There’s nothing wrong with ageing, says supermodel Nayanika Chatterjee, as she bids adieu to couture shows

Fashion Updates

Nayanika Chatterjee,India Couture Week,Tarun Tahiliani

When she started out at the age of 19, Nayanika Chatterjee was a model; and then she became an Indian supermodel; and 30 years on, she is an icon in the industry, one who has trounced the notion that a modelling career comes with a best-before date.

The recent India Couture Week in Delhi was her last runway walk for a couture show, though not her last fashion show. She says, “I just don’t want to do regular runway [anymore]. There will be on-and-off appearances that I’ll do for the designers I like.”

Talking about her years in modelling, Nayanika shares a humorous episode: “Last year, during fittings, a young model came up to me and said, ‘I’ve just started modelling, how long has it been for you?’ I said, ‘This is my 29th year.’ And she smiled and said that she was just 18 years old!” On a serious note, she adds, “It has been a nice long run. I’ve never had aspirations for other things. A designer doesn’t change jobs, a choreographer doesn’t, why should a model?” She shares, “I’ve also seen a plethora of designers as students. I’ve [modelled for] their student collection and then their designer collection.”

Nayanika Chatterjee on the ramp for Rohit Bal at the India Couture Week, held at the end of July 2018. This was her last runway walk for a couture week, though not her final runway show. (Photo: Amal KS/ HT)

The Delhi-based model has some observations on live shows and body image. She says, “No one applauds now during the show; everyone’s on their phones, taking pictures. And what’s the point of putting out edited and filtered pictures? There’s nothing wrong with ageing.”

The good part, according to Nayanika, is that “there’s more professionalism these days and serious fashion shows, unlike old times”. She adds, “I’ve seen the evolution and it feels great to be a part of it.”

‘The kind of people who can afford couture here are not teenagers; they’re older (after the age of 30, 40, 50 years) people who have the money’ — Nayanika Chatterjee, supermodel

Asked if stereotypes are being broken in today’s modelling industry, Nayanika says, “Well, not really. India is not really open to change easily. We get too stuck to things. Even [when it comes to] plus-size models, and breaking other stereotypes, it takes time.” Getting rid of some moulds might actually be good for the fashion business. Nayanika says, “The kind of people who can afford couture here are not teenagers; they’re older (after the age of 30, 40, 50 years) people who have the money. Sometimes, they come to me and say, ‘It looks good on you, but not me.’ So, there should be more body sizes, because ultimately people need to get convinced.”

For newcomers in modelling, Nayanika suggests, “An MBA degree won’t get you through this industry. Attitude and looks are intangible, so understand that it’s important to have a backup plan. Sometimes, we go months without work and it just adds to the stress. So, have a backup plan and do something simultaneously.”

And what does she like to do in her free time? She quips, “I do a lot of gardening these days. I love plants, and since I stay in Delhi and the level to which the city is polluted, I feel it’s a great hobby.”

‘A supermodel par excellence’

Model Sonalika Sahay says about Nayanika, “We’ve had some laughter fits with her around. She lightens the environment wherever she is, and she is a true professional and supermodel par excellence.”

For ace couturier Tarun Tahiliani, it has been ‘a fantastic run’ to work with Nayanika. He wants her to do his show even when she turns sixty with beautiful white hair.

‘A lovely, earthy presence’

Designer Tarun Tahiliani says, “I met Nayanika soon after Ensemble (India’s first multi-designer boutique) began in 1987. She was a rare Bengali beauty with big curls and a beautifully curvaceous body; in fact, she is a lot slimmer now. And she brought a lovely, earthy presence to the ramp. She still has a regal and elegant presence and takes Indian clothes to another level. It has been a fantastic run. I want her to do my show when she’s sixty, with glorious white hair.”