Four-Year-Old Sahib Singh Has Become a Beacon of Change in the Fashion Industry
A new age of fashion is upon us; so, it’s time to say goodbye to the token standards previously established. As more brands explore expanding their diversity and inclusivity standards, the Burberry Children’s Autumn-Winter ’22 launch provided the needed space for representation in the mainstream fashion world. It was a moment of pride when four-year-old Sahib Singh was cast in this Burberry campaign. By wearing a patka and proudly representing the Sikh and Punjabi communities, Sahib won hearts across the globe for this iconic representation. Until Sahib, the fashion world had not seen a proper margin of Sikh representation. Seeing a young Sardar on a global, mainstream campaign gave the Sikh community a sense of belonging. Sahib has opened up the door for more Singhs and Kaurs to explore these spaces that may not have always welcomed them in the past.
South Asian fashion and representation has been silenced for decades in the fashion industry. Due to discrimination, lack of representation, and prioritization of Western looks, South Asia’s plethora of designs and looks have been discredited. The debate between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation within the South Asian fashion industry has also heightened in the past decade.
Content creator Emma Chamberlain became a controversial figure amongst the fashion community after wearing a “stolen necklace” from the late Maharaja of Patiala at the Met Gala 2022 on behalf of the jewellery brand Cartier.2 This scintillating necklace, worth $30 million in today’s dollars, was a prize possession of the Patiala royal treasury of India during the 1930s.2 Chamberlain’s decision to wear the necklace was seen as “ironic” to the fashion community, considering Westerners had stolen the very essence of South Asian culture for hundreds of years. While Western influencers have continued to perpetuate cultural appropriation, one can also interpret some of their moves as a celebration of South Asian culture. But South Asians cannot celebrate their culture until they themselves are represented in the limelight. And that’s where Sahib Singh and other South Asian debutantes step in.
South Asian influencers, designers, models, and fashion connoisseurs are now reclaiming the looks that originated in their culture. The outcry against cultural appropriation and discreditation is getting stronger and stronger globally. These creatives are no longer changing their identities and look to satisfy outdated beauty standards, and that is worth celebrating. Models such as Sahib Singh allow for South Asian culture to be known, represented, and celebrated amongst South Asians and others in the fashion industry and sphere.
Sahib Singh started his budding interest in fashion by creating digital content with his mother and sister. His different outfits and styles showcased on his social media grew in popularity and allowed him to find new opportunities, such as signing with his current agency, South Coast Kidz. Aside from his modelling career, his current Instagram page continues to promote Sikhi. He believes that Sikh boys should proudly wear the patka without fear and embarrassment in their global community. Sahib embracing his identity gives hope to children worldwide that there is a space for them in this world. He has shown them that there are immense benefits in being different. Aside from his love of fashion, he makes sure to cherish his childhood through his love of Spiderman and football and dreams to be an astronaut when he grows older. His parents are proud of his accomplishments in the fashion industry and the entire family thoroughly enjoyed their experience shooting for Burberry.
Sahib and a few others, like Waris Ahluwalia and Karanjee Gabba, are establishing themselves as forerunners for the global takeover South Asian fashion is headed towards. South Asian representation continues to increase in all areas of fashion, including runway shows and couture weeks. For example, South Asian New York Fashion Week, or SANYFW, is a week-long initiative to showcase the stunning looks of South Asia in different forms: streetwear, sustainability, menswear, traditional, bridal, and Indo-Western. SANYFW is a collaborative effort to bring together South Asian designers and fashion enthusiasts from across the globe to celebrate the wonderful looks and styles the South Asian fashion industry has given to the world. It is the first of its kind to bring such a wide range of South Asian fashion to the fashion mecca of the world: New York City. CEO and Founder, Shipra Sharma, has envisioned SANYFW for the past 9 years and, along with her team, are en route to bringing it to reality. Shipra is elated by Sahib’s pathway to stardom through Burberry, and, as a Punjabi, is proud of her heritage being represented so highly in the fashion industry.
As we celebrate Sahib’s pathway to stardom in the fashion community, it is important to recognize the massive influence he will have on generations to come. Sahib is only starting his career as an icon for Sikh representation in fashion around the world and has a long path to travel. But for now, his groundbreaking work as a role model for Sikh children around the world is worthy of every accolade. Like Shipra, Sahib and the many others fighting to reclaim the narrative of their culture and heritage, young Sahib’s message to embrace your identity and no longer conceal your heritage will be incredibly impactful for the next generation of South Asian children. It is up to the South Asian community and young models such as Sahib Singh to promote South Asian culture and to be proud of their roots.
View our Funny Faces project, featuring Burberry’s First Sikh Model Sahib.
Sahib Singh Becomes Burberry’s First Sikh Model Photography via Burberry – All rights reserved.
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