RETURN TO ROOTS
Harper's Bazaar India|April-May 2021
In an ode to authenticity and self-love, 10 creatives from the diaspora community share the evolution of their personal style through a special photo series, exclusively for Bazaar.
Radhika Bhalla

MADAME GANDHI

ARTIST & ACTIVIST, TOPANGA

“I feel like a global child, but my fashion consistently pays homage to my Indian heritage. For instance, wearing a bindi with a simple, cotton outfit from James Perse is a seamless integration for me. I have grown up with organic cotton fabrics, bright colors, and hemp clothing, and I have noticed an increasing interest in Indian fabrics and styles here in Topanga, where I have been living for the past year during the pandemic.

I usually wear small, gold, hoop earrings with my daily wear; they serve as a reminder of my childhood in Mumbai in the late ’90s. I also wear a gold necklace that says “Own Your Voice” that was created for me by Bhindi Jewelers in Artesia, which is essentially the Little India of Los Angeles. And I always accessorize with several gold bands on my fingers, as they keep me connected to my grandparents, who are of Indian origin.

I take after my mother and grandmother in my love for merging the different aspects of my culture. My family has always, actively-encouraged fashion and self-expression, and I consider that truly special.”

ZAIN SHAH MODEL, LONDON

“I have an obsession with traditional jewellery from South Asia. Some of the pieces in my collection have been handed down to me by my family. This particular bronze choker and earring set is from Bangladesh and was gifted to me by a friend. Whether it is a bindi or a traditional garment, I always like to add something to my attire so it feels authentic ‘me’.

While growing up, I didn’t want to associate with my South Asian roots because of the negative stereotypes that surrounded them. However, I realized that underplaying my heritage would not help me to connect with others, and it has been a long journey towards accepting myself and my culture.

While I feel most comfortable in western wear, I recently wore a kurta with military boots for a shoot, and that opened my mind to the endless combinations I could try. Wearing my culture so visibly gives people an opportunity to start a conversation. I think my clothing and jewelry translate as confidence and help me to connect with others who are fascinated with South Asian culture.”

HAMEL PATEL DIGITAL CREATOR, RALEIGH

“I truly enjoy merging my desi and American sensibilities through fashion. My favorite way of blending my heritage into my daily life is by accessorizing with a statement piece of jewelry... it makes for a great conversation starter.

When I was younger, I felt the need to change who I was to fit in. However, over time, I realized that the different cultural backgrounds I grew up with were truly unique and it is what made me, me. And so, when content creation was just starting out a few years ago, I decided to show others that there are many ways to embrace the various aspects of your background. For me, fashion goes beyond the clothes I wear; it is a representation of where I come from and being proud of that.

Inspiration comes from different sources. I love looking at old photos of my mom, nature, even artwork. The most satisfying aspect of what I do is knowing that I can inspire the younger generation to not hide where they come from.”

RAVJOT MEHEK SI NGH FILMMAKER & ACTIVIST, BOSTON

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