He ruled the ramp for a decade and the fashion fraternity is yet to discover his replacement but few know that before taking the designer world by storm, Milind Soman lived in a pool.
“Well almost! I used to spend five to six hours every day swimming. There was a swimming pool next to my house in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park. As my parents had spent considerable time abroad they were keen on their son imbibing a sports culture,” Milind reminisces.
Within a year, he had represented Maharashtra in the National Swimming Championship. “I represented the State for 13 years on the trot and was the national champion for five consecutive years (1984-1988) in the breast stroke category.” Didn’t he aspire to represent the country in the international arena? “I did and my timings met the qualification mark but unfortunately the national federation opted not to send anybody in my category. Otherwise, I could have represented the country in the 1986 Asian Games.”
As the years went by, Milind says, he became unsuitable for sprints. “At 23, you are not supposed to compete in sprints and I didn’t want to go for long distance swimming. Meanwhile, modelling offers started coming in and swimming needs regular practice and you can’t take a pool everywhere.”
He still retains his passion for the sport but has moved on to long distance running. “I am participating in half marathons for quite some time. Now I am preparing for participating in full marathon next year.” He says running 42 km is not a problem, it is just the timing that he has to improve on.
In an effort to promote sports culture in the country, Milind is starting a health club, Breathe, in Delhi. “Boys generally join a health club for body building, which should not be the criterion. It should be fitness, both mental and physical. I want to inculcate this in young minds. India has yet to change in terms of sporting culture. It is just that more parents are now open to send their kids for cricket because it ensures a decent job.”
Having spent so many years in the company of fashion designers, Milind is now using his knowledge for the growth of endangered and little known crafts and textiles of the country. “I have launched a company, M, along with designer Madhu Jain. We are trying to work out a sustainable model for little known textiles and crafts. Every year we select one, try to make it economically viable and then move to the next.” He has already successfully worked on bamboo and jute. “The outfits made of bamboo are as fashionable and functional as any other fabric. The advantage is bamboo can be grown anywhere and suits our climate.”
This column features little known aspects of well known personalities.