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12/12/2016
It's OK for Sikh women to be interested in fashion.

Words by

Eliza Sholly

It’s hard to believe that in a world of such diverse women, it’s still news when a fashion blogger wears a turban. However, Karan Kaur is hoping to change all that.

The 22-year-old is just your average fashion student from Sydney. She also happens to be a Sikh woman who’s working to change the way religious articles of faith are viewed, via her Instagram, Style with Kaur. 

Not only was Karan one of the most well spoken women I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing but she was also one of the most interesting. She enlightened me to an entire world of Sikhism, in which wearing a turban can signify your love of freedom, equality and justice.   

How did your love for fashion begin? Have you always been interested in the industry? 

Yes, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been into fashion. When I started wearing my religious article of faith, I knew I wanted to incorporate that into what I wore, while still being fashionable. Going into it, I knew this industry makes it very hard to put yourself out there, especially when you’re a little bit different. That’s when I started my fashion blog on Instagram, because I wanted to change that. 

When did you start Style with Kaur? 

I started it in March 2014. I was studying business at university, and that’s when I realised it just wasn’t something I wanted to do. After I deferred to take a gap year, that’s when I started doing some research. I noticed there are absolutely no female Sikh fashion bloggers out there. I mean there are definitely prominent male figures in sport, film and fashion, but the whole female gender seemed so underrepresented. So I thought, ‘you know what? This would be a great opportunity for me to not only celebrate my religion but to raise awareness that it is OK for turbaned women to be interested in fashion.’

Has it been challenging to break the stereotype in that sense?

Yeah, it’s definitely been challenging. People outside of the community respond really well to the concept, however, people inside think that it’s a bit controversial – the idea of religion and fashion together. So there has been a bit of negativity. But the positives always outweigh that.  
Regardless of the haters and negative comments, I’m still going to do it. 

Has here been any criticism at a local level, in your immediate community? 

Yeah, definitely. There’s obviously way more criticism coming from online, you know, commenters and keyboard warriors. But when I first started, I got so much love from all around the world that would cancel out the negatives I was getting. 

What’s the actual significance of the turban in your religion? 

Sikhism is a religion that believes in the equality of men and women, as well as a love for God. The religion celebrates freedom, equality and justice, and the turban was designed so Sikhs could be recognised for years to come. We believe that God is everywhere, so out of respect we cover our heads. 

Both women and men used to wear the turban, but as the years went by, the gap broadened. Only now has it become more and more acceptable for women to embrace their religious article of faith, which is something I feel very strongly about.

Is your religious article something you have always identified with? 

When I was in Year 11, I went to my friends and told them how passionate I was about Sikhism and how wearing a turban made me feel closer to my god. They saw my passion and, honestly, their acceptance and understanding made me that much more motivated to wear it. I came to school and not once did I ever receive racial comments or anything negative. People say that Australia is a racist country, but I am blessed to have not received such a thing. 

Why do you think this was? 

I think it might have something to do with how open I am to answering questions about my religious article. If someone asks me about my turban, I’ll answer everything. Segregating yourself is how bullying and ignorance starts. If you’re afraid to talk about wearing it, that’s how people overpower you. I always take every opportunity to educate people and answer questions, with the hope that I can reduce the stigma that exists for so many men and women. 

Do you consider yourself a role model?

When I started my blog, becoming a role model didn’t even cross my mind. I just wanted to challenge the norm and spread awareness. But after starting the blog, I received so many emails and messages from people, saying that I have inspired them to wear their turban or another religious article – which is always amazing to hear. I don’t consider myself to be at the level of a ‘role model’, but if I’ve inspired anyone, then that’s definitely something.

What has been the highlight so far?

Starting the blog re-ignited my love of fashion, which lead me to pursue fashion school. Through the college, I got the opportunity to go to Europe for two months. It was very interesting and eye-opening. Before I left, I had a lot of people say to me 'what do you think it’s going to be like overseas, wearing a turban and everything?' And I thought, 'I really don’t know’. Everyone kind of gave me the impression that it was going to be really scary and that I should be apprehensive, but it was honestly the opposite. I was so welcomed and embraced, and so many people celebrated my religious article of faith. It became my edge. People were constantly complimenting my turban and the way I wore it – especially when I went to Berlin Fashion Week. Reporters and spectators were constantly talking to me about my style, which completely caught me off guard. When I mention that my turban is more of a religious thing, they find it way more interesting. 

What area of fashion do you want to get into?

On top of my blog, I’d love for my career to evolve into visual merchandising, as well as freelance styling. 

What is your dream for the blog?

Honestly, just continuing to improve. But I don’t want the blog to just be for me. I want to constantly use it as a platform to raise awareness that it is OK for turbaned women to be in fashion. I would love to one day, turn the page of a completely mainstream magazine and see my picture. That’s when I would know that women of my religion have been completely embraced and accepted, and that a turban isn’t the thing stopping you from becoming who you want to be. 

What advice would you give to other young women in your position?

At the end of the day, you have to be very confident in who you are. You can be very well-presented but, once you are in the industry, it is very competitive. So if you don’t shine or make yourself known to others, it’s very hard. Just be true to yourself and ensure your voice is heard. 

Plus, be powerful and passionate about what you believe in. You may receive criticism from people online, or your parents or community, but at the end of the day, it’s your life, so you have to do what you want to do. 

Check out Karan's style at Style with Kaur.

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