In a poignant moment in the runaway hit Gossip Girl, Blair Waldorf asks Dan ‘Lonely Boy’ Humphrey: “What if I lose everything?” Dan says: “You’ll still have me”. A sentiment that’s gaining momentum as we rise as a community to douse a raging pandemic that’s hit us with the magnitude of a devastating earthquake and engulfing life as we know it.
Strengthening this human chain of compassion and empathy are a bunch of Calcutta-based fashion designers who have initiated an Emergency Covid Relief Fundraiser where you get ‘20 per cent discount on all garments or orders including latest stock’, and proceeds from ‘100 per cent of the profits made for each garment will be donated to ‘organisations working at the ground level providing Covid-19 relief’. Ideated by Nupur Kanoi, the pool now has names like Mr. Ajay Kumar, Bobo Calcutta, Dev R Nil, Eshaani Jayaswal, Sneha Arora, Rimi Nayak, Shantanu Goenka, Sayantan Sarkar and Soumitra Mondal. On till May 20, you can either shop online or drop by at their stores with an appointment.
“Our fraternity also needs to do something and create meaningful labour. Nil (of Dev R Nil) and I thought let’s do this and get the other people in the fraternity together so that we can make it bigger. A collective gives it more power and reach. We have a couple of organisations in mind who are doing really good work, like EOK (Entrepreneurs of Kolkata). I joined their group and that’s how this idea was born. They are doing it out of their goodwill. If we can raise a sizeable amount, it would be quite a feat. Now it depends on our sales and our reach,” says Nupur. For Nil, it is “passing on the help if you have the means”. “We have got so much help from others… the angels of Dev and Nil, as we call them, whenever there has been a crisis…. We are looking for smaller organisations, which really need support now, including those working with transgenders. People are dying out of unemployment and other diseases too,” he says.
The designers on board are only too happy to contribute. “All the prints and artwork you see on the garments are actually the things I painted during the first lockdown. They were emotions and expressions that I was going through personally with reference to the surroundings. Now that we are battling the second wave, I thought it is satisfying for me to be able to give back to people. It comes from a place of complete humanity. As an artist you always want to do as much as you can for people around you and especially during these times,” says Ayushman Mitra of Bobo Calcutta. Eshaani has been looking to contribute more and this platform has come as a boon. “I have taken initiation at Sarada Math and I did do my bit last month at the Sarada Math, but the updates on the current situation is making me anxious to do more. We are also limited because we have to run our businesses and there is only so much we can do. I used to tell myself that at least I am being able to provide for people who are working for me. A couple of days back Nil had called me regarding this. It feels great to be a part of it. I don’t know what will come out of it but it is the effort which counts,” she says.
While both Ajay and Soumitra feel this is the time to extend the helping hand, Shantanu thinks this will lead them to the authentic channels of contribution. Soumitra also feels that the format is “well-designed” for the shopper too who has a limited budget allocated to shopping now. And, every penny spent for saving even one life is deeply gratifying too.
The biggest takeaway for Rimi is the coming together of the fraternity. “That is the most positive thing. We are fighting this together because we all are going through this. This year things are worse and we have to stand by each other to get through this together. The designers have always been together, a feeling that has been most perceptible while doing fashion weeks. In fact, most of us connected because of fashion weeks,” she says. Sneha is hopeful that this association will yield results. “Individually it becomes a little difficult. Together hopefully we should be able to do something. This is the first time we are all promoting each other on all social media platforms,” she says.
The need of the hour is to rise above the bubble of me and myself and thrust forward a combined fist. “It is also a very competitive world in terms of reach and sales because the market size has reduced but to come together to do something is encouraging in itself. It shows solidarity,” says Nupur. Ayushman’s words are full of gratitude and emotions. “Nupur and Nil are my seniors and they have guided me when I started my career. I have learnt so much from them and I have been a part of everything they wanted me to be a part of. All my peers, somewhere we are all proud of each other’s bodies of work, independent with distinctive voices and we do not overstep each other’s boundaries. We have grown together and we want to contribute together,” he says.
Both Nil and Nupur have a certain amount in mind they want to raise. “If we can raise the target amount, it’ll be great. If we can survive this, we’ll have many tales to tell,” says Nil. A large section of the craftspeople will also survive, feels Nupur. “Fashion is considered frivolous. We are not frivolous. We are providing livelihood to so many craftspeople. Last lockdown, a lot of them took up other jobs and it was tough convincing them to come back. This is also for them,” she says.