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Sujata Assomull

Sujata Assomull is a prominent figure in the fashion industry, serving as the Founding Editor of Harper’s Bazaar India and a Contributing Editor to Vogue Business. Her dynamic career encompasses journalism, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. 

With a keen eye for style and a passion for storytelling, she has been instrumental in moulding the narrative of India's fashion scene while actively advocating for positive transformations within the industry. 

We caught up with Sujata recently and got her perspective on navigating the fashion industry's age biases, her fearless advocacy for women in their prime, and her mission to redefine the conversation around ageing.


Q: Sujata, your focus on writing and speaking about perceptions of age and the influence of language and behaviour on this topic is evident. What motivates your passion for this subject? 

Over the last few years, as I approached 50, I began to realise I work in an industry that is very unforgiving when it comes to ageing. Fashion seeks the new, and often discards the old. While fashion has championed LGBTQIA+ rights, and also encouraged conversations on diversity and inclusion, it stereotypes and prejudices age. While this is an industry that is spurred by women, it never talks about perimenopause, menopause, and other topics around mid-lifing. As a journalist, I have always taken on important yet suppressed topics. Representation has always been something I have believed in, perhaps because I grew up as a brown girl in London, and some of the schools I attended made me feel like the outsider, and made me feel that I did not belong. As I turned 50 in fashion, some of the feelings echoed, but this time I was not going to be quiet about it. 

Q: You are trailblazing your way through your 50th year (or “Prime Time”, as you like to call it), openly and generously sharing your experiences. It seems like you are looking to reinvent this phase of a woman's life and dismantle the stigmas associated with it. Is that correct and if so, why? 

Because it's important that this phase of life is one we live to the fullest. It is when we are at our most confident, and this is something women should embrace. Women, more than men, are made to feel that without their youth, they have no worth – but look at women in their 50s and even their 60s today, such as Salma Hayek, Michelle Obama, and Queen Rania of Jordan. These are women of style, substance, and sass. What's interesting is that most of them are also women of colour. This struck me last year around the time 61-year-old Michelle Yeoh won her Oscar. During that landmark moment, she said, 'Don't let anybody tell you are ever past your prime,' and so my series Prime Time was born! It is a fashion girl's take on mid-life but also looks at the trials and tribulations that turning 50 brings while always being pro-age. 

Q: Can you explain what “pro-ageing” means, and why “anti-ageing” as a term is so problematic for you? 

Pro-age is about accepting the fact that we will age. It's about looking at aging as a natural and positive process. Ageing is a privilege, think of those who do not get to age!.  

It also means it's about your choice to age as you want. If you want to go grey, then great; if you want some help from injectables, that's great too. It's about not judging — I mean, you should have learned that by the time you are 50. But also, it's about others (no matter what their age is) not judging you.  

Anti-ageing is an oxymoron to me. I mean, if you're against ageing, that sort of implies you are pro-death! It's a term concocted by the beauty industry to instil a feeling in us that ageing is all a loss — a loss of beauty, of essence, and of being yourself. It's an offensive term, and in these days of wokeness, it's surprising that more people have not woken up to this (pun not intended). I mean, we all want to look good and be the best version of ourselves, so of course, I am not against taking care of yourself and beauty rituals to be the best version of yourself. However, to change the narrative around age, the first thing we must do is stop using the term anti-ageing. 

Q: You’ve been very honest about your menopause journey and your decision to take HRT, why did you decide to be so vocal about this, among other things? 

I had a very tough year at 49; I was going through a challenging time emotionally, and what I did realise is that many of the negative feelings were brought on by menopause. I had been through multiple IVF attempts and had a very late miscarriage in my late 30s, and at that time, talking about such issues was considered taboo. I think if I had been more open about my journey, not only would I have benefited from it, but others would have, too. I found Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was a game-changer for me and wanted to share this. Menopause does not have to be something you suffer through. There is relief available, and there is no shame in taking it. Of course, all of this has to be done under medical supervision. 

Q: The pressure put on women to maintain a perpetual and acceptable state of youth is often linked to abstaining from certain things - maintaining weight, tweakments, etc., leaving little room for any kind of carefree indulgence. What does indulgence mean to you today? 

Indulgence means taking time for things that bring me joy (while also avoiding adverse repercussions on my health) — a day at the beach, a good blow-dry, fresh flowers. These small things matter. And, of course, eating; I love my food. Due to the fact that I suffer from an autoimmune condition, I do keep it clean (no refined sugar, no dairy, no gluten). But who says clean food can't be yummy? Of course, I do cheat once in a while!  

Q: The Prodigy tagline is “Chocolate, only better” and the better bit is really about how we can use chocolate to heal different breakpoints in the food industry and beyond. If you could heal one thing on this planet, what would it be and why? 

I think right now I want to heal all the conflicts going on in the world. We need peace and kindness right now.