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WEARING YOUR CAUSE WITH PRIDE

Motherland aims at spreading socially relevant messages and allowing the youth to express themselves through its merchandise and branding, especially by harnessing the popularity of T-shirts.

Noor Anand Chawla

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Wearing our patriotic pride on our sleeves is not a new concept, but the social media generation of today prefers taking it to another level. Nothing defines this need for avid self-expression than indie casual wear brand Motherland. V Sunil, co-founder of the fashion label, spoke exclusively to The Sunday Guardian about the phenomenal rise of Motherland, in a short span of time. Excerpts:

Co-founder V Sunil

Q: What is the story of Motherland? How did it come about? When did it begin?

A: Back in 2011, we launched the Motherland magazine that offered a fresh perspective on Indian subculture, counter culture and pop culture. In 2019, its phenomenal success made it evolve into a pop culture platform for urban necessities and lifestyle accessories and to showcase the work of emerging artists.

Q: Why did you choose the medium of casual clothing to spread your message?    

A: We have always believed in the power of the T-shirt. Any good idea should be simple enough to put on a tee. If the idea resonates with people and is delivered with a sense of depth and style, it should always work. There are so many examples around the world, whether it is sports, military or city branding, T-shirts have always played a big role and continue to do so. Can a tee save the world? Probably not. But, it can surely spread a message. 

Q: What is the USP of Motherland?    

A: Motherland is not just a brand, but also an ecosystem of content, merchandise, projects, and even snacks! It is about building a community of like-minded thinkers. In that sense, our USP is our spirit of collaboration.

Q: Who is the Motherland muse? Your ideal customer?

A: Our ideal customers are young kids in small towns with big dreams, who want to look stylish while proudly claiming their Indian identity on their chests.

Q: Please share a few memories or rewarding moments from your entrepreneurial journey so far?   

A: Our JDH project was extremely special to us. Co-founded by Motherland, the Jodhpur (JDH) Urban Regeneration Project is an ongoing effort to restore the historic Blue City to its former glory. Built on strong partnerships, the project lies at the intersection between new ideas, local community, technology and sustainability. Since its launch in January 2015, JDH has seen through the restoration of an ancient stepwell, Toorji ka Jhalra, a communal clean-up effort to eradicate litter, and the addition of hip eateries and a luxury shopping hub featuring India’s finest lifestyle labels. Now a melting pot of culture for tourists and locals alike, the restoration is a shining example of how social infrastructure and cultural capital can build commerce and community, which are the guiding forces behind all Motherland ventures.

Q: How do you use social media to drive your business?

A: I feel our ideas flow seamlessly from T-shirts to caps to magazines to music videos and now through social media. The latter allows us to build a specific sensibility and vibe for the brand. Often brands struggle to maintain a meaningful message while executing their vision in a strong and stylish manner.

Q: How do you choose the causes you support through your designs?    

A: Motherland is a lifestyle brand that is rooted in the Indian DNA. Our mission is to create products that have a strong yet inclusive Indian identity. For example, our ‘White Tiger’ shirt was inspired by the Indian military and one of its most celebrated fighting units, INAS 300. The specially designed graphic elements and iconography commemorate the squadron’s first deck landing, an event that still holds significance 60 years on. In 2019, we designed the ‘Voter’ to urge people to do their duty, and the ‘Dark & Lovely’ T-shirt to signify our protest against colourism. These go beyond being simple slogan tees. For a long time, Indian brands have fed consumers tactless and cliched messaging on clothing. Now, more than ever, there is room for a more meaningful conversation.

At the same time, while some ideas fit well on a T-shirt, others like ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ spread across every medium, including a song and a music video, for which we collaborated with Delhi-based hip-hop duo, Khirkee 17. 

Q: Please tell us about your new collection and the cause it supports.    

A: We recently launched our ‘RIP Patriarchy’ and ‘Goa’ collections. Our ‘RIP Patriarchy’ T-shirt has been worn and loved by authors, IAS officers, lawyers, chefs, celebrities and comics alike. Our ‘Forever Goa’ T-shirt, as the name suggests, tries to encapsulate the unmatched vibe of the place. 

Q: What is your next collection going to be about?

A: Our upcoming launch is centred around the Yamuna river. For this project, we have collaborated with the University of Virginia and Tulane University. Through the partnership, we have explored the vision of transforming the river into an environmental nucleus for citizens and the process of anchoring our cities within their original ecology.

Q: What is the price range of your products and where do you retail them?

A: Our collections feature super-modern, India-inspired gear. They include unisex tees and polo shirts with remixed national and regional motifs, tricoloured totes, caps, super snacks, magazines, and stationery. The prices range from Rs 100 to Rs 1950. We retail through our website https://motherlandsuperstore.com/ and also have stockists across the country.

The writer is a lawyer who pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be contacted on nooranand@gmail.com.

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