Beating 90 entries, Mrs India UK - Kalpana Shukla was not only awarded as the first runner-up for the title but the best national costume title at the Mrs Universe 2023 International Beauty contest also brought Goan designer Melvyn Noronha back in the limelight on an international stage. Back in Goa, Siolim-based Melvyn is excited about the win and yet has no time to celebrate as he will be off to Mumbai in a few days for the next leg of national pageants.
Interestingly, this is Melvyn’s third win for the United Kingdom. The first win was a record for the country when Miss Teen Continents 2016 Anjali Sinha from London wore the national costume designed by Goan designers Melvyn Noronha and Devashish Majumdar. It was the first time in the 65 years of pageant history that the United Kingdom had won the Best National costume internationally. The second win for UK came through Miss England - Luissa Burton at Miss Earth 2016 and now the title of National Costume winner for Mrs India UK in 2023 has brought a smile on Melvyn’s face. Winning the first runner-up title was also the highest placed position for UK in the competition ever.
Speaking about how beauty pageants are getting more inclusive and are no longer restricted to countries, Melvyn explains, “Beauty pageants are now also representing different communities, so in this Mrs Universe 2023 International Beauty contest too, there were three participants with roots to India, Mrs India, Mrs India UK and Mrs India USA. There is an active participation in the pageants but many participants who have roots in different countries were earlier restricted from participating in the pageants. Now, pageantry is become more inclusive and they are changing according to the times.”
For the winning costume at the pageant, Melvyn worked for two months on this gown which celebrated the first year anniversary of Rishi Sunak becoming the first Indian and Asian origin British Prime Minister. Themed as the ‘Monumental Magnificence through the Third (London) Eye’, the costume used red, blue and gold colours. “Using two colours of the British flag and gold, in parallel reference to red for love and the blood shed by Indian ancestors for humanitarian liberation; navy blue for the Indian national chakra representing constant movement and progress; and gold to represent the glorious contributions of Indians to the world. The national costume is a nod to the fact that behind many greatest successes of the world, there stands the brain and brawn of an Indian,” he elaborated.
To design the costume is not an easy task. “A single costume equals to 20 gowns when it comes to technique and the research that goes into it to get the history and culture of the country on the gown,” says Melvyn, who works with two units, one in Goa and one in Delhi with a total strength of 12 team members. The costume was also lost twice enroute to Philippines, once from Paris to India and the second time from India to Philippines. “I was lucky that Singapore Airline immediately recovered the bag and returned it just in time for the pageant. However, the bag lost in France, was returned in Goa after the pageant,” says Melvyn.
The costume also features the St Paul’s Cathedral and the Akshardham Temple, quotes from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Biblical verse Colossians 1:9-17, which was read by Rishi Sunak at King Charles III royal coronation aligned with the theme of the royal liturgy, “Called to Serve”.
The fabrics of the costume combine western royal velvets with Indian silks and cotton and hold techniques of Indian lace and lattice work with metal embroidery. “The Red telephone box, symbolises connection; the Tower Bridge represents the bridging towards a humanitarian future, the London Eye is a representation of the circle of life, the Big Ben represents the time. And finally, the costume has a waving Rishi Sunak, as the costume turns around, to greet the future of a United Kingdom, a United Bharat and an India United with the World through the love of the Universe,” adds Melvyn, who is the first Indian to judge Miss Brazil.
Melvyn conducts sessions on ramp walk and communication skills for the world of pageantry and understands how to make the participants comfortable in their costumes which helps them exude confidence. “Since I train participants in cat walk, I first do the photo shoot in the costume. This helps the participants to be comfortable before she goes to the pageant. This is a practice to understand the different elements of the costume. Working closely with Kalpana, I have really admired her as an excellent mother. No matter where she is, she always travels with her sons. She give them the utmost attention while also focusing on her professional career in entertainment and modelling,” says Melvyn.
Melvyn enjoys the entire process of designing. He has been designing for international pageants for over nine years and gives full credit to God for keeping him in the Top 10 designers in the world. “When I first start my project, I speak to the participant to understand what they are looking for. I dedicate a Mass and say prayers for them and then start designing. This is my unique element as I trust God and have faith which gives direction for this artistry. There is new talent every day and so much of pressure and expectations. But I have faith in God,” says Melvyn.