This Indian merchandise brand lets you wear your cause close to your heart
What does it mean to be Indian? For the team at Motherland, being Indian is the energy and spirit signified by its pop culture.
The Delhi-based brand publishes digital magazines and manufactures merchandise with sub-culture themes, which offer “the right balance of style, quality, and affordability”.
In a conversation with YS Weekender, V Sunil, Co-founder, Motherland Joint Ventures, says, “We wanted to create a brand that allows us to express our affinity and love for our Indian DNA while looking and feeling good about ourselves. It’s about flying the flag in style.”
V Sunil, Co-founder, Motherland Joint Ventures
The brand’s merchandise focuses on patriotism and social awareness. Some of its patrons include authors, lawyers, chefs, celebrities, comics, and sporting icons like Mixed Martial Arts fighters Asha Roka and Seth Rosario, and young rally drivers of India’s growing Motocross teams.
Celebrities, including Aditi Rao Hydari, Milind Soman, Neha Dhupia, Ujjwala Raut, and Dolly Singh have also been spotted in Motherland merchandise.
“At Wieden+Kennedy India in 2011, we launched the Motherland magazine. With each issue centred around a theme, the magazine shares a fresh perspective on Indian sub-culture, counter-culture, and pop culture,” shares Sunil.
In 2019, the brand evolved this concept into a pop-culture platform called Motherland Superstore, featuring urban necessities, lifestyle accessories, emerging artists, and of course, the magazine.
The brand retails modern, India-inspired gear — including unisex T-shirts with remixed national and regional motifs, tri-coloured totes, badges, super snacks (banana and tapioca chips), and stationery — priced between Rs 100 and Rs 1,950. It also offers shoppers collectables in limited editions.
In the last two years, its e-tail merchandise website has attracted over 500,000 unique visitors and delivered orders to over 2,000 cities globally.
In its second year, the business claims to have recorded a 400 percent growth owing to demographic trends and the ready adoption of online shopping across the board. Motherland’s 11-member team is based out of New Delhi, yet the majority of its audience is abroad.
Sunil ascribes the brand’s international popularity to the mass appeal of certain themes like the ‘voter’ T-shirts, which are appreciated by the global audience.
“We envisioned the repackaging and re-introduction of ideas and thoughts from our collective history to the world in a contemporary way, especially to the youth of our nation. We are lucky to have many influencers and celebrities who have helped us expand our reach organically,” shares Sunil.
Most of Motherland’s collection is inspired by historic moments in Indian history such as the White Tiger T-shirts or the popular ‘6 Kumaon’ polo shirts dedicated to the Infantry unit that bravely fought the Battle of Walong in November 1962.
The profits from this collection goes to the 6 Kumaon Battalion Welfare Fund, which supports families of unit members who died in active service. The shirt has also been issued to serving members of the regiment.
Other collections, which endorses timely causes and captures moments of transition in social history — include the ‘Dark & Lovely’ campaign against the practice of colourism and the self-explanatory ‘RIP Patriarchy’.
“While some ideas just fit on a T, some others like ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,’ can be spread across mediums. To promote this collection, we collaborated with a Delhi-based hip-hop duo Khirkee 17 to create a song and a music video. These associations increase the reach of our message,” Sunil shares.
Besides this, Motherland has also tied up with the artisan community through the Kanhirode Weavers Society in Kannur district, Kerala, which provides sustained employment and reasonable wages to workers, improving their economic conditions.
In 2020, the brand launched a collection of masks made with the Madras check print and partnered with the Robin Hood Army — a zero-funds organisation working towards beating global hunger — to deliver these masks. In fact, it donates one mask for each item sold.
Sunil says: “The Motherland magazine is a theme-based journal of thoughts, ideas, and unique narratives on Indian themes and issues, providing a fresh perspective on contemporary Indian culture. The degradation of the Yamuna river was a cause that spoke to us strongly. And so, when the team behind the Yamuna Research Project reached out to us, we were delighted to present our take on it."
The road ahead
At present, the team is working on a few collections focused on specific regions of India and the upcoming Indian Independence Day.
Besides its website and social media platforms, Motherland merchandise is available on-ground through stockists, including Chaayos, Asapasa by Anaita Adajania, Amethyst, Lodhi Sports in Delhi, and Royal Blue in Jodhpur.
In fact, Motherland is in talks with several international stockists in countries with a large Indian diaspora, which will entail further expansion of the brand. However, its main focus is to continue to invest in e-tail as the potential, reach, and growth opportunities are sizeable.