‘Fashion more inclusive now’

Namrata Nongpiur is the first Khasi woman and among a handful of women in the country to head a nationally acclaimed men’s online fashion magazine, MensXP, at the age of 31. She is gorgeous, vivacious and witty – a femme fatale combination.
Born and raised in Tura, Nongpiur completed her schooling from St Xavier’s in 2003 and graduated from Don Bosco College in 2008. She came to Shillong in the same year to pursue post graduation in English Literature at NEHU.
Nongpiur wanted a career in the media but she says she never expected MensXP to happen. The young editor tells Sunday Shillong how she got into men’s fashion and how it feels to be in the male bastion, conquering hearts and breaking glass ceilings.

How did MensXP happen?
I moved to Delhi a few months after I got my post grad degree because I always wanted to be a part of the media business. I had grown up reading and loving magazines of all genres and I always knew this is where my heart belonged. MensXP happened because of a cold call I made to my current boss. I met him and was hired the same day.

How is it heading a magazine for men?
Does it give a feeling of superiority?Honestly, this is a job like any other and there is no sense of superiority or entitlement that comes with it.

Are you the first woman editor of any men’s magazine in India?
I’m not sure of that to make that claim. But you can definitely say I’m one of the very few.

Do you face any discrimination at work?
Like any other job, this job also has its fair share of problems. After all, when it comes to the publishing business, every day is a new challenge. Coming to workplace discrimination, I believe I’ve been lucky to not have faced that. While we’re still dealing with issues like sexism/racism at workplace, I’ve been a part of a system that values hard work and talent over everything else.

How good do you think women are when it comes to men’s fashion?
Fashion is an integral part of a woman’s life. Men’s fashion is no different to them which is why, today, you see the country’s top stars like Ayushmann Khurana, Shahid Kapoor and even Shah Rukh Khan are styled by female stylists.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is to find a way to create impact everyday. The media industry landscape has completely changed with social media celebrities influencing users more than other publishers. Running a digital publication has become even more challenging because of that and acquiring readers/viewers is a task that we get cracking on a daily basis.

Do you think men in the North East are more fashionable than those in mainland?
I’m not sure whether you’re referring to North India or all other Indian states. Having said that, while boys from the North East are heavily invested in fashion, people in other regions are evolving a whole lot when it comes to brand awareness and following international style trends. People are becoming more aware of the things they’re buying and are big on individual style. But, would I have some bias towards men’s fashion from the North East? Definitely!

Do you think there should be a men’s magazine exclusively for the North East?
Absolutely! Having a platform that recognises and celebrates men’s fashion in the North East could be a fantastic endeavour for men from the region as well as homegrown labels that are trying to break through.

How will you rank Indian men when it comes to fashion?
Maybe a 7 on a scale of 10.

Who, according to you, is the most fashionable man in the country now?
Ranveer Singh, Karan Johar and Diljit Dosanjh.

Who did you admire as a male fashion icon during your school/college days?
Don’t remember much but George Clooney always looked fantastically fashionable.

What do you think about male models from NE? Is the competition tough for them? If yes, why?
I think the Indian fashion scene has become much more inclusive and accommodating of new talent as compared to before. There are a lot of models from the North East who have successful careers going for them. I’m hoping to see more male representation from the North East on the ramps soon.

What are the achievements of the magazine under your charge?
It’s hard to single out something when everything you do for your brand is a labour of love. However, launching digital covers for MensXP has been my biggest accomplishment because in a span of one year we’ve already worked with top Bollywood names like Ayushmann Khurana, Vicky Kaushal, Saif Ali Khan and others.

What is the most memorable interview that you have ever done?
John Abraham was my first interview ever so that’s really special.

Times Internet said you’re amongst the youngest editorial heads in the country. How do you feel about this?
There’s a feeling of immense pride that comes with something like that.

When you first started, did you expect to be where you are right now?
It would be stupid of me to say that I imagined I’d be heading India’s biggest men’s lifestyle platform. I always knew I’d be doing something in the news/media space but not this.

And why did you choose a men’s magazine?
Let’s say the men’s magazine chose me.
Being a northeastern have you ever felt that you don’t belong where you are, especially with racism being an issue in every part of the country?
I’ve never really faced a racial attack of sorts but yes, there is a lot of casual racism which stems purely from ignorance. Questioning our food choices to commenting on our appearances to profiling on the basis of region is still rampant. But this is something that happens in the west, south and even the North East where harassment of ‘non-tribals’ is a regular occurrence.

Any advice for the youths who are still struggling to find their place in society especially with unemployment on the rise.
My advice for young boys and girls out there would be to find what they’re passionate about and work towards it. India’s entrepreneurial bug is at an all time high and I would love to see that spark amongst NE youth too. The talent pool in the North East is amazing and I hope their families support them in their endeavours.

Who are your major influencers and who do you look up to?
The entire internet influencer community inspires me to do better. The amount of individuals who are creating original content and the consistency with which they do that is amazing.

(Photo courtesy: Namrata Nongpiur)

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