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September 30, 2015

Defying Stereotypes: Fashion Designer and Makeup Artist Vir Shete

Komal Basith

Levi’s recently launched their latest collection of jeans for women, and they promise there’s a pair of jeans in the line that'll fit you like they were made for you - regardless of your size, shape, or identity.

Speaking of identity, Vir Shete is a charming, soft-spoken, incredibly talented and undeniably gorgeous fashion designer and makeup artist who’s about as comfortable in his skin as anyone I’ve ever met. He’s only 23, but he’s – how do I say this without sounding like a cliché? – a bit of a role model, to me anyway; a quiet, composed column of confidence in what can be a bit of a judgemental world.

Oh, and he can wear the hell out of a pair of jeans. Ahead, we caught up with him while on a recent trip to Bombay via Tokyo and London.

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“I’m a makeup artist, stylist and designer. I was born and raised in Bombay. I moved to London when I was 18, and I recently moved to Tokyo to take over as creative head of a large fashion house.

ON STYLE

“I stopped buying jeans a few years ago because I couldn’t find ones that fit – I’m not the easiest body type to shop for, and most jeans always feel just a little off.

I’m super impressed with these Levi’s, though. When I visited the store, I expected to leave disappointed because that’s usually what happens when I go jeans shopping. They had me try on a couple of pairs from the new line and the first thing I noticed is the fit – it’s impeccable. I ended up with two pairs, the 710 and the 711s. It’s the first time I’ve bought jeans in five years! I feel like I can work these pretty seamlessly into my wardrobe.

My style, whether personal or in the clothes I design, is avant garde but a still wearable, still a bit minimalist. I’m a believer in the whole ‘dress only one half up’ adage – if you’re wearing something dressy up top, dress the bottom down a little, and vice versa.

I’ve always loved makeup; makeup is where it all started for me. I began experimenting with it early on and then I realized that I wanted to be in fashion, but it’ll always have a special place in my life. When I’m wearing makeup, I look at myself in the mirror and I feel like I can see who I really am on the inside.”

ON IDENTITY

“I get a lot of questions about how I dress, the makeup I wear and where it all comes from, but the truth is that the way I dress isn’t about my gender or sexuality, it’s about who I am as a person.

I don’t really believe in labels. I don’t consider myself transgender, and I don’t consider myself a cross dresser, either. To be honest, alternative subcultures confuse me just as much as they might anyone. (Laughs) I’ve always identified with being a man, but I don’t see why that should dictate how I dress or what I look like.

I’m not sure what gender has to do with any of it – for me, style is about expressing on the outside how I feel on the inside.

It was tough for me and for my family when I first started dressing how I wanted to. But what people don’t realize is that everyone – gay, straight, or otherwise, gets discriminated against. There’s always going to be someone who’s got something negative to say about you regardless of who you are, and so the key is really to learn how to tune it out and not care what anyone thinks as long as you’re expressing yourself in an honest manner.

The way I see it, you’ve got just the one life, you may as well spend it doing what makes you feel like you.

Confidence is an interesting thing. If you’re confident, regardless of who you are or what you look like – if you believe in yourself and stand up for yourself, it makes it that much tougher for people to say something to you. It’s always the ones who aren’t sure about who they are that find themselves more receptive to negativity.”

As told to Komal Basith. Vir is wearing 711 Skinny and 710 Super Skinny jeans from the new Levi’s collection, faux leather jacket and cropped sweatshirt from his current collection.

Photographed by Taras Taraporvala for Levi’s x Jossbox.

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