Aanya Singh ‘21 seeks representation and encourages women to create their own communities in the fashion industry

Many titles can be put in front of Aanya Singh’s name — editor-in-chief for Icing Collective, president at the Fashion and Design Society at Syracuse University and a creative leader. All of her great work led to her nomination and honor in the list of 44 New Voices: Campus Voices at SU.

Newhouse’s 44 New Voices created a student edition to identify and amplify new and diverse student voices in media news, policy, public affairs and civic commentary on campus. Singh undoubtedly deserves this recognition because she has been on the path to seek representations of women and various cultures for a long time.

Born in Wisconsin, she spent her early life in Singapore, Tokyo and New Delhi. This floating background also immersed Singh into different cultures. Growing up, she is always interested in fashion and loves dressing up. During her middle school, she was in the after-school club called Passion for Fashion, which strengthened her idea to work in the fashion industry, even under the relatively conservative culture in India.

“I went to high school in India, a country that is conservative in terms of what women can wear as women try not to draw any negative attention to themselves standing out on the street,” Singh said. “But I always felt that fashion is a way to express myself, balancing wearing what I wanted while respecting the culture around me.”

This interest in self-expression and self-determination in fashion motivated Singh to major in studio art at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and also study in the Fashion and Beauty Communications Milestone at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and in the entrepreneurship and emerging enterprise (EEE) program at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

During her freshman year, Singh had trouble finding a student organization to affiliate with because there were not too many choices for her to demonstrate her great passion for fashion. Therefore, she decided to create her own magazine, Icing Collective, with a few friends.

Designed for the artistic young-adults who are transitioning into expressive, fashion-forward contributors, this magazine aims to play a part in the public creative collective by showcasing youth fashion, beauty, art and lifestyle.

“I hope to spotlight my creative community in Syracuse,” she said. “It’s not only a way for me to experiment with photography and styling but also a way for me to collaborate with a community to create a body of work that we are very proud of.”

Aanya at work on a photo shoot

Besides founding her own publication, Singh further expanded her engagement to more creative individuals. To her, coming into the U.S. as an international student was hard, and she was struggling at first to find a place that she could fit in. She then started to create her own community by getting involved in SU’s Fashion and Design Society, aka FADS, after noticing that the club was going to be revived after a long period of silence.

Singh took on the role of vice president during her freshman year and built up the departmental structure for it along with other core members. Starting with only eight people, FADS is now growing into a club with more than 120 people from different majors that are not limited to design or studio art.

After being promoted to the president position in her sophomore year, Singh has hosted four fashion shows over the past two years with different themes, including Body & Space, The Gallery, Night Circus and Tomorrowland. This year, they set the theme for the show as Revival, deconstructing 16th century’s regality with rebellious punk subculture influences.

“I’m so lucky to be a creative director of an organization and implement my own vision and style, which rebels from traditions and norms of cultures I grew up around to create something new entirely,” Singh said. “The theme reflects the renaissance we are currently seeing take place, the dismantling of archaic structures and views- people questioning norms and the world we knew is never going to be the same again.”

Singh currently works with and wants to make shout-outs to her fabulous Vice Presidents, Jessie Zhai and Emily Goldberg, who prepare this semester’s show planned for May. Working with these outstanding girls also made Singh realize how women in the real-world fashion industry are hardworking but may still face more difficulties.

The biggest problem she observed in the real world is that women can be very objectified only based on how they look, and this is super superficial, she said. She feels like that’s not what fashion is, and fashion should be the way of how people would like to express themselves, in her opinion. Because of these challenges, Singh thus encouraged all women to create their own opportunities and community just like what she has been doing on the SU campus.

“When things aren’t handed to you, you have to create your own spaces and communities that make you feel safe, Singh said. “The most important thing is to build a good strong support system and build other women up with you. We can do anything that we set our minds to, and it’s worth it to help each other succeed.”

Story by  Kaizhao Zero Lin, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photos supplied