There is nothing else that has been as bound by gender norms as the clothes we wear. By using the same medium that is used as an instrument of oppression, artists often create conversations that can subvert those ideas. Natasha Sumant, an art director and graphic designer shuttling between India and New York started her label and art project under the name Gundi which literally means a female thug, but is often used colloquially to refer to women who are considered too outspoken. By naming the label so, Natasha makes her idea very clear – a space that represents the South Asian female community in all their strong, beautiful, different capacities. Gundi Studios is both, a slow fashion streetwear label that provides support to rural women in India, and also a studio that makes art which talks about strong South Asian women. Through this, the label and art project celebrates South Asian women who dare to defy patriarchal norms and wear the label of Gundi, with pride.
While the brand creates art, its primary focus is on the female streetwear line. The most iconic product from her collection is the black bomber jacket, emblazoned with the word Gundi. Our personal favorite will have to be the Azaadi dress – a soft white sheer dress that features the word Gundi written on the wide shoulder straps. Made from Khadi and lined with mulmul, the piece was created as an homage to the Swadeshi movement of 1947 which worked to promote spinning Khadi as a way of development in rural India. As Natasha Sumant mentions in an interview with Verve magazine, “by recontextualizing Khadi to a dress produced by a feminist brand — made by women-owned and women-centered workers — we created a piece that is reflective of the new wave of feminism that is sweeping across South Asia today.”
While the designs from the brand are modern in its silhouette, it uses traditional Indian fabric and uses ancient, labor-intensive crafts such as Aari, Zari and Cut Dana for their embroidery. The brand is sustainable in nature as all their clothes are produced in small batches in order to care for and respect the human cost of creating clothing.
The current project by Gundi Studios is an immersive art show that they will be hosting in three cities – Mumbai, New York, and London. Running through 2019, the first stint of Gundi Studios is at Mumbai. The week-long pop tour features many aspects of the work that the studio does. One of the central aspects is the art installation called ‘Ghosts of Gundis Past’. They will also feature framed photo series that centers on Desi feminism and a photo series that shows how Gundi Studios work with rural women in India to create their pieces. They will be featuring some of their videos such as one on code-switching and another on Desi women alone, called ‘Akeli.’ They will also host a panel discussion on gender equality, inclusion, and hope to bring together a group of key South Asian influencers to create a local ‘Gundi Gang’. It will offer the community an opportunity to see and try on Gundi clothing as well.
This artistic showcase of Desi Feminism runs through 27th August to 1st September 2019, at Method Art Space, in Kala Ghoda. The timing is from 11 am to 8 pm. If you would like to stay tuned to Gundi Studios, you can do so on their website or on their Instagram page. You can stay also keep tabs on the events happening at Method on their website or facebook page.
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