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From Taboo To Profession

April 14, 2014 , by Shraddha Thapa, Leave your thoughts
From Taboo To Profession » My Dreams Mag
Fashion is not just about glamourous designer clothes, but also about a lot of backbreaking labor. Over a decade it has evolved from a taboo to a full-fledged profession.

 

The concept of modern fashion probably arrived in the then aloof agricultural kingdom of Nepal with the arrival of and at the era of black & white Hindi films from then Indian film industry. While an idea of Nepali films was not even conceived, those popular Hindi movies and stars like Dev Anand, Wahida Rahman, Mumtaaz, Guru Dutt, Dharmendra, Mala Sinha, Zeenat Amaan, etc etc., had started to export the trends and fashion styles into the lives of this quiet little country back then.

At the time and period when coins used to be the form of commerce and bank notes were symbol of being privileged, the amounts which now are denominations that hardly exists, the fashion & trend started to influence and attract the then people of our confined society. The fascination and lure of the time had a great influence on the trading of special fabrics, due to rising popularity and demand, from Tibet, China, India and as far as from Japan. The younger generation from well off families started establishing this motion in the market, which didn’t spare the less privileged members of the society and families. Toprel, Nensuite, Charess, Cotton Sari used to be the best selling fabrics from India and no sooner people started demanding for Teri-cotton that completely changed the sense of fashion at that period. The popular pricey fabrics used to cost from 1 Rs. (four quarters/char aana), 1.25 (five-quarters/panch suka), 1.50 Rs. (tin mohar) per meter. Similarly with the growing demand and fashionable taste of the people of Kathmandu, Patan & Bhaktapur silk, velvet, and other kinds of printed and new materials gained popularity and demand in no time. The boost of such demands encouraged the traders to venture out and import from as far as Japan, and the voracious hunger for the fashion has not been any less in this Himalayan domain.

With the arrival of the Hippies and the sudden and gradual introduction to the designs unknown before, the fashionable denizens of the capital could not help but being further affected and influenced to adopt the arriving fashion styles; bell-bottoms, wide collars, polka-dots, big sunglasses, bandannas, bracelets, etc. This country began to evolve its lifestyle even more colourfully to more elaborate demands that was going to shape the trading, commerce, and market dynamics of the entire country.

The concept of fashion shows and modeling arrived, rather, much later in early ’90s, with the pop generation of the end of the century.

Loose groups of fashion enthusiasts ranging from those with taste to those without, street-popular models and the wannabe models, then not-so-popular fashion designers, and those with knack for choreography started small small explosions by their attempts at organizing fashion shows in its limited manners with limited resources. Hotel Harati in Chhetrapati and Malla Hotel were the popular venues for the events. Scrabbling together beauticians-turned-makeup-artistes, dented, overused and low quality speakers as available, setting up modular ramps and stages however possible, mouth to mouth advertising, hand to hand ticket sales is how the birth of Fashion industry in Nepal happened.

It was glorious nonetheless, for that period.

WAVE magazine was particularly instrumental at the time and for that generation, which fueled and propelled the craze for fashion shows, events and models in later years, including a magazine named RAYS.

Fashion icons started to be known and recognized, few names become even popular and still remembered, like: Prashant Tamrakar, Anudan Jung Rana, Dolly Gurung, Kala Subba, Rose, Charu Pradhan, Monima Khadka, Shaktita Rana, Ruby Rana, etcetera.

The fashion scene that started in ’90s faced huge challenges, of credible human resources, finances and sustainability, and as we look into the fashion industry of the current time, it is still facing similar challenges. Despite the market economy and dynamics that has escalated to exponential level comparatively, the industry still is struggling to have commercial value to it, and models are the ones who are even less rewarded, at the end of the show. The fashion scene now has better resources to employ in the market, from from dress designers to make-up and hair artistes, to sound system, to well designed ramps and stages, to premium venues, to print mediums and media, to specialized fashion photographers, to qualified choreographers/trainers and most importantly the ‘market’ and the commercial industries that requires these faces of people to drive their product/brand sales and communication, representing their image and goodwill, the Models.

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DREAMS speaks to the fashion icons from the past who still are known for their passion and hard work, and also remembers few of the names from the past.

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From the glittering venues, blaring music and flashes of cameras, people generally have an impression that the world of fashion and modelling is all about late night parties, loud music and unlimited dance. But in reality, there is intense hard work and innovative ideas involved in this world. With make-up crews working on the faces of the models in complete dedication, the whirring of several hairdryers while many others are drowned by calls— there lies madness behind the glittering venue of every fashion show. This madness was what drew Prashant Tamrakar—a well known name in Nepali fashion industry— towards this field. Today, two decades down the line, with his national and international experiences, he exactly knows how challenging this industry is.

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Image Source: Kishor Kayastha

Breaking into and working in the modelling industry can be extremely difficult. The constant pressures about looks and lifestyles are nothing short of overwhelming in many cases. What annoys Prashant is that people consider modelling to be merely a ‘glitter and glamour’ field, ignoring the hard work of the people involved. Everyone, from the spot boy, model and designer, to the event manager—knows their drill. For models it’s makeup, hair, clothes and accessories. For designers, it is taking a critical look at the final image and fixing a bit here, a strand there. And for event managers, it’s about meeting last-minute demands. Prashant further informs that just before stepping on the ramp, they get only a couple of minutes to take a deep breath behind the thin curtain that separates them from the glitzy lights, hundreds of eagerly-waiting pairs of eyes, and flashes of cameras. Fashion and modelling is not only about perfect apparel or pretty faces, but requires nerves of steel along with paramount confidence and patience.

