“She’s dusky, flawless and the true face of beauty."
Indian models are representing India on international runways for some of the greatest names in fashion like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Valentino.
Many people are familiar with the success stories of renowned models like Naomi Campbell, but what about Indian models?
Similarly, Indian models have been scouted unexpectedly or exclusively selected by top designers like Karl Lagerfeld.
Their inspiring journeys from India to international runways are certainly worth exploring.
We take a look at some of the Indian models who commanded the attention during international shows from former model Anjali Mendes to newbie Nandini Malwade.
Known as India’s first model on the international stage, Anjali Mendes (1946-2010), born Phyllis Mendes, has been an example to numerous aspiring models.
Mendes, who came from a modest Goan home and was one of seven children, took to Paris in the early 1970s.
Then an aspiring model, Mendes bought a one-way ticket to the fashion capital and did not look back.
It seems it was fate for Mendes who unexpectedly met designer Pierre Cardin at one of his salons.
In fact, Cardin hired Anjali Mendes on the spot and she played his muse for 12 years.
The Indian model also walked the ramp for top designers like Emanuel Ungaro, Elsa Schiaparelli and Givenchy.
After she retired from the runway, Mendes managed Cardin’s Indian office for 18 years.
Mendes tragically passed away on June 17, 2010, after suddenly falling ill at her residence in Provence.
Indian model Marielou Phillips was launched by one of the most renowned fashion brands across the globe, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL).
Discovered in 1993, Phillips went on to model for big designers like Armani and Givenchy in Paris.
Interestingly, Phillips had a run-in encounter with German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld at an airport which led to her working with Chanel.
She designed footwear and swimsuits with the fashion brand. Later, Marielou Phillips became Chanel’s Global Head of Press and Public Relations after seeing an opening in India.
Kirat Young was another Indian model who was scouted by YSL. Young, who was just 19, met the designer in Paris.
The renowned designer was on the search for the right face for the launch of his Ballet Russes collection.
Unaware of what was destined to come her way, Kirat Young, became the face of the collection.
She walked the runway and was instantly catapulted to supermodel status.
This led her to become acquainted with the likes of Somali-American fashion model and actress Iman and American model Jerry Hall.
Nowadays, Kirat Young travels between Paris and London where she designs stunning jewellery.
Lakshmi Memon is another name that comes to mind when researching which Indian models have made it to international runways.
Menon’s modelling career began while she was studying sociology at Bangalore University.
In fact, Menon who is 5’10, was approached by a modelling scout for her height.
However, in India, despite modelling for several years, she did not achieve great success. Revealing why this was the case in an interview, Menon said:
“I never had much success since all the big ad campaigns featured Bollywood starlets.”
Lakshmi Menon’s luck changed in 2006 when French fashion designer, Jean Paul Gaultier spotted her in an Indian magazine.
Gaultier was on the hunt for an Indian face to walk his Chanel show in Paris and Menon was that face.
Soon after, Menon found herself working with several top fashion brands. These include:
- Neiman Marcus
- Max Mara
- J Crew
- Bergdorf Goodman
In October 2008, Menon featured in French Vogue and was crowned ‘This Year’s Model’ 2008 for Vogue.
Lakshmi Menon has also appeared in Indian, Spanish, American and French Vogue editorials, V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Indian Elle, Allure and Dazed & Confused.
Speaking about Menon’s beauty, popular photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta said:
“She’s dusky, flawless and the true face of beauty. She’s worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermes, Chanel – and is the face of the future.”
Ujjwala Raut is the most successful overseas supermodel from India. In 1996, she won the ‘Femina Look of the Year’ at the Femina Miss India competition.
In the same year, Raut was amongst the top 15 in the Elite Model Look contest held in Nice.
The stunning Indian supermodel has walked the ramp for YSL, Hugo Boss, Cynthia Rowley, Gucci and Valentino to name a few.
Raut also modelled for two consecutive years for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show in 2002 and 2003.
