An Interview With Karanjee Gaba: Louis Vuitton’s First Sikh Model

An Interview With Karanjee Gaba: Louis Vuitton’s First Sikh Model

In 2022 Karanjee Gaba was the first Sikh model to feature in a Louis Vuitton campaign, wearing a beautiful bright pink suit and a black turban. Social media and publications alike were ablaze with comments on this first. But what does it mean to be the “first” in a year as recent as 2022? Is this something to be celebrated? Or something that should spark further criticism of exclusion in the fashion industry? 

Karanjee Gaba (left) in Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2022 Campaign by Virgil Abloh

Karanjee has maintained a successful modelling career, most recently being featured in Lewis Magazine, Paper magazine and 10 magazine. We spoke with him ourselves after a shoot he had with photographer Shahfaq Shabbaz

GUAP: How did you get into modelling?

Karanjee Gaba (KG:) In my teenage years, I was always the tall one amongst my friends and family. I always loved being stylish and colour-coordinating my clothes. I used to do photography and at some point, I was teaching my friends how to shoot with me as the subject. Unknowingly, I had made my own portfolio, and that is when the journey of modelling began. I was approached on one of my social media accounts by a stylist who asked me to shoot for Lurve Magazine. Two weeks later, I walked in the Nicholas Daley show. Since then I haven’t looked back.

GUAP: Is it something you always wanted to do?

KG: I wasn’t sure at first. I wanted to be a model but I was hesitant maybe because people in school always bullied me for being different and passionate. But God had different plans.

Karanjee Gaba shot by Shahfaq Shahbaz, styled by Kama Job and Kyra Clarke-Campbell

GUAP: Do you enjoy it? What is it like?

KG: I enjoy modelling a lot. It allows me to meet people from different ethnicities, culture and experiences. It is a place where you can represent and tell your story through fashion. It is fun and exciting as it is always a brand new day in fashion. It is unexpected as you do not know who you will meet and who you will work with. Together you are creating art.

GUAP: You were Louis Vuitton’s first Sikh model. How do you feel about that and what was the experience like?

KG: When I first got the call for the shoot I was in shock. I think anyone who would confirm a shoot for LV, would be in shock. I couldn’t believe it. And, I didn’t even know I was the first. I remember two months before, my friend was showing me the book of Tim Walker, the greatest photographers in fashion. Then, two months later I was grateful to be working with him on set and for Louis Vuitton. It felt like a dream, but it was real.

Karanjee Gaba shot by Shahfaq Shahbaz, styled by Kama Job and Kyra Clarke-Campbell

GUAP: A lot of the time celebrating these “firsts” is bittersweet because it highlights how long the fashion industry has been excluding people and pedalling white supremacist beauty standards. How do you feel about this? 

KG: I am glad that the industry is learning more about other cultures and giving them the platform to represent and tell their story. Fashion was very dominant on Director’s vision and still is, but now it has an element where the director is able to tell their vision with others who also have a story. It was much needed for a long time and the time has come to change the perception of fashion.

GUAP: What would you like to see more of in the industry?

KG: I would like to see more of cultural representation in Catwalks as the world comes to watch that particular sector. I have seen many shows and I see that it doesn’t consist of diversity like in campaigns and other sectors of fashion. It needs to have a change and we are all waiting for it.

Karanjee Gaba by Shahfaq Shahbaz, styled by Kama Job and Kyra Clarke-Campbell

GUAP: Do you have any advice for anyone out there that is looking up to you right now or coming up after you?

KG: I would say to each and everyone out there trying to make it like myself to not change for anyone. Stick to your roots, keep trying and pushing in fashion. Work with different designers and artists who you think represent you. Everything has its own time and pace; nothing happens over night. I remember entering fashion nearly 7 years ago – I had no clue where to go and who to meet. Gradually as you grow, the right people will come to you and eventually you will make it. Never give up and be patient. 

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