Red Lotus is an independent online fashion label that merchandises sarees from all around India. Each saree sold by Red Lotus is sourced from age-old makers of fabric rich states of India like Kanchi, Kasi, Coimbatore, Kolkata, and many more. They are also known to customise designs to suit your style.
Back in 2016, the social entrepreneur and founder of Red Lotus, Sharmila Nair, showcased her new line of saris ‘Mazhavil’ with the help of Kerala’s 29-year-old transgender models Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri. Her campaign became well-known within the fashion fraternity for breaking stereotypes by using transgender women to model for her Mazhavil collection. She found them through ‘Queerala’, an organisation for Malayali LGBTIQ people that focuses on advocacy on sexual orientation and gender identity. Through Red Lotus, Sharmila was able to celebrate transgender women and open opportunities for them to be part of the workforce in Kerala.
It’s 2019, and Sharmila has come up with yet another revolutionary campaign to embrace the diversity among women. She calls it 18 Shades of Black.
18 frames of photographs and an 18-minute video on 18 women from different walks of life are draped in specially curated black sarees that represent the hopes, dreams, desires, struggles, and desperations every single woman face every single day are captured. All the 18 women represented in this series have overcome personal struggles and patriarchal restrictions they had to face at different points in their lives.
When asked about why it was important to bring this story through Red Lotus, Sharmila shared, “When the Supreme Court of India passed the verdict on the 28th of September 2018 allowing women of all age groups to enter Sabarimala temple, Kerala witnessed horrors of no comparison for a few months. A society that was boasting about the values of renaissance and secularism was torn apart in different factions arguing about right and wrong regarding women’s entry. Debates arose on TV channels and social media regarding the history, renaissance, culture, women’s rights, and Indian constitution. These happenings inspired me to think all over about the restrictions that women have to face in her daily life at her home, at her working place, and in the society on a day-to-day basis and 18 shades was born. Women from all walks of life face restrictions in their daily life, mostly in the things we usually overlook and I attempt to portray these shades of restrictions women are fighting or putting up within their daily lives. We as a collective still have a long way to go.”
The response Sharmila has received because of her 18 Shades of Black campaign was stunning, and it created a dialogue among many women in Kerala. The epitome of the power of women who’ve faced challenges throughout their lives while regressing from and unlearning internalised societal norms is something that has been addressed throughout the world. Sharmila though represented it through her unique black-inspired designs and empowered women to speak about their distinguished sets of individualism. Sharmila helped women find their voice through her latest collection, and that has made all the difference.
Head over to Red Lotus to check out these women’s stories.
Featured Image Courtesy: Photographer – @midhu_div