Almost ten years later, in 2012, Ujjwala Raut both hosted and judged the Kingfisher Calendar Hunt with Indian model, Milind Soman.
Fashion design graduate, Monica Tomas who was born in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu had a chance stint with modelling.
The Indian model is an impressive 5’10.5 clearly meeting the height requirement.
She was signed by a modelling agency and was chosen by American fashion designer, Zac Posen for one of her first castings.
Tomas has featured in various shows in both India and abroad. These include Christian Siriano S/S 19 Show, Parsons MFA S/S 19 Show and New York Fashion Week S/S 2018 to name a few.
In 2019, Tomas tied the knot with model-turned-photographer Adhiraj Chakrabarti in her hometown.
While Monica Tomas is still fairly new to the modelling scene, there is no doubt her beauty and talent will see her achieve great things in the foreseeable future.
Up next, we have India model Radhika Nair. The brown-eyed beauty was the first Indian model to grace the ramp for Demna Gvasalia Balenciaga SS17 show in Paris.
Born in Malayali, Kerala, Nair was raised in Jharkhand. In 2012, while studying commerce in Bangalore, Nair was scouted to become a model.
In order to pursue her calling to become a model, Nair moved to Mumbai. However, it was not until 2016 that casting director Henry Mackintosh Thomas met Nair during his trip to Delhi.
The pair were introduced by stylist Nikhil D and Nair was exclusively cast for the Balenciaga show.
The stunning model has since walked for various international runway shows. These include Lacoste, Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, Emilio Pucci and many more.
As well as appearing on the runway, Nair has also featured in numerous magazines like Vogue (Germany), Harper’s Bazaar (UK and India) and Dazed to name a few.
Indian supermodel, Bhumika Arora, made her international runway debut at the age of 26 in Paris for Dries Van Noten’s 2014/2015 Fall/Winter collection.
However, it was not until a year later that she made her breakthrough season. Arora debuted for Alexander Wang at the New York Fashion Week 2015 Fall/Winter show.
In fact, Bhumika Arora was Wang’s semi-exclusive as she walked for a total of 25 shows for the season.
Three days later, Arora who was riding high on the success of Wang’s show, walked for Vera Wang.
The model was praised by Vogue who credited her as number three in its ‘7 Things We Loved Today.’
After her New York debut, Arora travelled to London where she featured at the London Fashion Week show.
She took to the runway for Preen, Daks, Gareth Pugh, Jonathan Saunders and Simone Rocha.
Shortly after, Arora flew to Milan to walk for Karl Lagerfeld in the Fendi show.
Even as a famous model, everyone is prone to an occasional slip. Arora suffered the same as she notably fell twice during the finale of the H&M Fall/Winter 2016-2017 Ready to Wear show.
Despite her fall, Bhumika Arora continued to power through the finale.
Alongside the runway, the Indian model has also appeared in a short film in celebration of NikeLab and Olivier Rousteing’s collaboration.
Popularly known as the former VJ of the successful Channel V show, Mangta Hai, Meghna Reddy gave up her career to pursue modelling.
Despite being at the height of her career, Reddy left for London in the 90s where she became a successful model.
Reddy has walked the runway for the likes of Diane Von Furstenberg. She has also appeared in numerous fashion campaigns for Sisley, Tommy Hilfiger and Macy’s.
Aside from the runway, Meghna Reddy was cast in the 2003 Bollywood thriller, Boom. However, she decided to leave the project and was replaced by Katrina Kaif.
Hailing from Lucknow, model Aishwarya Gupta is represented by the modelling agency, Anima Creatives.
Gupta made her international runway debut when she opened for Nina Ricci’s Fall/Winter 2020 show in Paris.
The model has also walked for Gauchere and Elie Saab’s Winter 2020 show.
Besides runways, Gupta has featured in Vogue’s New Exposure 2020, Victoria Beckham Resort 2021 Lookbook and British Vogue’s Sun Bakes Summer June 2020.
