Kerala designer unties convention with two transgender models

Kochi-based designer Sharmila Nair pays tribute to the transgender community through her latest designer sari collection.
Kerala designer unties convention with two transgender models
Kerala designer unties convention with two transgender models
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For Maya, joining Queerala -an organization that supports Kerala’s LGBT community-opened doors to a world where she could finally dress the way she always wanted…as a woman.

But then Maya had to restrict the woman in her to just the meetings at Queerala. Now however, there’s a note of confidence in her voice when she says, “That’s me in the photograph…I will proudly admit it from now on.”

Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri became models, when Sharmila Nair -a Kochi-based fashion designer- decided to dedicate her latest designer sari collection ‘Mazhavil’ (Rainbow) under her label Red Lotus in honour of the transgender community.

Sharmila credits herself for being an unconventional designer who thinks beyond fair-and-young models by often picking married women as her models.

“I have a habit of deciding my models before choosing material for the sari since I consider models not merely objects to showcase my work. So when I was planning my next collection…that was the time when Kerala’s transgender policy came into being. That got me thinking on how Red Lotus could come forward with a platform to honour them,” she shares with The News Minute.

Though Maya and Gowri were hesitant at first, owing to the years of non-acceptance from society, it took a couple of meetings for them to start getting comfortable with the notion of being models.

Gowri Savithri

For Sharmila, it was neither educating herself about the community nor convincing the two that was difficult. It was actually getting the rest of society to agree to this novel idea that proved an arduous task.

“It is only when you do something of this sort, that you realize the reservations that people have towards transgenders. Finding a suitable location was in itself such a mammoth task, as none of the locations that we normally use for shoots were even willing to consider the idea. We ended up in a church at Vypeen where we shot a couple of weeks ago,” she recalls.

Maya heartily laughs when asked about what she thinks about the photographs. “I could never have imagined that I’d look so beautiful. I have no words to thank Sharmila for the opportunity she gave us.”

To the outside world, Maya is another individual altogether, bearing a different identity in conformance with conventional societal norms. This godsend opportunity has now given her the courage to accept her identity as a woman.

“I have never had open conversations even with my own family about this. Not many of my friends are aware that I am a transgender. But this shoot has given me the confidence to admit that I am one,” she smiles.

(All images from Facebook)

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