Japanwala finds that garments like this straddle the line between fashion and fine art. “In fashion school, I didn’t expect to do body casting initially, and I find myself in this gray area in terms of what others consider to be ‘fashion,’” Japanwala says. “My work is hung on my walls, but it’s also wearable, so I personally consider it fashion.” Breastplates also became popular on the runway in 2020, as seen in collections from Tom Ford and Schiaparelli, and worn by celebrities like Zendaya, Kim Kardashian, and Zoë Kravitz.
After she graduated from Parsons, Japanwala woke up to a serendipitous Instagram DM from a stylist working with Vogue Spain. She sent her entire thesis collection to Madrid, and three months later, her work was given a six-page spread, modeled by French model Cindy Bruna. To date, it’s her biggest editorial fashion credit, and she still isn’t quite sure how her work was discovered in the first place. “It’s just bizarre that that was the first editorial credit I ever had. They were the photos that got the attention of so many people,” she says.
Shortly after the Vogue Spain issue hit newsstands, the designer got an Instagram follow from Gigi Hadid. Two years later, just at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hadid reached out, looking for artists and designers to collaborate with and to feature in Gigi’s Journal Part II, a special issue of V Magazine, the model was called to guest-edit. Japanawala had lost her job a month before she got that DM. “While I was in fashion school, the idea of working on the design team of a luxury fashion brand is something I always thought I would be perfectly happy doing,” Japanwala says. “It wasn’t until working on [my body castings] and getting press and women reaching out to me and resonating with my work that I reenvisioned what was possible for me. I guess I didn’t understand that I could be here and do this until I created the work.”
Japanwala takes on commissions for custom client work, but her next goal is to be able to fund the production of more full collections. She’s found a niche for her castings, illustrations, and jewelry—an indulgent and rebellious celebration of the female form.