Speaking to Viva, Aishwarya Gupta described herself as “spontaneous, resilient and adventurous.”
Vogue India credited Gupta as its ‘Model of the Year 2020.’ There is no doubt that we will be seeing more of Gupta on international shows in the years to come.
21-year-old model, Tuhir Brahmbhatt has not allowed his young age to stand in the way of his modelling dreams.
Hailing from Ahmedabad, Brahmbhatt debuted for luxury French designer brand, Louis Vuitton at the age of 19.
He modelled Virgil Abloh’s couture African-American collection which was the first of its kind for the fashion house.
Interestingly, Brahmbhatt initially had no interest in fashion. So what made him choose the runway?
Speaking to Hindustan Times, the model revealed:
“I wasn’t interested in modelling. But my uncle, Harshad, is a London-based stylist and producer, and his stories fascinated me enough to spark an interest in fashion.
“When he saw how tall I had grown (almost 6’3), he suggested that I try modelling. I wasn’t very good at my studies, so I thought I should definitely try (it).”
With the help of his uncle, Brahmbhatt sent his photographs to Anima Creatives.
After receiving a call the next day, he was asked to go to Mumbai. He revealed that his first campaign was for Zara and then he walked the ramp for LV.
Sharing his excitement and shock when LV called, he said:
“When I was told that Louis Vuitton wanted to book me exclusively to debut for their show in Paris, I was in total shock!”
As well as LV, Brahmbhatt has walked the ramp for Maison Margiela, FILA and Rhue and Mike Amiri in Paris.
Next, we have another young Indian male model, Pratik Shetty.
The young talent had his breakthrough in 2020 with his appearance for Balmain and Alexander McQueen’s campaigns.
Shetty has also sashayed for other renowned fashion houses in 2020 including Loewe, MSGM and Hermes Fall in Paris.
Undeniably, there are great things on the horizon for Pratik Shetty as he continues to make his mark on the catwalk.
Another model to be reckoned with is none other than powerhouse, Nandini Malwade.
The Indian model made a name for herself by appearing in various campaigns and lookbook shoots for brands like Sulakshana Monga.
She then went on to walk the ramp for the Indian streetstyle label, Jaywalking.
As well as modelling in India, Malwade travelled to London to make her international debut with Simone Rocha.
She then went on to model for KOCHE in the fashion capital, Paris.
One of her most notable moments was when she opened for the Y/Project Fall 2020 show.
Alongside her runway success, the Indian model, who is only 17-years-old also did a campaign for the British label, Supriya Lele which was exclusively photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth.
Nandini Malwade, who was one of the breakout faces for 2020 proves that you are never too young to take to the international runway.
Another Indian model who has made it to the international runway is the gorgeous Priyal Shah.
Represented by Anima Creatives Shah took to Paris to make her debut with ANAIS Jourden 2020.
The model newbie is certainly expanding her portfolio with shows like Y/Project and Laura Biagiotti Fall 2020.
Rising name, Assam-born Kangha Rabha achieved his breakthrough with an exclusive show for Ermenegildo Zegna in Milan at the age of 19.
In fact, Rabha was the first model from the Northeast of India to walk on the Milan Fashion Week Men’s at Milan runway.
Sharing his excitement on Twitter, he wrote:
“Couldn’t ask for a better start. With the banner, @zegnaofficial Thank you so much for letting (me) debut at your show.”
This was certainly an incredible feat for Rabha as Milan is one of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses.
Other international shows which followed were for Rick Owens, Etudes, OAMC and Bode.
Indian models like Anjali Mendes, Lakshmi Menon, Radhika Nair and Ujjwala Raut worked hard to give the fashion world Indian representation.
While newer Indian models such as Aishwarya Gupta, Kangkan Rabha and Pratik Shetty are ensuring the Indian flair is being upheld on international runways.
Undoubtedly, many aspiring Indian models will take inspiration from these amazing models and carve a niche for themselves in the fashion world.