A pioneer and a founder of Lorde Inc., the twenty-six-year-old art history graduate Nafisa Kaptownwala is casting and celebrating models of colour, fighting against the racial hierarchy and fearlessly bringing body hair and acne into the game. The agency was established in 2013 and since then it’s been standing on pillars made of very respectable principals. Not only is Lorde Inc. fighting against the injustice in the modelling industry, but it is also simply proving that people are beautiful. Because we all just are.
Who are you and what exactly is Lorde Inc.?
Hi! I’m Nafisa, a creative. Lorde Inc. is a modelling and casting agency that works directly with brands and things to create interesting casting.
Are there more like-minded agencies playing the game for your team?
Yeah, I believe so. I hung out with the director behind Güerxs in Mexico City and I think a few people are trying to approach casting with a similar critical lens.
Is skinny and white still the standard? It’s been like that for a very, very long time. Why do you think it’s still like that?
Not entirely sure if I agree with ‘standard’ as the appropriate language to describe it, but white models are certainly the dominating type in fashion. It’s been like that because fashion industry has always been about prioritising white bodies. It’s a long-standing tradition.
Is there anything we can do as individuals to challenge this issue? Have you seen any progress within the fashion industry since you started Lorde Inc.?
As individuals, I guess all I can say is just stay critical. As consumers we speak with our dollars, so spend your money wisely. Support black and brown owned businesses. I don’t know yet if it’s real progress, but there has been a really serious shift to cast models much like the people we started working with. There weren’t many people in fashion criticising casting norms when we came along. Now it’s even more common, especially with trendy brands, to cast unconventional models.
Do you see the light at the end of fashion’s tunnel? Or rather, do you see the colours at the end of it, since whiteness is the thing to be reduced in the fashion industry?
I’m really not optimistic and I don’t trust that the industry will ever change enough to be a safe space for people of colour. The industry would need an entire overhaul for that to happen. Ultimately, I think the folks of colour in the industry that are doing critical work are just trying to carve space for ourselves so the work is somewhat bearable, knowing very well that the industry as a whole is very toxic.
Do you think that fashion as a language has the ability to talk about politics?
Sure. I think clothing and style can be political, but I don’t necessarily want brands co-opting social justice politics to sell me things.
If you could redefine the beauty standards, what would your definition be?
Oh, I don’t know. I guess I would abolish beauty standards altogether. Everyone and everything are beautiful and it would be a really sad existence not to feel that.
If there was a chance to make all the people on this planet hear a single sentence of yours, what would you say?
That’s so much pressure! I don’t know, maybe I would just say “Hi!” I’m kind of shy and I don’t want that many people listening to me.
You street cast most of the Lorde Inc. models, what attributes (or attitudes) should your models have?
Ultimately, I just look for people that are into being in front of the camera, like it’s something that they enjoy.
Since you spend all day surrounded by models and beautiful people, when it comes to your personal physical attraction, do you have a type?
I love this question! (Laughs) My friends make fun of me because I like guys with thick necks. But really, I like all sorts of people as long as they’re nice and caring.
And the last one, if you found the magic oil lamp, what wish would you ask the genie to fulfil?
To pay off my student loans.