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Exclusive: Internet Sensation Jainil Mehta On His New York Fashion Week Debut, And Breaking Stereotypes, One Skirt Twirl At A Time

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Dance and fashion have always shared a deep bond. With traditional genres, that make way for sartorial mechanisms, fashion has had an ever-changing presence on the stage. Over a period of time, costume design has helped in whipping up some successful performances and striking the perfect mix of functionality and grace. Today, popular dance forms have been the reason for a million trends that we spot on the runway. And finding a balance between the two, is the internet’s new star, making waves with his twirls and skirts. 22-year-old choreographer, content creator and full-time trendsetter, Jainil Mehta has already made his way into our hearts, through the gullies of New York City. An advocate of the ‘Men In Skirts’ movement, Jainil’s performances and handpicked skirts put a new perspective on the relationship that dance shares with fashion. Through his powerful and purpose-driven content, the young star has already made his debut at this year’s New York Fashion Week and the first of its kind–South Asian New York Fashion Week. From his show-stopping attires, and graceful henna to his journey so far, Jainil shares with us his time at the fashion week and much more.

Q: How was it performing at the New York Fashion Week. What was your experience
like?

Jainil Mehta: So performing at the New York Fashion Week, really felt like a movie and a dream come true, because since childhood I have been dreaming about walking the ramp. I used to lock myself up in the room and wear my mom’s skirts and then just play the music “Fashion Ka Hai Yeh Jalwa” or “Mar Java” (Fashion) and then just start walking. So that was already built in me. When I had to walk the New York Fashion Week, I was not very scared because I had already practiced it in my childhood. So performing there, dancing and doing what I love to do was just surreal and refreshing, and I just felt like I was alive. I remember at the New York Fashion Week, I was nervous about the stage because the ramp was built around the audience. So it was like running a marathon. But I felt like I was free and I was just dancing around in my bedroom. It really took me to my childhood and that was something that felt like a movie.

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

Q: Tell us about the Archana Kochhar outfit that you wore for your debut walk at New York Fashion Week.

Jainil Mehta: The outfit that I wore was from Archana’s ‘Jharokha’ collection and is are made by tribal women from Madhya Pradesh, India. It was a combination of black, white and pink skirt with a vest on top. It had a very different but refreshing embroidery inspired by the local culture back there. I’d say it was very simple but very elegant. To accessorise the outfit a bit, I chose to apply a mehendi pattern on my hand that (literally) went hand in hand with what I was representing with this power-walk.

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

Q: You also completed your look with Gond art inspired mehendi. What was the inspiration behind it?

Jainil Mehta: I researched a little bit and I found that Gond art initially started in Madhya Pradesh. Because my outfit and the collection depicted the state, I thought the mehendi would be a perfect match for it. In pictures, I saw typical scales, dots and sketches. It had a lot of dots with plenty of dashes unlike the usual mehendi people wear. Further, the patterns were also developed keeping in mind a lot of inspiring stories of native people, animals and nature, where the overall outfit was developed.

The collection was from there so why not include that in my mehendi as well. So, that was the whole inspiration behind that. You’ll see a tiger, you’ll see Rani Lakshmibai, who I really look up to, my ‘Men In Skirts,’ birds, fishes and more in my design. So, it was like this whole story that I had created.

Exclusive: Jainil Mehta Talks NYFW Debut, And Men In Skirts Movement

Q: You also walked at the South Asian New York Fashion Week, where you wore a gender-fluid outfit. What was the experience like and what about your look resonated with your personal style?

Jainil Mehta: So with my personal style, I would say the–flare. I’ve never done something like a slit, honestly. So it is something which is very new, but I got comfortable with it as soon as I wore it and as soon as I started wearing in it. And people were just loving the slit outfit. So with designer Sandeep Tupili, it was a very different experience because it was the South Asian New York Fashion Week. It was the first year and having to play Indian music was just so nice. Indian music in a different country is amazing. I performed on“Rangi Sari” for Archana Kochhar and for Sandeep Tupili I had walked on the song “Rama Rasam” and that was just a normal walk, but it really got some energy. The experience there was very different because I just had to walk the ramp, I had to pose and come back. So both experiences were very different and both of them had their own challenges but I really enjoyed that.

 

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A post shared by Sandeep Tupili (@sandeepravi89)

Q: You’ve been rooting for ‘Men In Skirts.’ What inspired you to bring about that change and promote the #MenInSkirts movement?

