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Local brands make kitsch cool

Mehek Azmathulla

They subvert stereotypes with some intelligent marketing

— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

India specials: Such accessories demand a savvy audience too.

Bangalore: T-shirts with funky motifs, magnets in the shape of autorickshaws and a CD rack structured like a tiffin dabba. How's that for cool? These products, with a nice twist to popular culture, are sold by local brands like Pigflower, Chumbak and Happily Unmarried. Today, when it comes to shopping for accessories, people seem to be gravitating towards the quirky and not necessarily the functional.

College student Isaac Nico loves T-shirts that express bizarre and random thoughts. “Whether for gifting, or just to splurge, I find buying little knick-knacks or stationery, which represent a culture, more interesting,”

The message

“People today buy products that make a statement. What they use and clothes they wear are a means to communicate their opinions or points of view,” says Neelam Chhiber, co-founder of Mother Earth.

However, sometimes this point of view may just backfire, argue sceptics such as Naureen Aziz, a lecturer at Jyothi Nivas College. “These products use satire as their main concept for design. Satirising the ‘Indian-ness' of India, may be stereotyping to an extent.” Knowing your audience thus becomes the key when buying these items. “Products like this are most definitely for a selected audience. Some will thoroughly appreciate it, while others may not be able to get the point,” said a savvy customer who runs a preschool in Murugeshpalya. Law student Laksha Kalappa, when asked about this niche market, says: “India has always been a country where we refuse to throw away things. I know homes where the storage rooms still have magazines that are 50 years old. No matter how old or quirky these items are, they may just serve as a sense of identity for those who feel they've lost their roots.”

Like coming home

“A simple fridge magnet with ‘Horn OK Please' written on it serves to remind me of the wonderful idiosyncrasies of our country,” says Preksha Kumar, a Bangalore girl currently studying in New York.

However, Aashita Kothare, another student sniffs: “These brands are a very western perspective of an India steeped in stereotypes.”

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