We live in a beautiful era of advancement and innovation, with young Indians taking charge to change the landscape of the cities they live in with grit and determination. At Homegrown, we like to celebrate them and have previously curated lists of creative enterprises led by change-makers in places like Jaipur, Bangalore and Goa. Now it’s time to turn to the region often ignored— the states of the north-east.
Only now are these states being acknowledged and celebrated for the sheer richness and diversity, in language, culture, cuisine and even flora and fauna that they offer to the country and its people. The region has also produced a talented bunch of musicians, artists, designers, and professionals from all walks of life who are making dents both nationally and globally. Here are youngbloods from the Seven Sisters who are changing the game in every space, from fashion to the culinary scene.
Started by enigmatic 30 year old Richana Khumanthem, this luxury clothing brand from Imphal has walked numerous runways and is applauded in sustainable fashion circles. While providing designs for the ever changing fashion scenario, Khumanthem aims to also revive the timeless beauty of local traditions. As the website states, “The sartorial assets, lovingly left to us by our ancestors, sit at the back of our closets, gathering dust, evanescing, while our latest and most luxurious conquest gets the place of honour.” In accord with this, locally sourced materials and traditional handloom fabric are the backbone of the brand, they aim to display the histories and cultures of the region through each and every creation. The designer constantly works on bridging the gap between consumers and artisans, who she considers the true heroes of the brand.
Working out of Manipur has its own highs and lows. She tell us, “Most of the Northeastern states of India are far removed from the mainland. So there is a scarcity in the variety of things that we get, like trims, buttons, laces, yarns, etc. Everything has to be meticulously pre-planned and sourced in advance. There is no Nehru Place or Chandni Chowk we can run to for last minutecchange of plan.” Despite setbacks, she asks all budding entrepreneurs to stay strong, as everything works out for the best.
Khumanthem’s designs involve earthy fabrics and minimalist silhouettes, yet evoke powerful sentiments. She tells us, “ The mainstream Indian fashion trend tends to be heavier, colourful and very rich. Initially we had moments where we wondered if a minimalistic brand like Khumanthem with work or not. But since the past few years, homegrown minimalistic brands are growing in numbers and quite a few of them are doing perfectly well. It is heartening to see this shifting sensibility.”
Her spring/summer 2018 collection revolves around the alluring feeling of ‘Anemoia’, defined as the nostalgia for a time you’ve never known, like looking at an old photograph or gazing at a museum artefact, ‘touched and used by so many people who’s path will never cross with ours’. Her winter/autumn collection of the year involves serene pastel blues and greys and is befittingly christened as “Calm”.
You can shop her collection here.
II. Rustique Edge
The enterprise was started by Aien Jamir, and artist and entrepreneur who is also the founder of production house Tinted Light Studio. Brought up in a nostalgic time of handwritten letters, Jamir was inspired to start something that captures the beauty of handmade gifts from an older era, the gifting of which represent closeness and connection the old-fashioned way.
She specialises in making rustic and vintage styled home decor, jewellery boxes, contemporary Naga jewellery, wedding decor, bridal accessories, customised packaging, clothes, accessories, and customised journals. Jamir also is into interior decoration, and has worked on homes and cafes. Each article is unlike another, and is customised to the customer who orders it. She tells Roots and Leisure, “It’s all about personalisation, so currently I take all orders personally. I believe Rustique Edge’s trademark is the minute detailing in each product – made with dedication and love. “
Her house serves as her workshop and she tells us that it can often look storm-hit on peak days. She tells us how she gives her all in each individual product, “In craft making you need brains and hard work to come up with a lot of ideas every time and it requires immense patience. When I start a project, I barely get enough sleep. I do everything on my own, except for a few materials bought from store.”
From lace-trimmed burlap cushions to customised vintage brooches, Jamir has something for all those in love with boho-chic aesthetics. Her handcrafted journals are particularly stunning, which incorporates local elements such as Ao and Angami beadwork and eagle feathers.
You can reach out to Rustique Edge’s Instagram to place orders. They ship across the country. They also provide interior decoration services.
