Visit any of the eight states that constitute India’s North East and you cannot but be charmed by the style and dressing sense of the youth. The influence of Western culture, and off-late the Korean culture, and the tribal sense of colour combination makes the people from the region stand out from the rest of the country. So it is not surprising that designers from the North East are putting India and the region on the global map – and significantly sustaining the ethnic narrative by fusing the modern with the tribal. Here we take a look at five of the established and upcoming designers from the North East India the country of a billion can take immense pride in.
Hailing from the Hmar tribe and a native of Manipur, Mawi Keivom, born Margaret Thangmawi Keivom to diplomat parents, is the creative director of one of world’s foremost luxury accessories brands, MAWI. She launched her eponymous label at London Fashion Week 2000 with her partner and husband Tim Awan. Mawi shot to fame with her charm necklace — a customised item of jewellery to which she added her own jewels and vintage baubles. This original statement piece inspired hundreds of copycat versions across the globe. Mawi had discovered an aspirational niche for high end costume jewellery and accessories; redefining luxury ideals through fashion-forward styling. MAWI has secured a position at the forefront of the international luxury accessories world, recognised as one of the industry’s most prolific brands and acquiring a substantial collection of prestigious awards. The designer tends to work with classic materials like pearls, crystals and semi -precious stones. Over the years MAWI has been invited to collaborate with some of the world’s most iconic labels and top fashion houses, including Atelier Swarovski, Hugo Boss, Swarovski Crystallized, Bruno Magli and Selfridges. Her designs have been spotted on some of the biggest celebrity names – from Rihanna and Scarlett Johanssen to Deepika Padukone.
One of the best known names from North East to shake up the fashion world is Atsu Sekhose who celebrated the completion of a decade in fashion industry with his Fall-Winter cocktail collection 2017. An Angami Naga, Sekhose attributes much of his design style to his roots in Nagaland, imbibing a modern adaptation of tribal patterns, colours and textiles from his native region. He launched his eponymous collection in 2007 with a philosophy encompassing modern opulence, ineffable style and a zealous sense of glamour. Since 2012, Atsu has introduced exclusive Indian Couture collections. He has designed couture gowns for Miss India 2011 Kanishtha Dhankhar and Miss India 2012 Vanya Mishra who represented India at the Miss World competition. His has dressed up leading actresses – Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif for various red-carpet appearances and events. Atsu has a growing and loyal clientele for his eveningwear in the Middle East and Europe.
A native of Daporijo in Upper Subansiri district, Arunachal Pradesh, Nixon Bui is the founder and creative director of his eponymous fashion label NIXONBUI, a contemporary fashion-culture brand based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The brand, founded in 2014, draws heavily on motifs of tribal communities of North East India. Bui blends ancient tribal and minimalistic Scandinavian elements in his works. The Arunachali designer’s mashups of urban wear and tribal-inspired designs are balanced out with detailed handworked techniques. The official website of the brand states – “One Tribe is the modern youth culture, an amalgamation of free spirits tied together. The philosophies of tribal living are what guides the brand values of NIXONBUI.”
A native of Meghalaya, Stacey Pongener Syiem has created a niche for herself in the UK with her urban tribal fashion brand Little Hill People. Her culturally infused, contemporary fashion wear, apparel and accessories are epitome of innovative designs using traditional weaves and beads of the tribes of North East India. Adding ethically sourced traditional materials from North East India, to London’s contemporary styles, Little Hill People is presents creates stunning garments and accessories. The official website of Little Hill People states that each creation of Stacey Syiem “supports the contributions of an independent weaver or craftsman.”
A native of Nagaland, footwear designer Keren Longkumer is the co-founder of LOQ, a fresh line of daring footwear designed in Los Angeles and crafted in Spain. Recently singer Solange Knowles was seen wearing the LOQ Villa (suede square-toe pumps) in her video, Don’t Touch My Hair, and the Xavi (tubular strap sandals) in Cranes in the Sky. LOQ has its presence in 50 stores, from Hong Kong and France to New Zealand. She share sketches via email or WhatsApp with designing partner Valerie Quant. She is working to incorporate North East Indian sensibilities into her designs,.