Prashant Tamrakar

Fashion dates back to thousands of years ago. From simple shirts and moccasins to profitable companies today, we can see that fashion has come a long way. But the big question for us is, when did fashion become a big word in Nepal? Experts says that Nepal earned its “supermodels” during 90s with models like Prashant Tamrakar, Asmee Shrestha, Jharana Bhajracharya and Anudan Jung Rana who ruled the runways and captivated the world with their otherworldly good looks.

Modeling in the 90s was more of a hobby and not feasible as a career in Nepal. Anudan— who had done a few stints in Indonesia— got shortlisted among 200 applicants for a cigarette ad, and that is how his modeling career began. He says, “It was a time when ramp modeling had started and many tailoring companies were earning through the display of models. Modeling then was new, it was fun, it was hip and it was innocent, certainly it was getting noticed. But it was not a career option.”

Fashion is an ever evolving aspect of human life. Making clothes, not just for comfort but for glamour, has been the preoccupation of creative members of society since ancient times. Anudan firmly believes that trends come and go, but the fact remains that fashion is always an important aspect of our lives.

With the development of media and technology, fashion industry has changed drastically over a decade. Perhaps the change in culture and living styles is one of the major reasons behind this change. In yesteryears, fashion and modeling was not considered a decent job. In contrast, today we have fashion weeks where we celebrate designs, colors and innovation. Today, with more fashion designers, fashion shows and fashion models, fashion has evolved as a highly competitive industry.

Prashant suggests that through developing fashion journalism in Nepal, with trainings and awareness, professionals in fashion industry can contribute their 100 percent and their hard work is acknowledged.

“Back then we had very few fashion designers and makeup artists compared to what we have at present. There were so many times when models had to do their own makeup and depend on tailoring companies for apparel,” recalls Prashant. Serving his experience Anudan says that in 90s they used to be only few ramp shows and tailoring’s were all they had as thier “fashion designers”. “Only later on did few designers opened up their boutiques and that too were mainly for female models,” reminiscences he. Prashant also adds, “There are many institutions offering fashion designing course, personality development course, modeling agencies to help aspirant models, designers.” Both yesteryears supermodels acknowledges that fashion and modelling has evolved from being a taboo to a profession.

Articulating his opinion, Anudan says, “There are ample opportunities for models due to the development of Advertisemt Agencies in the country. Nowadays, good models can make a fair living through music videos, fashion shows and even movies. However, there is still a long way to go to refine the modelling scenario here in Nepal.”

Anudan Jung Rana

Image Source: Kishor Kayastha

Though Nepali fashion industry is in its nascent phase, we cannot ignore the fact that Nepali models like Sanyukta Shrestha and Aastha Pokharel to Nepali fashion designers Prabal Gurung— who have attired leading ladies such as Demi Moore, Zoe Saldana and Michelle Obama— are making their presence in the global fashion industry through their hard work. Prashant asserts that nowadays designing clothes is considered an art form since it involves flair and imagination. “And behind every idea is a designer whose creative process leads eventually to the trendy and glamorous clothing concepts that we see,” he adds.

Yet, something as crucial as payment system has hardly changed in the fashion industry. Model /actress Jharana Bajracharya says that what Nepali models earn is actually piteous, while international models cash in millions of dollars. “The situation is so bad that a model has to feel fortunate/famous when they are offered to be featured on the cover of Glam magazines for free. In fact models are considered arrogant when they demand payment,” complains she. Sharing his experience, Anudan says that he had done many ramp shows for free while for television commercials the payment started from Rs. 10,000. Despite all the hardship models go through, it is the bitter truth that they are underpaid.

Jharana also feels that comparing Nepali models to international models is unfair. “Nepali models hold their own aptitude which cannot be compared to international models. The global modeling industry comprises of rich resources and unlimited opportunities,” says Jharana. “No matter how many new designer boutiques or fashion shows we have, unless there is genuine payment, fashion and modelling cannot be developed as a fulltime career,” she concludes.

Jharana Bajracharya

Image Source: Jharana Bajracharya

Regardless of its flaws, Prashant sees a promising future for Nepal’s fashion industry, since it is growing with professional models, designers, make-up artists and hair stylists, and event managers and organizers. “I would surely like the fashion industry to get the name and fame that it is worthy of. People are becoming more professional and are learning and growing each day, so I am sure we will only get better,” he concludes.

No doubt fashion has progressed as a much bigger and better industry for aspirant models and entrepreneurs willing to invest their time and money in this industry. However with the mushrooming of fashion houses and designers around K-Town, though we have more choices for apparel yet originality is something that we are still awaiting. Yet bigger and better fashion shows that are organized every year is providing hopeful promises to the pillars of the industry. Let us hope that designers like Sanyukta Shretha and Prabal Gurung having been able to thrive and be among the best, successful and making the nation proud, that similarly someday not too far the men and women of the nation aspiring and sustaining the modeling sector also begin to be as credible, capable, and successful being able to paid well and respected.

 

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Text by: Shraddha Thapa

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  • Jharana Bajracharya
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