Vivek Shraya Is a Canadian Professor, Artist and the Author of The Subtweet
How a bit of courage helped a once-adventurous dresser get her groove back.
“I feel like a ghost,” laughs Vivek Shraya, musician, artist, writer and assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s department of English. She’s attempting a series of artful poses as part of our FASHION photo shoot, her hands gently rising and falling as her eyes open and close.
While she may feel that she resembles a spectre, Shraya’s presence in the zeitgeist is definitely tangible. The Edmonton-born multi-hyphenate appeared in a M.A.C Cosmetics campaign last year, and her second novel, The Subtweet, hits shelves today.
Shraya’s cultural contributions often relate to her journey as a trans person—a journey that has been influenced by the exclusion within, and lack of comfort afforded by, traditional fashion frameworks. For example, she prefers online shopping because, she says, “it means I don’t have to go into a store. Even brands that are androgynous or gender-neutral in aesthetic still divide their stores into men’s and women’s sections.”
A more positive contribution to Shraya’s evolving relationship with personal style has been the ability to work with designer Mic. Carter of the brand L’Uomo Strano. She describes it as a privilege, acknowledging the budgetary and time allowances needed for custom clothing. “We’ve been collaborating for four or five years,” she says. Their union was instrumental to the storytelling aspect of Shraya’s single “Girl It’s Your Time.” “I approached him about designing something because I came out with the song and really wanted to have a feel to it in terms of the visual,” she says.
The result was a “short, frilly frock,” as Shraya describes it—something she would likely never have thought of wearing when she was in her 20s. “I see myself as someone who was stylistically adventurous in my teens, and I have reclaimed that in my 30s,” she explains, recalling how she told herself when she turned the big 3-0, “If you don’t wear shorts now, you never will.” She fondly remembers when her sartorial inclinations were freer. “I [once] showed up at a friend’s house with a giant wool scarf woven through my belt loops,” she says of her teenage self. “They laughed.”
“You have to allow yourself to make fashion faux pas—to take those risks—to actually figure out what works and what doesn’t”
Such ambitious early moments remain with Shraya as part of her philosophy on style. “You have to allow yourself to make fashion faux pas—to take those risks—to actually figure out what works and what doesn’t,” she says, adding, “What seems like a faux pas now might be considered avant-garde in a few years.”
In addition to having this courageous outlook on dressing, Shraya has drawn inspiration from a pillar of style very close to home. “My mom is my number one style icon,” she says. “As a kid, I looked up to her so much; she had this contemporary Bollywood aesthetic—a glamour and a regalness—to her.” From the way Shraya moves elegantly in a yellow Greta Constantine dress on the FASHION set, it’s clear that the generational lessons on grandeur were well received.