an average,a foreign model charges around Rs 30,000 rupees for a show whereas the latter would charge more,” says Mashruwala.

For Rashi Virmani,who has choreographed several lingerie shows,the fitness factor is of utmost importance. “Foreign models have a perfect body; they don’t have any love handles or inhibitions. This makes them more eligible for such a show in comparison to the Indian counterparts,” she says.

The Kingfisher swimsuit calendar,which includes well-known girls from the glamour industry,remains a notable exception to the general mindset. “Ultimately,it’s the portrayal that matters. Even though there’s skin show in the calendar,it’s done in a classy manner. So models clamour to be a part of that project. But lingerie shoots don’t enjoy that image yet,” explains Kakkar. Till they do,it will be a windfall for foreign models.