Acid attack survivor Reshma Qureshi opened designer Archana Kochhar’s show, while Bollywood actress Sunny Leone was the designer’s showstopper at New York Fashion Week Sept. 8.

Qureshi, 19, rocked a beautiful floor-length ivory gown, offset with digitally printed floral motifs from Kochhar’s new collection “A Tale of Two Travels.” She was greeted with cheers and applause as she confidently walked the ramp in what she called a life-changing experience.

“I was very excited. This was my first time in New York. I am hoping that my participation in this runway will inspire hope and confidence in other acid attack survivors, that they can lead a normal life,” shared an overwhelmed Qureshi after opening the show for Kochhar.

The Indian teenager was invited to take part in the bi-annual fashion week by fashion production company FTL Moda as part of its #TakeBeautyBack fashion week campaign.

Speaking through a translator, Qureshi said the message she wants to send across with her appearance at the fashion week is that people should not be judged based on their appearance. 

“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” said Qureshi, who lost an eye in the acid attack. “I want to tell the world to not see us in a weak light and that even we can go out and do things,” she was quoted as saying by ABC News.

Qureshi was allegedly attacked by her brother-in-law in 2004, with her face doused in acid by him and his friends. Instead of letting that incident pull her down, Qureshi has become a strong voice for acid attack victims in India.

Leone, the first Bollywood actress to ever walk the ramp at NYFW, looked resplendent in an ivory gown with multi-colored thread and mirror work.

“Archana is my favorite Indian designer. She is someone who inspires me as a woman. She has a strong will and goes after what she wants, and she is here at New York and has done a spectacular job. Very few Indian designers have reached New York Fashion Week, but she has,” Leone said immediately after the show.

“A Tale of Two Travels” was inspired by Kochhar’s travels to the Taj Mahal and the village of the Banjara tribe. Depicting a dreamy vision, the collection is an exclusive range of colorful, intricate digital prints depicting the vibrant symbolic motifs of the Taj Mahal, the beautiful lotus flower and the mighty royal elephants, balanced with geometric motifs.

“I am very grateful to Sunny, who’s a dear friend, and I think she looks stunning in whatever she wears. Also I am very honored to have Reshma Qureshi walking the ramp and showcasing different facets of beauty to the world,” Kochhar said.

“Beauty should not be affirmed by a certain height, color or size; it is beyond that. It should be an all-inclusive concept. We need such acceptance in society, and I think such endeavors of mine will increase sensitivity towards this concept in our society,” the designer added.

Her new line is a foci of contemporary silhouettes fused with a glimpse of Indian conventional cuts to bring forward the concept of East meets West. The silhouettes are comprised of cold shoulder crop tops, caplets, flared bellbottoms, flared skirts, pencil skirts, high waist shorts, paper bag skirts, dhoti pants, structured gowns, key hole gowns, flowy drapes and jumpsuits.

— With input from PTI

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