Dubai: A Dubai student has shared how he is giving back to the community with an adaptive fashion line designed for the People of Determination.
Soham Bahadur, a senior in his final year at GEMS Dubai American Academy, has not just hit the runway with his fashion brand VirLauTus.
He has published a research paper on the topic, secured trademark registration for his brand name and logo with the UAE Ministry of Economy and processed 140 pieces for sale, with the intention to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Al Noor Centre for People of Determination.
I am originally from India, but I was born in Dubai. My diverse upbringing includes living in India, Malaysia, the USA, and France.
With his father, Rasik Bahadur, being a “typical STEM engineer,” and his mother, Smita Bahadur, having a professional background in HR, Bahadur attributes his growing interest in fashion to his five-year stay in Paris, the fashion capital.
“I am originally from India, but I was born in Dubai. My diverse upbringing includes living in India, Malaysia, the USA, and France,” the 17-year-old told Gulf News as he shared the story of how he has been channelling his passion for fashion into the creation of a socially committed brand.
Bahadur said he later realised that his love for fashion initially was only a materialistic liking for the luxury world.
“Later on, I also recognised a gap in the market for inclusive and adaptive fashion. When I returned to Dubai, it developed into a need for change and social cause.”
Bahadur learnt about the term People of Determination (PoD) for the first time when he came back to Dubai and was impressed by the UAE’s progress and tolerance toward the community; something he said he had not seen before throughout his six moves across three continents.
“I wanted to design fashion that empowers the wearer – and sees addressing a social cause while doing so as humbling, insightful, and fulfilling. I felt that the UAE was the perfect location to support the mission of accessibility, and so I began designing with a social cause in mind.”
Having done extensive research on the topic and had his research paper published in the SSRG (Seventh Sense Research Group) International Journal of Communication and Media Science, Bahadur discovered that People of Determination remain underserved when it comes to customised clothing options for their individual needs.
He realised that awareness of adaptive fashion is negligible and that the fashion industry needs to change this fast. To address this, he launched VirLauTus when he was only 16.
How is it different?
VirLauTus comprises seven adaptive and transformable garments designed for People of Determination with comfort and chicness in mind. The name itself reflects this: a combination of the Latin words “virtus” for strength and “lautus” for style.
Through the brand, Bahadur hopes to raise awareness of adaptive fashion and demonstrate how powerful a tool it is for self-expression and inclusivity.
“I’ve designed VirLauTus outfits to include features that make fashion for People of Determination easier. This is achieved by incorporating elements like Velcro closures, accommodating to those with limited dexterity or motor skills. I’ve also introduced detachable sleeves, striking a balance between functionality and fashion.”
He said the versatility of these garments addresses multiple needs, offering comfort to individuals whether seated or standing. “The garments, designed to be transformable and multifunctional, encourage a culture of multi-use of an item. Additionally, the designs are lightweight and breathable, perfectly suited to the climate in the UAE and wider GCC region.”
After many months of pursuing different centres for People of Determination in Dubai and with guidance and support from his teachers at school, Soham got the opportunity to showcase his collection at an event organised by FAME.
Along with five well-established designers, the youngest and rookie designer Soham successfully presented VirLauTus to an audience of more than 500 people.
“The FAME Fashion Runway of Dreams 2023 show featured both People of Determination and professional models. While my designs are specifically created with People of Determination in mind, they seamlessly align with current fashion trends, making them suitable for everyone.”
Bahadur said he is grateful for the support he has received from his family and the school community.
“My family, including my younger brother Medhansh, has been completely motivated to support my endeavour and raise awareness for this cause. My school was also supportive in spreading the word about VirLauTus through social media and newsletters and quite a few of my teachers were present at the FAME fashion show back in June last year.”
Bahadur now plans to liquidate his current inventory and raise proceeds for Al Noor Centre.
Pricing of his clothing line ranges from Dh70 to Dh270, positioning it as an affordable option. Purchases can be made through the website’s Google Form and via the link on the Instagram page. “I am also exploring in-person exhibitions and pop-ups, especially at events or activities where People of Determination will be present,” he said.
He has also just been accepted to study business at The Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school in the US.
“As I embark on my journey to UPenn in the USA, I aim to draw inspiration from initiatives like Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, while exploring how VirTauLus can expand globally or how I can work with other brands to drive a move to adaptive and accessible clothing," he said.
"Studying business, I am determined to learn more about scaling VirTauLus sustainably. VirTauLus currently offers womenswear. I envision expanding the collection by incorporating adaptive elements into menswear and children’s fashion. I want to use my brand as a powerful tool for inclusivity and self-expression, championing a future where fashion is truly accessible to everyone,” he added.