Joan Dominic Rai’s storytelling through fashion: beyond the realms of gender
5 minutes read
Introduced through the work of feminist philosopher Judith Butler, the term ‘gender performativity‘implies that gender is socially constructed through ritually reproduced performative acts. These acts have consolidated over time and serve as benchmarks against which masculinity or femininity should be measured. Performative acts encompass a variety of tools, including mundane speech, non-verbal communication, and even fashion. The amalgamation of clothing with gender and sexuality not only confirmed the binary concept of gender, but also gave rise to a rigid compartmentalization of gender and attributed it to clothing. Notion of ‘utility‘Take a step back, because gender affiliation is the main basis on which people choose their clothes.
“Gender is a very diverse concept and for an individual it takes forever, maybe sometimes a lifetime, to fully understand each other. I have been on a journey of understanding myself all my life and every day I am discovering something more. So it is not fair that anyone categorize someone in terms of how he or she looks or what he or she wears… .. Clothing May be a visual representation or synopsis of an individual, but that does not define who he or she is..Just because someone wears makeup or maybe woman’s clothes that doesn’t make him queer or, to be honest, an ally … It also takes a lot of understanding and self-examination to become a true ally.“
Joan Dominic Rai, who bears the name, @thewhitehairedguy on Instagram, is a Kolkata-based company kind-fluid influencer and fashion designer. He sees fashion as a means of self-expression and storytelling. While for the most part the ‘Functionality‘aspect of fashion, the determinant of which is gender, takes center stage, for Rai, it is the’art‘ and the ‘aestheticfashion is what matters. For him, it goes beyond the realms of the genre and functions as an outlet for creative expression.
Fashion is a sphere whose driving force is mainly gender. As an industry, it has supported and reinforced the heteronormative ideals of the genre. Despite the drastic evolution of fashion in recent decades, its addiction to heteronormativity remains largely unchanged. Clothing, fabric colors and other clothing tools not only forge a glaring contradiction between men’s and women’s clothing, but “ideal“Body types and gender notions of masculinity and femininity also guide fashion. With outdated socio-cultural dress standards and gender expectations dominating the fashion realm, androgynous fashion creates ripples in the outwardly calm waters.
Fashion is founded on years of conditioning, socio-cultural mandates of “acceptable“Fashion and gender layers that are often too linked to even be effectively identified, let alone unlearn. Going against the sacrosanct notions of gendered fashion is therefore a “bold“Get moving. Rai’s journey of sailing the same way didn’t come easily.”I was introduced to the idea of fluid fashion between the sexes very early on. being very petite and tiny subconsciously made me more inclined to womens clothing than menswear because it fit me better and also gave me more options to choose from. Later in life however, after a lot of self-research and struggles with my identity, I was able to break out of my mold and start exploring through different types of clothing. I had finally found my voice. It was powerful and liberating.“
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Rai also walked through these waterproof compartments in an interesting way, not so much to make a statement, but considering comfort and authenticity as the main determinants of fashion. Raï attests: “I’m someone who never loved ‘Labels’. I wear whatever I feel good to wear. I don’t care what people think, or if it’s “okay”. And now that there is so much talk of “gender fluidity”, it’s great to see everyone accepting the blurring of borders. Men wearing a skirt, saree or even a pearl necklace are now considered “elegant”. Personally, I like to wear items that are not typically “masculine”. But it’s not to make a statement, it’s just my style sensibility. To be fair, there is no color or silhouette to the genre’s fluidity. It’s about having the courage to be you. It’s to do with your mind: as long as you don’t see it as a men’s or women’s piece of clothing, you can be fluid even in a pair of black jeans.“
The narration, being an intrinsic part of his conceptualization of “fashionRai’s fashion lives up to his identity. In her quest for storytelling, Rai embellishes her fashion, with pieces of her cultural identity. “My first memory of jewelry was trying to dress up and play with pearl necklaces that belonged to my mother. As I got older, I became intrigued by fashion, which to me is a language, and jewelry is now part of it. It allowed me to express my vision and my true self. I like to wear pieces that have a special place in my heart and that are truly representative of my heritage and cultural roots. “
Stepping away from the mainstream, gendered clothing is invariably followed by questions relating to sexuality. To dress in a “erase“the way is to be gay, just like to be a”mannish“The woman must be a lesbian. The problematic male-female, female-male, gay-lesbian binaries are played out in a timeless manner without leaving room for any ambiguity or inquiry.
“As an artist and influencer, I think I have a responsibility to make people realize that it is okay to be our true self and to love ourselves for who we are in the truest form. . I always knew I was different in the way I would wear my clothes or my features, so I was always looking for someone around me who I could admire and who I wanted to be. There weren’t many people, rather nobody in my country that I could draw inspiration from at that time. This was long before gender fluidity and before men in makeup in India became mainstream.“
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Androgynous fashion is still sporadic and gendered sayings still dominate individual choice and autonomy in terms of clothing. There is undoubtedly a long way to go. However, artists and influencers like Rai, who occupy the ‘fuzzy area‘in terms of genre and fashion, subvert these tropes. This breach of heteronormativity itself serves as a beacon of light for many.
Featured Image Source: Cosmopolitan