Weaving magic for transgender women: A unique initiative by a Kerala designer

The transgender collection by Sharmila Nair

It’s a step for rainbow pride – Kochi based designer Sharmila Nair has designed a special collection of saris for transgender women, called  ‘Mazhavil’ which means ‘rainbow’ in Malayalam. Naturally all the colours of the rainbow are reflected in the design. 

Sharmila Nair's transgender collection

The saree especially for the ‘other gender’ : By Sharmila Nair

” I saw a post on Facebook saying that Kerala government has passed a policy for transgender community. The policy is for equal right in the society – the idea stuck me. I researched and studied about the community and came to know about an organization called Queerala, based in Kerala which supports the LGBT community. Then I got in touch with them and when I spoke to them about my idea, they seemed really enthused and so the journey begun.” says Sharmila talking exclusively to SheThePeople.TV about how the idea struck her.

Designer Sharmila with her models

The designer with the muse: Sharmila Nair

A unqiue concept no doubt. But how did the transgender persons themselves react to this initiative? Sharmila describes their reaction, “When we released a video on the thought, lots of transgenders from all around the country started showing interest, appreciated our idea. And, then I started receiving a lot of modeling queries and enquiries about how they could associate with the project. That’s the point when I understood that there’s a lack of opportunities for them. Even my models – one is employed but another one is not – and they are 29 years old- most of them can’t find a job. Companies aren’t open to hiring people from their community. But with our project they seemed to enjoy a good response, even we have also not got any negative reactions from people in general. Thankfully, from the society, everyone showed positivity. People appreciated me for the plunge I took and the effort I put in.”

Also read: Breaking the mould with Curators of Clay: Bhairavi Naik

Designer Sharmila's collection for transgenders

Modelling their own collection: Transpersons for Sharmila Nair

There are 15 sarees in this collection, available through Sharmila’s online brand store Red Lotus. Many transgender (women) came forward to buy from the collection, which is priced between Rs.1500 to Rs.2500 “The designs we weaved are very colourful, rich and the response my weavers gave me was surprising. We sold 100+ saris within two weeks and weavers were thrilled to work because of that.” says Sharmila.

The photoshoot itself threw up some interesting insights about the transpersons. “I think transgenders (transgender women) have a sense of fashion better than women. During the shoot, how they transformed and carried off the saris – my reaction was awe. When they wore the saris, the whole perspective changed. They walked differently, they were looking fab.”

Also read: LGBT Rights: It’s tough at the workplace says Sonal Giani

Having made a success of this initiative, Sharmila now has her eyes set on further goals for her brand.  “This is the ultimate one designer could get – the appreciation, the popularity. I never imagined my work would be famous overnight but I am very satisfied of what response I am getting now. So now the phase is little different – we are a brand now. We have to think thrice before designing anything now. Organic fabric is something that we are looking for future.”

And in case you loved the designs above, don’t worry, you too can purchase them. Talk of being gender neutral, this collection definitely is!

 This post has been updated with thanks to an input by Nadika

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