Vogue: Meet Madame Gandhi, the Activist Musician With Bold Monochromatic Style

By Rachel Hahn for Vogue

Photo: Carolina Sanchez / Courtesy of Madame Gandhi

Kiran Gandhi has never been afraid to make a bold statement. The musician first garnered international attention in 2015 when she ran the London Marathon while free-bleeding—taking a radically public stance against the stigmatization of menstruation—but she’s been steadily challenging gender norms for years. From her tenure as M.I.A.’s drummer (a talent she originally pursued in part because it was so stereotypically male) to her Harvard M.B.A. to her recent appearance in the Amazon series I Love Dick (an adaptation of Chris Kraus’s iconic postmodern feminist novel of the same name), the New York– and Bombay-bred Angeleno has consistently sought to empower women through her actions and words. Her debut solo EP, Voices, which she released under the name Madame Gandhi late last year and describes as “electrofeminist,” serves as a fine introduction to both her beats and her ideology. As she declares in a spoken-word breakdown on album closer “The Future Is Female”: “I want to live in a world that is collaborative/A world that is emotionally intelligent/A world in which we are linked and not ranked!”

This message of unity also extends to her onstage performance looks, which were on full display last weekend during Gandhi’s spirited set at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Flanked by an all-female band wearing monochromatic jumpsuits in Gandhi’s “power color,” bright yellow—a shade that Gandhi says she grew up around, due to the fact that her first name means “ray of sunlight in the morning” in Hindi—Gandhi wore a similarly bold orange waffled two-piece tracksuit with gold-accented sunglasses. This coordination stems from her stated goal of “showing female solidarity onstage” to fully embody “the world I wish we lived in,” and her choice to wear comfortable tracksuits is grounded in the radical notion that women should prioritize their “own comfort over the comfort of somebody else’s eyes,” she explains. “Women have already long been socialized to prioritize their looks for the consumption of others over their comfort.”

Photo: Robert Adam Mayer / Courtesy of Madame Gandhi

Gandhi may favor clothes that allow her to run around onstage and perform at her peak ability, but she also cites the influence of her mother, Meera Gandhi, a prominent philanthropist who once worked for Mother Teresa—the type of person who would “literally put on a beautiful coat over her pajamas” for school drop-offs, says Kiran, somehow always striking the perfect balance of “high fashion with comfort and with day-to-day living.”

Like her mother, Gandhi also likes to add some colorful flair to her wardrobe. Obsessed with matching since she was a child, she tries to coordinate as many elements of her color-blocked outfits as possible, wearing garments in bright shades, beautiful patterns, or just “really unique pieces of clothing that I’ve accumulated during my travels.” When she’s on the road, she actively seeks out items made, designed, and sold by women “because so much of my work is about celebrating and elevating women,” she explains. “I want my clothing to be made by people who share a similar walk of life to me.” And while she may take her feminist principles seriously, she also recognizes fashion’s power to uplift and inspire. “One of the happiest moments of my day, every single day, is taking the time to pick out my clothing for the day,” she says. “It’s actually so ritualistic.”