Balenciaga breakout model Dipti Sharma is celebrating Indian culture through fashion

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The now New York-based model traded her native Rudrapur to conquer the runway.

You might not recognise her by name yet, but her signature bob and chiseled jawline have made Dipti Sharma impossible to forget, leaving an indelible mark on industry heavyweights Marc Jacobs and Demna Gvasalia since arriving on the fashion scene in 2017.

That same year, a then unknown Sharma landed in Paris where she earned an exclusive—walking for Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga spring/summer ‘18/’19 show—a coveted fashion week debut she would then round out with the brand’s paparazzi-style campaign. A first for any Indian model ever—underrepresentation is a sore point for the 24-year-old and a challenging reality faced by the industry at large—Sharma has gone on to establish herself among the few Indian models that have forged successful careers, like Balmain regular Bhumika Arora and Alexander McQueen star Pooja Mor. Garnering the attention of industry heavyweights, stints strutting for Alexander Wang, Dries Van Noten and Michael Kors quickly followed, solidifying Sharma as a breakout star.

Detailing her experiences shooting for Vogue’s February 2019 issue, where she collaborated with stylist Natasha Royt and photographer Jason Kibbler on the concept, Sharma explains, “I had never had this opportunity before; it’s the first time I felt I was portraying who I am in front of the camera”. This sense of identity is for Sharma closely related with her cultural roots. “I wanted these pictures to reflect how India has so much to offer the world in terms of spirituality and fashion”.

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

Sharma views her career as a model as a way to mediate between the two. “Through my platform, I want to tell people that India is not just the land of snakes and priests. There is so much talent in the country… we have so much to offer and we need the opportunity to shine.” Modeling, for Sharma, is the perfect outlet. Opportunities like walking in Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda autumn/winter ‘18/’19 show—where Sharma took the catwalk in a sari—indicate that changes in the industry are afoot.

One only has to look at Sharma’s credits—walking for Italian designer Riccardo Tisci’s Burberry (a British heritage brand) or Georgian designer Gvasalia’s Balenciaga (a brand conceived in Spain)—to recognise that cross cultural-pollination is alive and thriving in the industry, although we still have a ways to go.

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

According to Sharma, though, the future of fashion is shining bright. “I want to work hard to change [the industry] and create a way for the coming generation to play its role”. In an interview with Vogue US, the model reflects that in her short time in the industry, progress has already been made. “On that Paris trip, before I booked Balenciaga, I’d been told ‘You’re Indian and you’re brown—people might not take you…seriously… [Now] in the past year or two, the big agencies have sent a lot of scouts over [to India]”.

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

Dipti Sharma photographed by Jason Kibbler for Vogue Australia February 2019

And with good reason too. Sharma continues to make waves and represent her home country, with editorials in iD, Pop and Antidote magazines with no signs of slowing down.

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