I’ve been meaning to pen down my thoughts on staying grounded and keeping it real, especially in my luxury industry, for the longest time. Many people have asked me to share a few thoughts on how there is more to me than just my style and glamorous pictures, I thought it a perfect opportunity to express myself.
In today’s times, we will all agree, people are quick to compartmentalise and put you in a box. If you work in the fashion industry, you are, by default, tagged as frivolous and shallow, and your “fast life” is always questioned. If you’re a fashion industry professional, people often tend to associate you with your clothes. Which is not a bad thing, but it becomes an issue when that’s ALL they recognise you for. And I’m happy to note that the big players in the fashion industry are beginning to accept and embrace this idea of a multi-dimensional identity. A case in point is the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour, now in its 13th edition. The tour has always been associated with hardcore fashion, but this time, it is going one step further to highlight that these “fashion” stereotypes can be broken, and that there is more to a fashionable person than just his clothes.
I recently went to a party, where I was introduced to someone as “Hey, meet Riaan. He dresses really well.” At first, I did not read too much into it. Later, in hindsight, I realised that I’d much rather be referred to as, say, “Hey, meet Riaan. He’s a journalist-blogger” or “Hey, meet Riaan. He travels a lot and loves foreign languages.”
This brings me to my point – it is possible to stay completely grounded and real even though you work in a completely materialistic industry. I have been in the industry for almost 15 years and have consistently tried to break the stereotype – I may love fashion, I may be an expert on the field, and may write about it extensively, but there is MORE to me than just clothes.
When I am not on the job, I lead a simple, fuss-free existence. I spend time at home, with my simple pursuits such as reading, watching TV or taking a walk in my neighbourhood. This helps me stay real and grounded and I absolutely love it this way.
I have a passion for foreign languages. I have learnt French and Italian. In my free time, I try to read, speak and practise my French and Italian. In fact, even today, I enrol in different language refresher courses, just so that I can keep my knowledge updated and stay in touch with my language.
Strangely enough, on a weekend, you won’t find me dancing the night away in a nightclub, but sitting at home and reading up my grammar rules and vocabulary from my French and Italian books. Some of my other interests in life include reading on history, collecting airplane models, or even watching documentaries. I could spend hours on YouTube watching airplane videos, which has nothing to do with fashion.
Another stereotype that I have often battled is the one about “shopping”, especially when I travel. Is it hard to explain to people that when I am abroad, I genuinely have no interest in shopping. Considering that my day job is so surrounded by luxurious things and clothes and fashion, when I am on my personal holidays, the last thing I want to do is to be looking at more clothes and stores. I travel to Paris, at least twice a year. Most people have this image of a fashion industry professional running down the Champs Elysees, laden with boutique-branded bags. Well, I’m not one of them. You’ll find me walking aimlessly through some neighbourhood, sitting at a cafe enjoying a cappuccino or even just hanging around by my favourite monuments.
For me, that represents keeping it real, staying grounded, doing the things I like and breaking stereotypes. In that very same vein, If I draw a parallel between my multi-dimensional life and the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour, where fashion is pushed beyond the limit of just the runway. It’s more style, less fashion! Personality and lifestyle play an important role in the whole spectrum.
I could go on and on, giving you examples about how I continue to break stereotypes of a fashion industry professional, that I am not just all about the clothes and that behind it all, I enjoy a simple, unpretentious life, pursuing my own hobbies and talents.