It’s always hard for a designer to receive negative feedback about her creations, but since my business depends on how women perceive my brand I try very hard to take a few deep breaths and listen to feedback and advice.
But then there are times when I receive criticism for changing Indian culture, or succumbing to “western” culture, or promoting a certain look that is anti-feminist. Recently I was told that my clothes promote a look that is anti-women.
When I started Brass Tacks I was very clear that the reason I needed to design cosmopolitan (or “western”) silhouettes is because a lot of younger women don’t wear sarees everyday. The goal was to sustain and hone the skills used in handloom weaving, but to find a market among a younger generation in the form of stylish clothing. But while I receive good press about using handloom fabric, I am also judged for making garments that do not work for older women’s bodies, or for making garments that are too western for our culture. (Incidentally, last year I made a halter dress with a low back for my Monsoon Collection and it flew off the shelves. To me this is proof that the taste and demand for evening dresses exists already; I’m just making it in fabrics that are normally reserved for sarees).
And as for calling my designs anti-women or anti-feminist, I can’t explain how much that hurts. I’ve met so many people who think that a feminist is essentially a man-hater and I’ve spent hours trying to delicately correct their misconception of feminism. Now I need to watch out for people who think I’m a woman hater?
Okay maybe woman hater is a bit of an exaggeration, but one woman told me that my silhouettes are made for an androgynous figure and she added that a lot of younger women are doing whatever they can to achieve that look. Since when did full busts that need darts and empire lines or extra gathers at the lower back to give room for full hips fall into the category of androgynous? An androgynous look may have been an appropriate description for women’s trousers decades ago when it was new and scandalous, but to describe women’s figures as androgynous is either an insult or a reflection of a high and homogeneous standard that all women’s bodies must conform to.
At this point I’d like to add that Brass Tacks trousers that actually have some waist to hip ratio unlike many international brands that expect women to have a straight body from the waist down, and those trousers are worn by women of all ages. I am all about curvy- in fact, curvy brings out the shape of the clothes even better and the shape and fit of the garments is all we focus on at Brass Tacks.
Sure, many of my silhouettes work under the assumption that a woman’s waist is smaller than her bust or hip, but is that a bad thing? Every brand needs to take some position or define its niche in order to distinguish it from every other brand out there. Maybe I should expand my line and work in a variety of silhouettes, but until then my brand is not meant for androgynous women. It is meant for young, confident women, many of whom want fitted clothes. You only need to look at old school bollywood actresses like Zeenat Aman or ancient Indian art like the sculptures at Khajuraho to see that slim waists with curvy busts and hips were in back then too.
Women come in different shapes and sizes and we have always been compared to some “standard” of beauty which is why so many women are sensitive about their body weight and appearance. Some women don’t hold weight and others may not have the time or the money to look after their health. I say that every time a new brand caters to different body type, it’s a celebration of women and the different forms their feminine figures can take.