Having showcased collections for the last nine seasons at Lakme Fashion Week, a large following and dedicated audience of sartorial admirers and consumers, HUEMN is no longer the new kid on the block. However, they continue to stay relevant, fresh and exciting in everything they do and have carved a space for themselves, being one of the most distinct fashion brands in the Indian landscape. But they’re more than just a young fashion label, and perhaps what piques our interest the most is their ‘HUEMN Stories’ vertical.
It was around 2014 that HUEMN founders Shyma Shetty and Pranav Misra were putting together a collection inspired by the writings of Charles Bukowski. They spent a lot of time reading his work and wanted to do a digital print of one of Bukowski’s most iconic photographs. After some research, they found the photographer of the portrait, Mark Hanauer who was commissioned to take the photograph at the time.
Having introduced themselves and their work to the renowned photographer they got the green light for the print. “2-3 years later Mark called us and told us he’s going to be coming to Delhi and said he really liked our work and wanted to do a collaboration. When he came down we spent time together, got to know each other and really got along, so we decided to do a project together,” said Shyma. It was very interesting bringing this together, Shyma tells us, with Hanauer being a portrait photographer, it was something they never explored before. They wanted to explore a story-telling angle to Hanauer’s photographs and the resultant New Delhi edition of ‘HUEMN Stories’ was incredible.
For each edition, HUEMN brings together a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds to photograph, where they are asked to share their stories. It can be an experience that has had an impact on their lives and perhaps shaped who they are. Shyma and Pranav have carried HUEMN Stories forward to different countries, towns and cities, travelling and collecting stories. They recently published the LA edition. Shyma shares that they’ve also wrapped up a shoot in Srinagar and wants to take HUEMN Stories to smaller towns and villages around the world.
“Whether it’s a housewife in Delhi or a Hollywood actor in LA – their stories are more about the emotional aspect of being human. What’s exciting is that it’s a shared experience between them. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, you can understand where that other person’s experience is coming from because you’ve felt the same,” said Shyma. “What we ask all of them is to share an incident, outline a memory from their life that has impacted them. That’s why it’s so varied, yet similar in a way.”
HUEMN Stories has gone beyond the label’s fashion domain (something they never really limited themselves to having branched out with multiple verticals and projects) and has become an anthology of powerful personal experiences and stories, making it a space that celebrates our diversity. The people photographed are as different as can be from each other, but with their experiences, we find a likeness, a shared value that resonates with any viewer of the work.
The people that come to share their journeys through the Stories is an organic process. Through the brand itself, they’ve never limited themselves to a set group, a certain kind of aesthetic or image, and this extends to this campaign as well. “Anybody you speak to has a story you don’t know. Everyone’s life narrative is so varied and exciting that it doesn’t make sense to pick and choose people,” Shyama states. They only thing that they’ve been mindful of doing is to showcase a variety of stories, emotions and experiences – from love and loss to ambition, gender, sadness and abuse.
HUEMN Stories has grown to be the backbone of what HUEMN is about – a celebration of differences and commonality through shared human experiences and living, and this aspect becomes clearer when Shyma’s asked about the brand’s name. “Hue is colour – it’s an assortment and variety of things that make what a human is. We learn about the human as biology, a body and shape, but we never really get into things about consciousness. That’s where the name comes from,” she said. “It’s looking through a prism, and the different colours of what it means to be alive. Plus, world play is fun!”
Through HUEMN Stories we connect with people we’ve never met, through their stories, that need to be heard and told. “Our campaign is about giving those stories a voice and wider audience, bringing people closer by recognising how our experiences and differences shape us.”
We live in an age where we’ve begun to fear the differences we see in other people, which in turn gives rise to intolerance. But against the backdrop of this more divisive landscape, HUEMN’s work champions for love. Each of the photographs evokes a sense of compassion, understanding and most importantly, acceptance of oneself and of others.
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