This Diwali, go ‘vocal for local’ with apparel and accessories from these women-led startups

For the festive season, HerStory presents a list of four homegrown apparel brands that tell stories of tradition and culture, empowering indigenous weavers and artisans in the process.
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With Diwali around the corner and Christmas a month away, the season of festivals is here. While celebrations may be a bit tepid due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not too many parties around because of social distancing, it’s important to keep the festive spirit alive. What better way to celebrate festivals than opting for home-grown brands and going with the government’s vision of “Vocal for Local”.

In the process, also spare a thought for a large number of local designers and artisans all over the country by buying their creations and doing your bit to help them.

This festive season, we present to you five ethnic clothing and accessories brands from women-led startups that you can nurture with your support.

Pooja Rajput’s Chidiyaa

Pooja Rajput loved visiting bazaars, dastakars, and small villages to explore the root of traditional handicrafts and techniques. This interest paved the way for her to start Chidiyaa, an apparel brand that offers a range of sarees, blouses, kurtas as well as menswear.

In an interview with HerStory, she said,

“Traditional is beautiful, and I have always preferred the understated, less-is-more look with a unique design language. This is the driving force behind Chidiyaa as well.”

The brand uses age-old techniques but gives them a contemporary twist by playing with colours, silhouettes, weaves, and prints.

Presently, Chidiyaa retails through an independent, online platform www.chidiyaa.com.

Manika and Arunisha Sengupta, Choli Boli

Manika and Arunisha Sengupta - Choli Boli

Mother-daughter duo Manika and Arunisha Sengupta are the founders of Choli Boli, a brand that designs aesthetic and “different” saree blouses that narrates an interesting story about the upper garment worn with the saree.

The cholis come in a range of collections - Swadeshi, Corporate, Happiness, Chai Collection, Hollywood Diva, and Sufi. Hand-embroidered, patch and applique-worked, some cholis have famous verses of poetry embroidered on them.

The entrepreneurs wanted to change the perception the saree is worn only during celebrations and festivals by urban millennials by designing some quirky and funky blouses.

The startup employs migrant workers who have tailoring skills, reaching out to them in closeted communities across Mumbai and providing them employment.

Janessaline Pyngrope and Daniel Syiem’s Ethnic Fashion House (DSEFH)

To popularise and take Ryndia, a rare silk fabric from Meghalaya to the world, Janessaline Pyngrope and Daniel Syiem started the hill station’s first fashion house, Daniel Syiem’s Ethnic Fashion House (DSEFH), in September 2011.

The duo works with 25 spinners and weavers at a women weaver’s co-operative in the state. Daniel uses the traditional fabric to design contemporary weaves. Priced between Rs 1,800 and Rs 50,000, the fashion house specialises in Indo-western fusion designs that feature white to earthen colours and uses vegetable dyes. 

In the fashion house’s designs, the fabric is the star. It stands apart for its subtle shades and minimal embellishments of motifs and embroidery.

Tanvi Bikhchandani and Charanya Shekar, Tamarind Chutney

Friends from nursery school, Tanvi Bikhchandani and Charanya Shekhar decided to start Tamarind Chutney, an ethnic clothing brand, after the former completed her studies at Stanford, and the latter from NIFT.

It was prompted by Tanvi’s observation that many Western dresses were being made with Indian fabrics like ikat and sold at high prices. Realising that it was not a fair supply chain, the two friends decided to do something about it.

In 2019, they sourced fabric from small and medium-sized artisan communities to launch their first collection with ajrakh and handwoven fabric from Kutch and Uttar Pradesh.

The line comprised of tops and dresses in around 10-11 styles. Over the past year, they have expanded to include Maheshwari and Chanderi silk artisans, and Bengali weavers as well. Most recently, they have added Sanganer block printing from Rajasthan to their lineup.

The products are sold on its own website, www.tamarindchutney.in, and also listed on other sites like LBB. Prices begin at Rs 650 and goes up to Rs 3,500. The range includes tops, dresses, masks, hairbands, sarees, pants, and men’s apparel. Their aim is to partner with 7,000 artisans in the next five years.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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