#JustBeingMe – An exploration of identity, gender & fashion
There are many reasons we could list about how much we love The AnaRae Store…From the stunningly stylish contemporary accessories, to the wonder-full founders, to a strong company culture of sustainability and working directly with local craftsmen– The AnaRae Store tickles many of our sweet spots.
Most recently however, the co-founders of the store, Justine Mellocastro & Ria Sejpal took their creativity one step further with the launch of their new line of accessories for Holi under the #JustBeingMe campaign.
#JustBeingMe was created to promote non-discrimination, specifically in the context of race, gender and sexuality. Teaming up with fashion photographer Gary Taylor, the trio don a uniform of white tanks and denim bottoms, honing in on the idea of a genderless fashion shoot. As Justine points out “Many of our pieces are androgynous in nature and is something that has developed naturally as a reflection of [our own] personal tastes identity –& we wanted to create a shoot that reflected this universality”.
Timing the campaign with Holi was also no coincidence. As Ria notes “Our interpretation [of Holi] is more about what happens after the colour is thrown: everyone looks the same, yet everyone is unique” Combining this with the label-less uniform of white & denim, and you have a true push towards a visual cue that goes beyond the everyday labels that we slap on people.
Using makeup to soften or sharpen features when necessary, the shoot was a fantastic insight into my own unintentional gender biases. Watching Gary and Ria interchange jewellery freely – rings, bracelets, necklaces, armbands and so on, one realises that there are actually so many ways we [society] subconsciously define what is male and female – accessories and fashion being high on that list.
Talking to Justine, she mentions her often shopping in the men’s section, and how she feels that there should be gender associated sections at all. “Fashion should be about however you feel” she says – and I am inclined to agree. How would the ideas of gender, sexuality and equality change if we didn’t subconsciously stigmatize or stereotype people for what they wore based on their gender?
We often hear rhetoric in India about ‘how decent girls should dress’, implying that a certain choice of clothing denotes a level of purity or modesty. In the same vein, men who cross-dress are seen as outliers in society, not to be taken seriously as ‘men’.
Personally, these examples remind me of patriarchal archetypes that have been subconsciously passed on suggesting that gender is divided and defined by what we put on our bodies. While there are the obviously anatomical differences that need to be accommodated for when constructing clothes, The AnaRae shoot is a fantastic reminder that we are so much more than our gender. To discriminate & stigmatize based on what one wears, or ones gender, sexuality, race or even micro things as accents, is something that we can all continuously campaign against through our own small steps – whatever form that may take.
Watching the trio work, I was filled with a sense of how truly beautiful each of the three individuals are, regardless of gender, sexuality and what they were wearing – connecting with them on a much more meaningful level, it was their uniqueness and humanity that shone through more than anything.
We salute Ria, Justine & Gary for fearlessly being themselves and conceptualizing such a unique way of portraying fashion! Now, if only we can get them to donate some of their lovely pieces to the BJ! family… ;)