An offshoot of Chillbreeze, the company was started by Ralph & Joanna Budelman. They decided that they had had enough watching from the sidelines as local farmers were unable to get access to markets beyond their region for their produce and excess resulting to their it ultimately going to waste. They decided to open markets for these farmers and provide them access to regions all over the country and beyond·
Zizira is one of the first brands from the Northeast India to trade in healthy and organic food products. It has a range of natural blends, teas and other plant products to offer for sale. The founders hope to present the potential of their land and farmers to a wider audience through medium of E-commerce and give the customers a good cause to contribute to. The purpose of the establishment is to go beyond profit-making and transform lives people and communities.
The road to this endeavour was a bumpy one. “Hiring the right candidates was a huge task because of the lack of professionalism that exists in region contributed to by government jobs. Streamlining our communication with farmers took a lot of patience and they originally saw us an NGO providing them with agricultural schemes which caused them to be sceptical of joining hands with us.” They tell us.
The founders believe that courage, determination and discipline are a few qualities that entrepreneurs need to have today regardless of the situation. “Since success isn’t something that comes easily, these individuals should be ready to face failure as and when it comes their way.” They mentioned to us.
You can have a look at their products here.
IV. Tribe Fiction
Two brothers, John and Joel Sailo started this brand in the year 2013 as a joint venture. Tribe Fiction is said to be North East’s first legitimate street wear brand with it constantly striving to be accessible to people without burning a hole through their pockets and remaining true to its distinctive style as the same time. It is owned by the retail company, Hillside Apparel.
This niche label offers to its customers a range of graphic shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts flaunting funky prints. It is also setting a trend with its customised, unisex t-shirts, tank tops and crop tops which always stay in style due to regular updates. The designs of these products representing distinct cultures of the Northeastern region are becoming a style statement for the people across the country.
“With our custom designed clothes having imprints from various ways of life of the northeast, we are trying to promote our region,” said John, the Marketing Manager to Morung Express.The brand has shops in Mizoram, Shillong, and Dimapur, and hopes to expand and cover the different states of the India.
You can check their collection out on their Instagram page.
V. Hill Wild
The brand was founded by Leiyolan Vashum and Zeinorin Stephen who are residents of the Ukhrul district of Manipur. Hill Wild is an artisanal chocolate brand from the Northeast that infuses authentic ingredients, that are native to region, like pumpkin seeds , plum wine et. al with cocoa sourced from Pune.
The brand came to being in November 2017 after its founders realised that several natural products from the hills in Ukhrul have the potential of being transformed to marketable goods. Hence, they decided to infuse them with other products in order to make them more appealing to the customers. The brand is the coming together of values held important to the founders. They tell us, “It is our commitment to community involvement, sustainable farming and the infusion of locally found products into chocolate.” The name of the brand is also derived from these wild produce found in the hills, and is also the base from which they operate out of.
It is a small organisation with just 13 employees, that provides employment opportunities to about 25 local farmers and promotes the local produce. It is currently responsible for the sale of almost 10,000 chocolate bars in Manipur, Nagaland, Shillong, and Jorhat alone.“We intend to produce and market natural, agricultural and industrially processed food products and also take up projects to empower entrepreneurs and help in setting up market linkage.” its founders told Roots & Leisure . ‘Made in ukhrul’ is one the events that the brand undertakes to help promote the local entrepreneurs.
You can visit their Instagram page to shop for their products.
Chillibreeze is a company that engages in multifarious activities.The establishment was brought to life by its CEO after several students of the region expressed their wish for having employment opportunities like every other region of India and how they despised travelling to metro cities for the same.
The company provides PowerPoint design services for companies and consultants from all over the world and also specialises in designing, storyboards, motion graphics and animation. Chillibreeze also has a green campaign under which it has built bamboo huts for people to work and have fun in the lap of nature simultaneously . The brand has undertaken a project in order to empower local farmers in the region and has also launched two food trucks called The Chicken Wagon and The Wagon respectively, in order to bring good food experiences to the people of Shillong. All in all , it is a very dynamic venture.
Initially, the people at the company were highly discouraged by the low response rate they got and had accepted that such a corporate service would not managed to thrive in the Northeast but to everyone’s surprise, they bet the odds and are now making deals with technological and programming giants like Microsoft.
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