Twenty-four-year-old Aishwarya Sharma from Delhi is passionate about fashion. But if there is one thing she is equally passionate about, it is social causes. She, therefore, has married the two, in a way that she can use her sound understanding of fashion to bring about changes in the society. In an exclusive exchange with indianexpress.com, Sharma — a fashion activist — talks about her journey — on how she first fell in love with everything fashion, causes that are close to her heart, her blog ‘Figuramoda’, and her plans for the future, among other things.
“I have always believed fashion to be the biggest medium of change. Just look at how many people it influences every second of every day. The unfortunate thing is that fashion bloggers in India are constantly looked down upon and considered frivolous. But it really lifts people and their sense of understanding and awareness. It was a eureka moment for me — questioning the entire existence for a fashion voice that cuts through misogyny. And while my fashion-fed brain pushed me to preach my style, I felt a dire need to show the world the power of fashion. Hence, fashion + activism came into being,” Sharma says.
She started her blog ‘Figuramoda’ in 2017, with an aim to address the social issues existing in the Indian society. “I wanted to push out a fresh voice, for fashion to take the lead. ‘Figuramoda’ is a Latin word which means ‘fashion for all’. I thought there could be no better name for a fashion activism blog. I also wanted it to be as unique as the concept itself,” she shares.
As a young girl, Sharma was religiously following fashion trends and icons from all over the world. But, she truly fell in love with it when she realised the impact it had on young girls like her. “What we feel about our bodies, the way we see ourselves in the mirror every day and what all can change with a bigger, better perspective. It truly represents one’s state of mind.”
Women’s rights and child welfare
The two causes that this young activist finds herself most connected with, are women’s rights and child welfare. She feels “women and children have been victims of most crimes that are committed on an everyday basis” in the country. “I feel they need a stronger voice and visibility among the masses and on social media, and fashion is the tool that can reach out to many people. The power of social media and fashion — when combined — is limitless.”
Sharma says she is always associated with NGOs, brands and other organisations “to bring about a change in the perspective of how people engage with a cause”, and also who benefits from it. “In the last three years, I have worked on various projects with multiple fashion brands and NGOs including Gucci Equilibrium, Help Age India, WDC, Save Rural India, Stop Acid Attacks, Mahendra Singh Foundation, Amari Foundation, Fragile X society, and a global movement #TOGETHERBAND (United Nations).”
“It comes as no surprise that in the pandemic, the most affected have been those who were already vulnerable and marginalised — thousands of migrants returning helplessly to their hometowns, millions of women and children with no basic sanitation and complete isolation pushed into deeper ends of extreme poverty.
“India is among the world’s largest producers of textiles and apparel. The domestic textiles and apparel industry contributes 2 per cent to India’s GDP, 7 per cent of industry output in value terms and 12 per cent of the country’s export earnings, and employs hundreds of millions of labourers and workers. In the pandemic, major fashion houses laid off employees leaving them uncertain about their future. It has been internationally criticised. Major conglomerates in fashion have the capacity to scale and retain employees and especially during hard times which, in turn, can set an example for millions of smaller ones,” she weighs in.
For someone who is as acutely aware of global happenings, it would not be wrong to assume that they would champion sustainable fashion, too. Sharma feels that sustainable practices “not only ensure a healthier planet, but also an equal world with fair share of opportunities and wages for women”.
“A sense of understanding that sustainable fashion would not only benefit the environment but also women around the world, would empower them to lead from the front, and lead a more dignified life. It would make ‘fast fashion’ clothing in developed nations a feminist issue. Approximately 80 per cent of garment workers in these fast fashion companies are women, further making it a women-centric issue,” she tells indianexpress.com.
Sharma, who looks up to designers like Siddartha Tytler and JJ Valaya — and calls their work “revolutionary and pathbreaking” — says she has “recently joined hands with the United Nations & #TogetherBand to work on ‘reduced inequalities’ and to sensitise people”. “Along with this, I have been associated with a number of organisations working for gender equality, rehabilitation of acid attack victims, water, racism and sexual harassment for years now. As a fashion activist, I started writing and talking about these causes from an influencer’s gaze. ‘Flowers not scars‘ has been my most famous online campaign depicting scars as reminders of one’s strength.”
In the coming year, Sharma has some more important projects lined up — some campaigns focusing on promoting education, health and safety of women and children in India. “I also look forward to a pandemic-free world and a lot of travelling,” she says in conclusion.