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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Sikh men hit the catwalk
By Jonathan Beale
BBC correspondent in Delhi

The first ever modelling agency for Sikhs has been launched in the Indian capital, Delhi.

Sikh models
Sikh models: Breaking the mould
With their turbans and beards young Sikh men have until now found it hard to break into the glamorous world of fashion.

But the man behind the new Sikh agency aims to transform the image of the conventional Indian male model.

If he is successful he says he plans to take his idea to Washington and London.

In a Delhi luxury hotel a group of young Indian Sikhs strut down a makeshift catwalk to the pounding beat of the music.

It's not the conventional look of Indian glamour.

Sikh models are very macho, very masculine and very passionate - they are not like those hanky-panky guys, you know those girl-like guys
Jaskirant Singh Reki
model
Nor are their moves, as they break into carefully choreographed, though unfamiliar, dance routines.

With their big build, turbans and beards, the Sikhs are a stark contrast to the clean shaven, lean models preferred by designers all over the globe.

But under the watchful eye of their mentor, Gurmeet Singh Gill, they hope to change the face of fashion.

Hitting back

The whole idea for his Sikh agency was inspired by his own rejection.

Models practising yoga
The models have a rigorous training regime
"I started this agency because I wanted my Sikh brothers to walk on the ramp in their turbans.

"Basically I was rejected by one of the leading modelling agencies in Delhi. I told them that I want to be a model, please give me a chance - but they refused me.

"They use to laugh at me, now I'm laughing at them," he says.

The 18 would-be male models get up at 0530 every morning to undergo the rigours of the gym.

They may be pushing against prejudice, but there is no doubting their commitment.

Each has paid $500 for the week-long course.

The one thing they are not lacking is self belief.

'Macho' image

Jaskirat Singh Rekhi, 19, is one of the aspiring models.

"Sikh models are very macho, very masculine and very passionate. They are not like those hanky-panky guys, you know those girl-like guys," he says.

Models at the gym
Early morning work-outs build muscles
But part of their training is to practise the not very masculine art of yoga.

Most of them have never tried it before.

But it's seen as essential for flexibility and what is described as "grooming the inner self".

It's hoped that all this will help change the minds of India's designers.

Fashion Guru Aki Narula, himself a Sikh, shaved off his beard and threw away his turban six years ago.

But he now thinks he may have found a new look for his autumn collection.

"I'm definitely going to use some of them," he told the BBC.

"I think they need little bit of grooming in terms of lessening the whole macho image, being less aggressive more down to earth, you know more easy with their bodies.

"I think they are ready to rock actually."

Glamour life

After 100 hours of training that includes advice on camera facing techniques, deportment and even etiquette they are let loose in a Delhi nightclub.

The organisers say most of them have never experienced this kind of atmosphere before.

And to the few Westerners left watching, 18 young Sikh men taking to the dance-floor in unison is indeed a curious sight.

But for these aspiring models it's a chance to taste the kind of life they soon hope to be leading.

A life of parties and glamour that has until now largely been denied.

They are ready to conquer the world of fashion - but it's still not clear whether it is ready for them.




SEE ALSO:
India's politicians' sartorial change
22 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Who are the Sikhs?
15 Apr 99  |  South Asia


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