For a long time, the idea of masculinity and men's fashion were defined by hetero-normative gender roles. But the last few decades have been about redefining the ideas of gender and its expressions, and this is reflected in the world of fashion as well. From runways to the everyday walks of life, the prevailing concepts of 'how a man should dress' have changed. This might have been best captured at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibit ‘Fashioning Masculinities’ that explored how modern creatives have reconstructed the world of menswear, the concept of masculinity and ‘picked it apart at the seams’.
Historically and culturally, India has had a perspective towards attire that was focused on the craft and opulence of textiles, rather than the silhouette itself and often blurred the lines of gender in mediaeval times. But letting go of colonial restrictions of gendered silhouettes, and returning to a place of love for handcrafted textiles and audacious displays of flamboyance is something that many Indian menswear designers are choosing to do in current times. Meenswear, a Mumbai-based Menswear label founded by Chennai-origin, UAE-raised Meeneshwer Madhu is worthy of note in this regard.
With a constant love for people watching and making up stories regarding their sartorial choices, Meeneshwer moved to India in 2018, with the intent to realise his vision of bringing his art and fashion to the Indian market. He is inspired by the creative community and creates attire for them and went on to say, “I get inspired from the artists who do their art in the day-to-day life - from hairstylists to fashion journalists, embroidery artists and theatrical actors; I see them as my customers and them enjoying the garments - that's how Meenswear started."
In being asked about the process of creating his pieces, Meeneshwer reiterated the inspiration he draws on comes from muses in everyday people in public spaces. Whenever or wherever he is, when inspiration strikes, i.e., when people gazing inspires him and results in an idea, he turns them into sketches. He creates design directions based on these and sews them, hoping to try and capture the energy of the muse through his piece.
In trying to define who the Meenswear client is, three words kept coming up for the founder - artistic, daring and confident. Meeneshwer’s designs are usually sought out by artists - those who reach out to him from within the art and design space and express themselves through art. These customers are also daring with their choice of dressing - enjoying bold design details, unusual silhouettes, and bright colours that Meenswear has become synonymous with. Most importantly, they are confident professionals who are experienced and established in their space and have a sense of command when they enter a room and dress in a manner that reflects all these qualities. The facets inspired by these creatives are reflected through the finer details that he adds to his designs.
In Meeneshwer’s words “It's the artists that inspire me, I see them at their workspace/ their lifestyle choices and then I design garments accordingly. For example, in the upcoming SS24 collection, I have incorporated gussets at the crotch of the denim, when I saw a stylist running up and down the stairs in their denim which was worn out at the inseams.” While the upcoming SS24 collection for Meenswear features stylistic details like this, the overall concept, in keeping with his love for everyday heroes, is inspired by the office working crowd who take the local trains to work.
But Meeneshwer is not someone to turn away from embracing the macabre either. The SS23 collection called ‘Active Desi’ that is currently live on the website may feature leg-o-mutton sleeves and ghoongat-inspired caps with scarves attached, but the overarching concept is the intersection of three aspects that awe and inspire him - activewear, serial killers and Indian Textiles.
Defined as the ‘transformation of a basketball star into a serial killer’, the Active Desi collection’s silhouettes are inspired by vintage active wear like tennis skirts and tops, and basket jerseys and shorts from the 1960s, but crafted in intricate Indian textiles. At Least forty percent of the collection was made from used/old saris. Combining these sartorial elements with common lore and his personal intrigue around the psychology and cult culture around serial killers, the Active Desi collection came together to create a cohesive collection.
While his vision is clear when it comes to Meenswear, the founder is still building his way towards wider recognition and commercial success. Meeneshwer currently works full-time as a designer for another brand and runs this label from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. He is working hard towards addressing what any budding venture requires - consistent marketing and social media presence. While he is slowly but surely figuring out how to effectively manage his time and finances to build Meenswear, he has a clear idea about his future. For the short term, Meeneshwer is hoping to create a great collection for SS24, in which the garments are enjoyed and cherished by the customers, but in the long term, he hopes that he can come into his own as a homegrown menswear designer with influence.
You can follow Meenswear here.
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