Wearing Japanese street fashion wasn’t my first foray into standing out from the crowd. I grew up in a small, rural town with barely any streetlights, and was the only Indian kid in a 25-kilometre radius. It led to a childhood where I constantly had to correct misconceptions, challenge norms, and push for acceptance.
Keeping your head down was a survival tactic when you were the only brown kid in a small middle school right after 9/11. But on weekends, with a group of like-minded friends, I started to dabble in the street fashion I adored so much.
As a result, my family grew increasingly worried when I expressed interest in mimicking my favourite looks from FRUiTS in middle school.
It led me down the path of wearing lolita fashion more frequently in college. But it took longer still to stop staunchly rejecting my Indian roots. I didn’t want to come off as someone who was “too prideful” in my heritage in case it led to harassment. I expressed distaste when people referred to me as “the Indian lolita”.
But just a few years later, I started wanting to reclaim my heritage again. In an age where it seems like everyone is wearing a bindi to Coachella, I really wanted to show that South Asian clothes on South Asian bodies were important to show off, too! And I wanted to mix that with the alternative fashion I grew to love in my adolescence.
Now, most of my outfits incorporate some aspect of my culture. Whether that means traditional markings and makeup, intricate jewellery, or familiar textiles—I wanted to fully embrace my colourful heritage.
One of my favourite things to do is wear Indian jewellery. I’ve also worn lace appliqués on my hands to evoke the look and feeling of traditional henna, a method of temporarily staining intricate designs onto your body.
Although a lot of my primary fashion inspiration did not come out of India, my outfits through the years depict a timeline of growing appreciation and fondness for my culture. Self-expression and self-love takes many forms, and it was exciting seeing fashion be the conduit for that change in me.
The beauty of street fashion is that it’s never the same process or evolution for every single person. There’s no pressure to completely assimilate, and your personality always shines through with what you decide to wear. I can’t separate my history from my lived experiences—and my personal style grew to reflect that.
Photography: imPhotography (@imPhotography)