The Unapologetic American Streetwear Label With South Asian Roots

The Unapologetic American Streetwear Label With South Asian Roots
Rootsgear Clothing Co

The fashion world’s axis has shifted toward streetwear; from Gucci to Supreme, everyone is making it a focal point in their new collections. It’s interesting to watch, because even as streetwear has very preconceived connotations, the brands aren’t shying away from interpreting it in their own way, so it manifests in distinct styles–Supreme, for example, borrows heavily from skateboard culture. Alternately, North Eastern designer (based in Copenhagen), Nixon Bui heroes Arunachal Pradesh’s tribal culture in his designs. Despite the presence of a large number of streetwear brands, there was a glaring void of India-centric streetwear brands, with little to no representation in the global space. Enter Rootsgear Clothing Co., a US-based label that aims to fill this gap and pioneer South Asian-inspired street style.

It was 2004 and, in a post 9/11 America, the Sikh community was facing unprecedented prejudice. They were afraid to celebrate their heritage and instead went to considerable lengths to consolidate their position as patriotic Americans out of fear for being called out and discriminated against. Siblings Tanmit and Sunmit Singh realised that there was something inherently un-American in having to prove your loyalty time and again for the satisfaction of those that were judging you by the color of your skin and the turban on your head. Incensed by this, they started Rootsgear Clothing Co., a company aimed at making clothes specifically for the Punjabi/Sikh community in the US. It was meant to empower them and make them feel comfortable in their own skin. As Singh says, representation is important. It all started as a way to encourage young members of the community to embrace their roots, while capitalising on the fast emerging street style trend that was taking over the fashion world. The biggest challenge was carving their own niche in the already flourishing streetwear business. Not only did Rootsgear have to make streetwear that was capable of competing with the best in the field, they first had to create a market for what they were selling–India-inspired athleisure and street wear.

According to Tanmit, they draw inspiration from two distinctly unrelated sources: South Asian culture, and hip hop. When making any garment, the key question they ask themselves is, “What is ‘Indian’ about this?.” And the results are incredible: a sweatshirt with ‘dope’ scrawled across in a Punjabi script, and bomber jackets with authentic Indian silk inner lining, among many others. “We’re creating apparel that specifically appeals to Punjabi and Sikh youth. That’s always been our core category. When I decide to design something the biggest question I ask myself is, would I wear this? Is this something that feels comfortable to wear? And is this something that is completely unique? One of the most important things for me to do is, if I’m going to put something out there, make sure I haven’t seen it anywhere else.” said Tanmit in an interview to Sikh Net.

As of 2014, Rootsgear has graduated from being just an independent label to a well established marketplace that carries designs or merchandise of other brands, usually in the form of collaborations. With ‘Hanji Hello’ by Raxtar, and merch by the likes of rapper Fateh Doe and Rajakumari, Rootsgear’s collection is anti-aunty, dope and, most importantly, inclusive.

If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you read:

Related Stories

No stories found.