The ethnic shift

The ethnic shift

Breaking barriers

The ethnic shift

Gone are the days when snide comments like ‘Oh, you like to wear salwars?’ or ‘Is that a Ganesha image I see on your bag?’ would incessantly beat down on a person, until they threw away any sign of their ethnicity, in exchange for the elegance of the Pradas and Louboutins of the world. Now, designs inspired by India are free to roam the market, without having to worry about any bullies. Whether it’s apparel, wallpapers, accessories or home decor, they all bear a distinct mark of the country but have taken on a different avatar that is likely to appeal to everyone.

Shwetha Narayanan, founder of ‘Urban Kala’, a start-up that deals exclusively with ‘desi’ designs, says that it is all about fusions. “There is more of an awareness these days. Traditional designs are given a chance because they are fused with contemporary looks. Whether it is earrings, pendants, handbags or home decor, they can be matched even with Western looks.” Amey, founder of ‘Urban Desi’, is of the same opinion; he says that accessories or clothes make up just a part of the whole outfit, and ‘desi’ designs can go with either Indian or Western outfits.

It was a tough decision for Shwetha to turn ‘Urban Kala’ into an all-out ‘desi’ store. But she’s happy with her choice and adds, “As a designer, I aim to break such barriers. It’s all about how you package it.” She recently came out with earrings designed like bharathanatyam and kathakali dancers, Durga and Ganesha, and these were a hit with her customers.

      “Within two hours of posting my designs online, I had seven orders! I even make bottle lamps with Shiva, Buddha and Durga painted on them, which are also popular.” Amey and his wife, who is the designer of the venture, say that products with Indian monuments and landmarks on them sell the fastest. They make handbags, totes, slings, clutches, wallets, tissue holders, coasters, stoles and more, all with contemporary ethnic designs.

Initially, Maitri Vasudev, a student of St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, used to hesitate to wear ethnic designs, but now she can’t get enough of it. “I realised they look good on me. And they are different. Although now it is common to wear quirky ethnic clothes, they stood out earlier. So, instead of tops from the US, which are usually stretchable and show my paunch because they are figure-hugging, I buy cotton tops that are simple but elegant. I’m not a fan of bright colours so stores like Fab India and Mother Earth are my favourites as they have many blues, blacks and whites.” And instead of a keychain of the Statue of Liberty, she has one from ‘Chumbak’. “I have spaghetti tops, tube tops and more, with ethnic designs on them. Basically, they are comfortable and stylish!” she says.

But not everyone is partial to such designs, “It’s usually people between the ages of 25 to 45 who like these products. Teenagers are more inclined towards Western outfits and accessories as they have a limited budget and mass-produced goods from China, Bangladesh and Hong Kong work out cheaper for them,” says Amey.

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