Teenage Indian acid attack survivor takes to catwalk for New York Fashion Week

17-year-old Reshma Quereshi leads off Archana Kochhar’s show and sends message of empowerment and courage to attack victims in her country

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2016, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2016, 8:41pm

Most fashion shows have beautiful clothes on display. Not many have an important social message behind them, and fewer still have a powerful spokesman walking the runway.

But a show by Indian designer Archana Kochhar had all three. Its very first model, Reshma Quereshi, is the survivor of an acid attack in India; she did this to send a message of courage and empowerment to other victims of such attacks in her country.

“This walk was important to me because there are so many girls like me who are survivors of acid attacks, and this will give them courage,” Quereshi says. “And it will also go to show people that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – you should look at everyone though the same eyes.”

Quereshi suffered severe burns to her face when she was 17 in an acid attack in 2014 by several male assailants as she was walking with her sister. She lost her left eye, and her face was deeply scarred.

She said that she was thrilled to participate in the show; she wore a long ivory dress embellished with colourful embroidery in pink, red, green and other hues, and a sparkly tiara in her hair.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that something like this would happen to me,”says Quereshi, “and that I would be coming to such a big place to walk on such a big stage.”

The collection, called “A Tale of Two Travels,” was “inspired by the breathtaking Taj Mahal and the rich, buoyant colours of magnificent India,” according to the designer. The prints evoked not only the Taj Mahal but the lotus flower and royal elephants. Silhouettes included bell bottom trousers, cropped tops, capes, and jumpsuits. To offset the colourful embroidery there was a lot of ivory – evoking the marble of the Taj Mahal.

Meanwhile IMG, which owns NYFW: The Shows, outfitted more than 75 photographers and videographers with blue jackets to honour the celebrated New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who died in June aged 87.