For tee lovers and tee-totallers

For tee lovers and tee-totallers

Sheikha Mattar, a Singaporean, and Noelline Bessson, an Indian settled in France, are constantly buzzing with ideas on how to give their business venture a boost. Together, they have launched a range of t-shirts that has been inspired by India’s very own masala chai. The range is called ‘Masala Tee’.

The two met in Delhi in August 2008 while volunteering at an orphanage. They instantly hit it off, given that they both came from similar backgrounds. And thus was born a brand new company. Brand ‘Masala Tee’ was launched in 2009.
Sheikha has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences and Journalism from the National University of Singapore. She worked for 14 years in advertising and marketing in Singapore, Malaysia, Paris and India, and followed this up as a freelance writer for lifestyle magazines and ad agencies in Shanghai, China.

Noelline, with a Bachelor’s in Arts from one of the top design institutions in Paris, has worked as a freelance designer for many projects in France and India over the last 10 years.

So, how did the tee-shop come about?
Having left their comfort zones behind, the two landed in India hoping for a different experience. As soon as they arrived, they quickly discovered that every aspect of India, be it the movies, the cuisine or even the ‘chai’ had the masala factor in it.
“From masala movies to chana masala, everything has a dash of spice. We were inspired to start a venture called Masala Wallah, and we named our brand Masala Tee,” says Noelline.

“We brewed, spiced and sweetened our brand to perfection. We have now officially set up our very own Indie tee company,” adds Sheikha with a chuckle.
Made from 100 per cent organic cotton, their ‘Green Tees’ are dyed and printed using AZO-free ink. They have a  funky collection for those who swear by casual comfort. While some of the women’s t-shirts are embellished with Swarovski crystals, the men’s range comes with a touch of classy embroidery.

Piping hot or icy cool
Sheikha and Noelline have gone the extra mile to ensure that the packaging too is reflective of their philosophy. Clothes for adults are packed in oversized masala tea bags and the kids collection is packed in interesting silver-coloured masala tea pouches.
“Currently, we have three ‘brews’ under the Masala Tee umbrella:  Masala Tee Jewel (Women), Masala Tee Urban (Men) and Masala Tee Sugar Cubes (Children),” points out Noelline. According to Sheikha, the name ‘Masala T-Urban’ is a spin on another Indo-centric idea. As turbans are very Indian, it was enough reason for them to play on the  words T-Urban, she says.

‘Masala Tee’ merchandise is available at high-end boutiques, five-star hotels in India, France, Singapore, Dubai and Mauritius. Plans are in the pipeline for an e-commerce site for online orders.

When it comes to working out the details of the business, the challenges are huge, say the girls. “When we work with third parties in production, we have to ensure that timelines are respected, and strict quality control is implemented. That can be taxing,” says Noelline.

Both women are married to French men and they “get along like a French house on Indian fire!” says Sheikha. They rarely disagree on work as the two have clearly defined roles which they perform with uncompromising conviction.

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