This all-inclusive pret line shuns bias of any sort
Wearable. Affordable. Attractive. This was the approach that artist Ji Jo Kuriakose and designer Ajmal S. took when creating fashion wear label Era, which was launched recently. The other aspect was “we identify as gay and wanted to include the LGBT community and represent diversity,” says Ji Jo, founder of Queerala, an LGBTQ organisation in Kerala.
Both Ji Jo and Ajmal, who has 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and has worked with online boutiques, found the unhurried days of the pandemics a good time to ideate. Ajmal was also yearning to make the transition from ideas to commercial ventures. “Like most others, we were looking to generate an alternate source of income,” he says.
Represents Pluralism in society
The duo came up with a pret line suitable for a diverse group of people and roped in models to represent their pluralism. “Our 15 models, including Ajmal and I, represent diversity and we hope that opportunities in modelling and fashion in Kerala will become more inclusive,” says Ji Jo.
Induja Prakash, a plus-size model who ran a home-stay in Manali before the pandemic forced her to relocate to her home state of Kerala, is thrilled that the fashion line talks about body shaming and social stigma. Wearing the label, to her, means actively condoning the bias. “The zero-size model concept that is encouraged is unhealthy and is the main reason behind body shaming. Modelling is about confidence and should not be about one’s colour or body,” she says, pleased that the photo shoot is a positive action where fashion categorically condemns inequality and social prejudice.
Theatre artiste Younas Mariyam from Malappuram was surprised to be asked to wear a dungaree during the photo shoot. “It was fun. I loved the design and the fabric,” says Younas adding that trans men and women are always assessed critically for their dressing. He is overwhelmed by the compliments he got; the most precious being from his “orthodox family”.
The line also has a local touch as the duo sourced much of the fabric from local vendors and garment manufacturing units and networked with tailors and tailoring units. Once the ensemble was ready, the photoshoot took place at a resort in Kumarakom. These images form their catalogue, which is posted on their Insta handle. All transactions — from orders to delivery — are done online.
Ji Jo and Ajmal approached their designs with a practical eye. “We consciously chose to keep away from extreme fashion,” says Ji Jo. “We do bespoke clothing as well as the templates in our catalogue,” says Ajmal. For the photoshoot Ji Jo explains that models choose their garment like Advocate Maya Krishnan wished to wear a sari while Advocate Ferha Azeez chose to wear a gown. The response, says Ji Jo, is slow and good. Customisation decides the price, he says, adding, that “as of now, we have made outfits in general reference sizes.” He recalls a client from Bangalore who wanted a kurta that he had modelled but wanted it embroidered.
By conflating fashion with a social cause, the two hope they can design customised clothing for a varied group of people. “We are looking ahead at the New Year. Our label will usher in a more inclusive thinking,” says Ji Jo
ERA fashion line is retailed through their Instagram handle Eraforall