Jasjyot Singh Hans Puts Sikh Ladies in Sick Fashion

2 years ago

A new zine by Baltimore-based illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans, upends the fashion stereotype to give us full-bodied women, with hair that hasn’t been fashioned into trendy ’dos. Aptly titled Sikh Ladies in Sick Fashion, the 20-page zine is what he calls his “humble love letter to fashion, the women I draw and the risograph”.

It’s a labour of love, too. It took him two weeks to create the two-toned artworks for the risograph prints, which he bound by hand with a simple centre-staple. You can now find it online, on his e-store.

Since we’re obsessed with his women and utterly fascinated with his new project, we settled down for a quick chat:

What prompted you to put Sikh ladies in sick fashion?

“I have been wanting to make a fashion zine for a long time now, but I needed some kind of an anchor. I was going to be a part of a Sikh art focussed show, and thought it would be cool to have the women be Sikh, wearing some of the fashion I’ve been following. Apart from some Sikh street style blogs, there really isn’t much dialogue between Sikhs and contemporary fashion.

I also like the idea of introducing more Sikhs in contemporary culture. So this became my little way of creating that dialogue, as well as paying tribute to the Sikh women I know, who share a penchant for fashion.”

With your long-haired, plus-sized models you’re essentially mouthing off to fashion’s fascination with size zero and its frenzied evolution. What did this stem from?

“I guess it stems from my own body image. I’ve always been big, and drawing women, and at some point it only felt natural to draw them in the same body shape as mine. I continue to draw them because I don’t see many bigger bodied women in fashion or popular media, so it is my way of making women of all sizes feel visible, fearless and beautiful.”

Did you put them in pieces you’ve been personally obsessing over, like the Acne Studios emoji sneakers?

“They’re definitely pieces that introduced me to new brands or made me look at fashion in a new way.

Acne Studios’ ‘Adriana’ sneakers were something I had come across on a website, and then saw someone in my cohort wearing. They were added to my when-I-have-money bucket list. I don’t think I’ll be able to afford them anytime soon.

Vetements made it into the zine, and that’s a brand that intrigues me, even though I don’t quite get all of it. Walter Van Beirendonck creates some delightful work. The cap from his Spring-Summer 2014 menswear collection is in the zine as well.

Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection is a spectacle that will forever take me to a place where I feel like a sparkly-eyed gay boy. And remind me of the time I tried to catch a pixelated livestream of the show (it broke the internet, so I couldn’t), and to listen to the world premiere of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. The iconic armadillo shoes stick out from the collection in particular. It is sad to revisit the show now that he’s gone. The inclusion of the shoes is a silent salute to him, and the innovation he brought to fashion.”

How do you describe the alluring women you draw? Do they echo your mood – if so, in what way?

“I used to describe the women I draw in a much more dissociated way. But it’s only natural for the work to echo my mood. I’ve always felt a strong sense of failure personally, so these women are my way of doing things I can’t. They grow extra-long bangs or veil themselves if I feel like I need to be left alone. They tie their hair in plaits because it reminds me of home. They shed their layers and are unabashedly proud of their bodies because it’s difficult for me to do that with ease. So in some ways the relationship is direct, but in other ways it is more of a catharsis.”

Do you often get asked why they’re all pensive or moody?

“All the time! I feel like a mood can rarely ever be articulated with a single emotion. There are definitely dominant emotions, but the way I see them is always a combination of different feelings. It’s natural for the women I draw to seem pensive because they’re still making sense of what they’re feeling.”

We noticed you’ve given them names this time around – is this a first? Do you think that helps to add context, or adds to their story?

“Yes, this was the first time I gave them names. It was something that really anchored the context, and made them feel like actual people. It was also a way of introducing people [in the USA, where he plans to distribute this zine] to names that they might have heard but didn’t know were Sikh. I’m not sure if the people notice the long hair and the kara (steel/iron bangle) on the right wrists and make a direct connect but they are also there as subtle signifiers of Sikhism. The Sikh turban and the parandas also make an appearance. If this becomes a bigger body of work, I would want to write a little blurb about each character that helps build their individual narrative.”

When did you start drawing women, and has your woman evolved with time?

“My mum says I could draw a woman’s face in profile when I was five! And she was always cool with skinny bikini-clad women with manga eyes at the back of my school notebooks.

The women have definitely come a long way since then, as the practice of drawing became increasingly personal for me. They’ve had time to breathe and live and change as I do, and will hopefully keep evolving.”