Major fashion shows across the world are a huge highlight for fashion fanatics. So, when Paris Fashion Week 2023 arrived, everyone was talking about the grand looks, the luxurious shows and everything fashion. My Whatsapp work group was also buzzing with updates from the show. I opened the link to be dazzled by the charisma of Indian model, Kirandeep Chahal. The video had her strutting the ramp at PFW like the diva that she is.
Having worked with prominent designers like Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliani and Gaurav Gupta in India and being the face of many huge brand campaigns, Kirandeep Chahal was already a household name in the fashion world back in the country. But what brought her to the limelight this time was the fact that she walked for Dior as her International runway debut on Paris Fashion Week. It did not stop at that, she also did shows for Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens and other luxury brands.
The journey of this Indian model is inspirational and it did take more than one lucky audition for Kirandeep Chahal to achieve this feat. We sat down for an exclusive interview with the model to talk about Paris Fashion Week, her journey so far, her prep for the fashion show and her plans ahead.
Excerpts from the conversation with Indian model Kirandeep Chahal
How did the opportunity to walk for Dior at the Paris Fashion Week come your way?
Kirandeep: Two sweet ladies from Women Management came to India to scout for agencies and Indian models that they could work with for their upcoming shows. I am really grateful that they decided to come here. My agency hosted them and I got the opportunity to audition. After a week, I had a video call with them where we discussed a few more things. 2-3 hours after the call, I was told that I have been signed by Women Milano and Supreme Management Paris. After that, I had a month to prepare, and the rest is history. Various castings came my way, but I had no idea that Dior is going to land up in my lap, let alone it being my debut as well.
Were you apprehensive about anything before the big moment?
Kirandeep: Something that I was quite overwhelmed by was the fact that there was this huge responsibility that I had on my shoulder. It was my first time stepping out of the country for such a big moment in my life. Also, Paris being the fashion hub, it was my first time being there so I was a little stressed out about that as well. When I got signed with Women, I was asked to drop a couple of kilos and be more toned for Fashion Week. That was quite stressful for me as I had to go on a very strict diet. I had to work out for 3-4 hours every day and at the same time take care of my mental health.
How are International stages different from the ones back in India?
Kirandeep: There wasn’t any huge difference that I noticed, but surely their attention to each small detail is what stood out to me. For example, when I was doing the Dior show, I had to carry gloves with the handbag that I had. I was not even wearing the gloves. And there were people allotted to check if the pair of gloves matched each other and matched the shoes that I was wearing. This was just so thought out and perfect, you know like the devil is in the details kind of a feeling.
What do you have to say about South Asian representation in the fashion world? Would you say we have arrived?
Kirandeep: I did not expect this but I did end up meeting a lot of beautiful girls who were representing the South Asian community. I felt really proud of this fact. Also, my agents just thought that it would be a great idea to travel to India and scout for girls, instead of sourcing them from other common parts of the world. This gives you a lot of motivation and a great opportunity to represent your country. You also get to learn how everything is outside and understand the big game that you have stepped into for the first time. I think we have not arrived, but we are arriving and it is in great numbers. I feel really happy saying this.
I’m curious to know about your diet and workout routine. What does it look like? Does it change with respect to big events?
Kirandeep: My routine is very simple. It starts with meditation every day and I am glad that my work has gotten me into it. Ever since I started modelling, I became closer and closer to both physical fitness and taking care of my mental health. This also got me into yoga. I do alot of boxing and swimming as well. I personally believe that going to the gym and using different equipment might serve you well physically, but mentally you just need to work out in a way that you enjoy.
My workouts dont look similar every day. One day is allotted for a nice 10 km run, the second day is for boxing, the third day is for yoga, and the fourth day is just meditation. It just depends on my calling and what I feel like doing that particular day.
As for my diet, I removed all the junk food. I don’t eat it anymore. I discovered veganism as well. I am not trying to be a vegan but I am trying to replace a couple of things that my body does not need. It is nothing major, just eating clean.
How did modelling happen?
Kirandeep: When I moved to Mumbai 3 years ago, I never thought I would be modelling or become a prominent Indian model. I was working as a journalist and a writer. I just wanted to act and do theatre because that is what I was into during college. I met Akansha (Khurana), my manager from Purple Thoughts one day and she told me to give her some time. She advised me not to put myself on the commercial road, and here I am two years later.
Walking the ramp at PFW was a huge thing. How do you think it helped your career?
Kirandeep: I think doing various shows at Paris Fashion Week and it being my first time, and getting to do five of them was a crazy thing. I did not realise it while I was doing the show as I was only concentrating on my work at that time. I thought that I will keep the celebrations and the overwhelming feelings for later. It has really helped me personally to stay more motivated and just to do everything that it takes to be there. Talking about my career in India, well it has changed from the time I left and arrived back. It’s a flip side of the kind of jobs that I am getting now, and the kind of people I am meeting and also the recognition. I am thankful for all of it. It has put me down the path to the kind of shows and the work that I always wanted to do. It just fits now.
Cutting your hair was a brave move. What made you do it?
Kirandeep: It’s a crazy story about me cutting my hair. It was 1st October, my birthday month and I had woken up. I had not told anyone that I was going to cut my hair. I had a long bob cut, so I went for a pixie cut first just to make it safe. Because in the Indian market, your look needs to be commercial. I used to have wigs on my hair even when I had the long bob. And then something switched. I thought I needed to be closer to myself and how I am as a person. I had always imagined myself with short hair and that I was just hiding behind the long hair. So just to feel that liberation, I went for the pixie haircut. After a month, when I went to Paris, my agents asked me if I would be okay to buzz it all off. I told them that I was just waiting for someone to say that to me. And it all worked out perfectly.
Having said that, I belong to a Punjabi family, and back here in India, cutting even an inch of your hair is a big no. So only my mother and my brother know about Paris Fashion Week, about me chopping my hair and me pushing my career as a model. None of my other family members knows about it.
Who was your inspiration growing up? Who do you look up to now?
Kirandeep: I think I did not have any idols or inspirations growing up but just a few people that I admired. These people are a part of my life whom I interact with on a daily basis. I always believed that having an inspiration or an idol kind of limits you when it comes to your thoughts. Because that’s the highest you are trying to reach. But there is so much beyond that, so much more that you can accomplish. So not putting a cap or an image to it is the best way to go about it so that you can explore yourself in the most optimum manner. That’s what I believe in. The person that I am trying to look up to is me in the future.
What are your plans next?
Kirandeep: I want to tap into not only women’s wear but men’s shows as well, and why not. I want to keep it very fluid and androgynous as an Indian model. Let’s see if my plans turn into reality. I am looking forward to that. I hope I get pitched for such projects in the future as well because I would love to experiment.
All images: Courtesy Purple Thoughts, Model Management Agency