09 March, 2021

For a generation growing up on fast fed content, where anything and everything can and IS being said - Aishwarya Subramanyam, has emerged as an internet appointed truth speaker. It's a reputation she's built through her instagram profile @otherwarya. What makes her different? That she writes what most are afraid to write about. And she does so while being incredibly self aware. Her posts can make you whoop with delight, but they can also make you shift uncomfortably in your chair. As her legion of followers grows at a rapid pace, we ask her about the practises and experiences that have gotten her to this point in life. This point of enviable confidence and surety, where regardless of where you are, you're just so ok with being yourself. 

What was your first job? One thing you learnt there, that you’ve carried with you?
My first full-time job was as a writer for a startup city magazine. The main thing I learnt there, because it was a tiny team and I did everything, is that there is great value in learning to do everything.

Aishwarya is wearing the Naidu dress.

Did you always want to work in fashion? How have you seen fashion change since you started?
I never wanted to work in fashion, it's something I fell into because I wanted to work for Vogue — which, when it launched, was doing new things and changing the publishing landscape, and I wanted to be a part of that. Fashion has changed in so many ways since then, but clearly the biggest change is the ever-hungry mouth that is social media and how that has affected the way brands communicate themselves.

What’s the biggest myth about the idea of a dream job?
That it is fun. It IS fun, but it really takes everything from you, and you have to be ready for that.

How was your experience being EIC of Elle India? What are the struggles in trying to make changes to an organisation? Do you think magazines can do something to revive themselves?
It was excellent, and I'm so glad I did it at the time that I did it. It was so much learning and growth and enormous fun, and it completely burnt me out. The only thing that will save magazines is having a point of view and a personality — so I guess the answer is no. Independent media that is bold and unafraid to take risks is the way forward.

Do you miss being able to write more often?
I really don't, I hate writing.

Entering the fashion world, we always felt like there is a lack of honest mentorship(in India). No-one ever speaks about pay, or how to approach a magazine for an internship that won’t be via a contact, or how commercially non-viable jobs in publishing are when you start. NO ONE speaks about the real stuff. You’ve been refreshingly open about such details. (thank you. Wish your Instagram account existed back when we were 16!) How have you managed to be so ‘not’ fashion while having worked in fashion all these years?!( We say this to you as the HIGHEST compliment ever!)
Hahah. It's because my career has peaked already, so now I feel this responsibility to young ones. I have far less to lose, plus the benefit of experience, perspective and hindsight. So this is not something I could have done earlier. Fashion is a bubble, and you have to leave it in order to really see it.

Is there ever a fear of losing out on clients or work when you are commenting on the workings of the same industry? If so, how do you work your way through that?
There is no fear, but yes that is very much a reality. It helps to see that the world is much bigger than this industry, and to diversify.

You’ve been able to bring a lot of political commentary into fashion. Whether it was at ELLE or now with your Instagram account. You’re ‘known’ to talk about all the tough topics. Has this been a conscious effort? And has it been tough to mix the two?
I think for me it's always been about broadening the scope of what we talk about in this industry. Fashion should be a reflection of society, offering commentary on what is happening around us. It bothers me how much we distance ourselves from reality. It's not tough to talk about because we all hold many worlds in our heads and should be able to move between all of them. But any mention of reality is seen as "negative". It's absurd.

A lot of the time you’re quite self aware about where you stand regarding what you’re speaking about. You willingly take accountability for how you feel (even if at times it's not on the ‘right’ side of stuff). And you allow space for yourself/your readers to analyse their feelings. This shows in a lot of the DMs you get (which you share). It's SO exciting and encouraging to see an online community (in India) that’s so open! How do you manage to check yourself in these situations and keep an open mind when there are so many various perspectives/voices being thrown at you?
I'm quite old now (ALMOST 40) and have nothing to prove, which is the best part of getting older — you give fewer and fewer fucks and have no time for trolls or fools. I learn a lot from journalists, artists and activists, especially those from DBA and LGBTQ+ communities, speaking out online. And I don't always manage to check myself, others do it for me and I try and not be a dick about being called out, although sometimes I fail because I am human. I love hearing about people's experiences and perspectives, it's fascinating and I never get tired of it.

Aishwarya is wearing the Lapis dress.
Being a fashion journalist, do you feel fashion critique actually exists here in India? What can we do to make the space more democratic?
No, it doesn't. Critique in general doesn't exist across industries because as a culture we don't know how to handle it. What we can do to change this is not worry about popularity, not be affected by celebrity and say what we really think. I don't see it happening anytime soon.

Are there any plans to build a larger digital presence?
There are always ideas rattling around in my brain but I don't know if I have the energy to do them.

As your sphere of influence grows, how do you feel about the (instant) reaction you’re getting?
Makes no difference to me. Sometimes I feel annoyed by all the people.

Who are your heroes?
Oh I think we have learnt the hard way to not have heroes.

Your favourite accounts to follow?
At the moment I'm all about meme accounts.

Your fantasy dinner party guests.
A dinner party? In this pandemic?

A celebrity you're crushing on currently or dream date?
That Michele Morrone guy from 365 Days makes me feel some type of way.

Who do you think has the best style (living and dead)?
Tilda Swinton.

Your costume/fancy dress party theme would be?
Wear the things you're not supposed to and party alone in your own home.

Favourite tipple?
A dirty martini.

Favourite cliche.
This too shall pass (it really shall).

Bed time reading.
Jokes on Twitter.

Favourite films or should we say favourite movies for baked reviews.
Those are two separate and OPPOSITE categories! I think my next baked review should be Dil Toh Pagal Hai.

A book that made a major impact on you.
Midnight's Children. I had never read anything like it, and could not believe language could be used in this magical way.
Aishwarya is wearing the Picasso blazer.

Photographer: Siddhant Vaidya