Jainil Mehta: What inspired me to actually promote it are the people. The people really resonated with it for some reason. And I just felt like it was something that I can take forward and promote and just help promote these gender-neutral outfits. And it’s something I’m just normalising. Because you need to connect with people if you want to bring in a change. And I feel like I did connect in some way, and I’m glad that I could help with that change and promote ‘Men In Skirts.’

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

Q: How would you describe your relationship with fashion in one line?

Jainil Mehta: If I had to describe fashion, I would say–graceful, comfortable and trendy. It has to have a flare. It has to have some kind of movement and if that movement is going forward, then so be it.

Q:  An artist, celebrity or content creator, you look up to for style cues.

Jainil Mehta: So there are a couple, but I think Shahid Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana have really good taste in their styling. So I actually do see their outfits a lot.

Q: Your skirts often express your love for Indian handloom, traditional textiles and lively
colours. What is that you look in a skirt for your performances? And is the selection
process well-thought about?

Jainil Mehta: Totally! The selection process is very detailed and I want to see what is the story behind the designer, as to why they’re making it. Of course, they want to promote their outfits, but what is it that connects them to their material, to their handlooms, to their outfit? I see that there has to be a flare. Without flare, it just doesn’t work for me. It does not have to be that heavy. Even if it is heavy, it has to bring out that flare and grace. And I hate having Can-Can fabric inside. I want to be free in my movement and if I can kick up that leg. I make sure that the colours are vibrant, even if it’s black, the black has to be fierce.

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

Q: Share with us your journey so far and what is it like tapping into content creation.

Jainil Mehta: It started in 2019 when I created a social media account to attract students for my classes. For my dance classes to now, it has been a huge difference, because it’s gone from classes to dance videos that I made during the pandemic, to feed my soul and then getting into ‘Men in Skirts.’ So, the journey was never well thought about. It surprised me along the way and that’s exactly what I like it to be. My journey has been full of ups and downs like the algorithm, but I’m just loving the content creation side of it. It’s taken me to places where I thought I would never be. So that’s exactly why I’m so grateful for social media and content creation.

 

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A post shared by Jainil Mehta (@jainil_dreamtodance)

Also Read: Content Creators Gaurav, Ritu Taneja And Aashna Hegde Mark Their Debut At New York Fashion Week With Designer Archana Kochhar

Q: With love also comes hate, and social media can be a very ugly place for content creators. How do you tackle the trolls or hate that comes your way? And how challenging has that been for you?

Jainil Mehta: The way I tackle the trolls or hate is just by taking it in and not thinking about it, because I feel my journey with hate has been since childhood, and I think I’ve just gotten so used to that. The trolling started since the time I decided to take up dance as a career. It was a big step. So, dealing with a lot of friends, just teasing you, also because I do have an effeminate side. That’s exactly when the trolling started during childhood, and I think that just made me so confident, so bold and ignorant that till today it does not affect me as much. And I think the only way I could do it right, is to go all in. I had to just go all in, because I decided that I have to create some kind of change, and if I don’t do it with all my heart, it is not going to come through. I also knew it would have a lot of repercussions. And I’m just so glad that my dream to dance with my family is giving me more love than hate. And that’s a change. I would say that has been challenging. The love and hate have been challenging in a way, but I think I pushed through that. When I decided to do it, I realised that come what may, this tree is going to be strong and I’m just as sturdy as the tree, right now.

Also Read: Choreographer Jainil Mehta Lights Up The Streets Of New York With His Lajawaab Dance On ‘Saami Saami’ In A Skirt. We Stan!

Q: What is that one change you hope to bring through your content?

Jainil Mehta: I know that people are watching my content/dance for fun and for entertainment. Yes, there are some people who get inspired in many ways. Not just me wearing and me normalising outfits, but it’s more about my choices, my bold and confident choice of wearing a skirt. And it’s getting them inspired to make that bold and confident choice for something else, maybe. I think that’s the only change I hope to bring. I hope to bring that kind of development in people’s confidence in their choices. Society will always talk behind your back, but you need to move forward and not look back. And if you do look back at any point, know that there are a lot of people who are supporting you, and out of the 10,000 people who are behind you, I would say 70% to 80% are supporting you and take the positives from them, instead of thinking about the 30% or 20% who are not going to follow you. So, I just hope that happens and then more people get inspired to take up dance as a profession as well, which has always been my goal.

Image Credits: Instagram

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