A couple of days back, I came across a fashion shoot image on my favourite style blog during my routine morning scroll. The subject of this picture had the most unique look on and was working it with such ease. In the era of double taps and DMs, coming upon a rare display of exceptional personal style was refreshing, to say the least. It was a sight that jolted me out of my morning stupor and made me want to dive into the depths of their Instagram account.
The subject is Alok V Menon.
Alok is an Indian-origin American fashionista, slam poet and writer. As I scrolled through their feed, I realised two things… One, he's an LGBTQ sensation. Yes, Alok is a gender non-conformist spreading awareness on the non-binary population through their art and aesthetic;
Two, there are many an outfit I want to steal from this person.
Naturally, there was a lot about fashion, personal style and gender non-conformity I wanted to ask Alok. So, I caught up with Alok and knocked myself out…
1. How does your Indian connect influence your personal style?
“Being Indian has influenced my style in so many ways. First of all, unlike most of my US-American peers, I am not afraid of colour, prints, and clashing! Second: I grew up watching my aunties spend hours getting ready to go out for a function and learned all of the best tricks! This idea of ‘getting dressed up’ wasn't just for special occasions, it was a lifestyle darling! I carry that commitment to making every look matter with me to this day.”
2. What is that one look on your Insta feed that expresses your personal style the best according to you?
“My style is constantly evolving so it's difficult to pin down. Recently I've been most moved by this look…”
3. Your wardrobe is full of gems! What are your go-to's?
“I challenge myself to not come in with any bias around shape, size, colour, or print -- but instead to try on pieces and let them speak for themselves! Clothing is an art form and I spend time interacting with it to get a vibe and whether or not we're compatible. Maybe that's why I can't stop buying platform boots -- we're just oh so compatible!”
4. The brands that you swear by are…
“Fluide a gender-neutral beauty company and SYRO heels for shoes!”
5. How would you define gender non-conformity?
“I don't fit into society's definitions or norms of what a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ is or should look like or act. I'm neither a man nor a woman, I'm just myself!”
6. What other aspects come into play, apart from fashion and wardrobe, when one is gender non-conformist?
“Gender non-conforming people across the world experience relentless discrimination, harassment, and violence. I wish that I could wear whatever I want, whenever I want but I have to think about my safety all of the time: Will I be walking alone? Do I know this area? Am I ready to cope with people harassing me? The reality is that we live in a world that forces people into categories and boxes: be a man! be a woman! And when people try to be themselves they are punished for it.”
7. Being a performance artist, what style do you feel most comfortable in, while on stage?
“The stage was the first place I began to experiment with my fashion. I figured okay I can put on a ‘costume’ so I took more risks. But eventually, I started to have so much fun that I began to wear the things I was wearing on the stage off of it! Now I'm comfortable wearing whatever - off stage or on stage - but a practical five-inch heel is often a must!”
8. What's in your bag?
I operate from the premise that inevitably when I leave the house I could end up on a dance floor somehow. And I also operate from the premise that while dancing, I will inevitably lose my bag. This is my round-about way of saying that I don't leave the house with a bag, I make sure that all of my clothes have pockets! Since so many ‘women's’ clothes don't have them, I started to design my own dresses and skirts with them!
10. Do you believe personal style exists in the current age of Instagram?
“Yes absolutely. The thing about style is even when it's replicated it becomes something new. So much of style is about imitation, but when someone else interprets a trend, motif, or icon - it takes on a flavour of its own. That being said, yeah there is a lot of boring homogeneities online these days - but there are so many lovely stylish people on Instagram too! That's where I get most of my inspo!”
11. How does or should one find their personal style in your opinion?
“Style is a personal and emotional journey. You have to constantly ask yourself who you are outside of other people's expectations of who you should be. Move from that place: visceral, honest, and ready.”
Alok travels a lot, is an incredibly moving slam poet and performer and has a lot to say through their art. Check out their Instagram profile to know more about them, their LGBTQ initiatives and gender non-conformity.