Meet Radhika Nair: The first Indian woman to ever walk a Balenciaga runway

Yes, the month of fashion weeks is ultimately about the clothes. But there is a unique kind of excitement that fills a show when a striking new face makes a catwalk debut. This was the case at Balenciaga where Radhika Nair, all covetable curls, brows and bone structure, made her big fashion world entrance. Dressed in bright head to toe florals, she became the first Indian woman to ever walk a runway for the house.

We chat with the Ford model, originally from Bangalore, who has become the breakout face of the ss17 season.

How did you get your start as a model?

I was scouted in Bangalore when I was still in university studying commerce (accounts, tax and economics) and moved to Bombay eventually to pursue it full-time. I didn’t know much about modeling being a job because as a kid we were only driven by education and the only goal in life was to earn as many degrees as possible. That’s how it is in India.

How did your global exclusive with Balenciaga come about?

The casting director, Henry Mackintosh Thomas, was in India to cast for the label and voila! I was booked as a Balenciaga exclusive.

That was a big deal considering Balenciaga has never had an Indian woman on its catwalk before and its creative director Demna Gvasalia’s history of casting all-white models in his shows.

My being in a show like Balenciaga or other Indian girls doing great work abroad does give my country thrills. I am so happy about that. Diversity never went away, now we just have the validation. We were a country that was colonised for centuries so it took time for us to access the opportunities beyond our country.

Do you think diversity is still an issue in fashion?

Yes, but I also see fashion houses going out of their way to change that. But we still don’t see many Aboriginals on the runway. We should also consider that not everybody wants this lifestyle. Maybe not everybody wants to be on the runway. There are worse things women in India face.

What about the Balenciaga collection appealed most to you? What were some of your favourite looks?

The variety in the same collection was a direct representation of the diversity of the models walking in the show. My look, bold florals top to bottom, was my favourite. But I loved the shoulder pads.

Before walking out on the catwalk, what were you told to project on the runway?

They said we should walk real fast and have a serious look on our faces.

Who are models whose careers you admire?

I look up to Lakshmi Menon from India. And of course Pooja Mor and Bhumika Arora are ruling the runways and magazines.

If you weren’t a model, what would you be doing?

I was considering journalism at one point.

Now that you’ve got the fashion world’s attention, what would you like to do next?

I have no agenda. Just riding the wave.

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