Fashion favours the bold: What's trending in Kerala?

Kerala's fashion trends have always been about comfort and swagger in equal measure. Photo: Special arrangement

The dynamic fashion landscape of Kerala has hosted numerous trends over the years. From the bell-bottom pants and wide-collared shirts of the 80s-90s to skinny jeans. And then switching back to the retro 'fits, Kerala's fashion trends have always been about comfort and swagger in equal measure. Fashion in the state has transitioned to casual and western-influenced clothing for a while now.

“We've definitely gotten the gist of “wanting to express ourselves through the way we dress, mostly due to western influence,” says Nyla Ali, a design student based in Kochi. “This concept has spread globally, and Gen Z is connected to the entire world, so countries and states like ours are also getting influenced by this”.

Interestingly, in Kerala, embrace of modernity doesn't leave out traditional styles. “Kerala fashion closely follows the pulse of buyers, be it the integration of cultural symbols into festive wear or contemporary fusion designs to accommodate modern tastes.”, notes Sneha Vinod, a graduate of SH College, Thevara and a fashion enthusiast.

Photo: Special arrangement

There is an emphasis on accessorization. Piercings and chokers, silver chains, layered necklaces and metal rings have become fashion staples for the Kerala crowd. “There is a migration of fashion trends in Kerala”, says Urmila Jithesh, final year student at Christ University and a keen observer of fashion trends.

“Every time I come home for a break I notice that people pick up trends from universities in fashion hubs like Kochi where trends come really fast and then sort of take it back to their native places. So it's like every region in Kerala gets to play a part in trendsetting,”she says. Baggy pants styled with baggier shirts, co-ords with bold accessories, 'boyfriend' shirts with converse shoes and high-waisted jeans with crop tops that exude coolness and glam are the preferred aesthetics. Floral prints are also here to stay, paired with bold, statement colours. Fashion ranges from eye-catching to minimalistic.

“A growing trend towards inclusivity is evident in the way that companies and designers approach towards creating new apparel. While some people choose more conventional looks, others welcome experimentation.”, says Swathi Rajeev, a fashion designer based in Kochi. This idea is characterised by a plethora of outfits that are in vogue.

Of late, Kerala has also turned to sustainability and affordability in fashion rather than relying on expensive high-end brands. “Fashion seems like an expensive word to use these days.”, observes Nyla. “It seems to be targeted only to a certain social strata of people who promote a general belief of “design is elite, for the elite and by the elite” but why can’t fashion not be for everyone? Why can’t it just be about self-expression?” Sustainable fashion like thrifting seems to be the way forward.

Photo: Special arrangement

“We see clothing as a way to express who you are, and thrifting is like giving clothes a second chance, kind of like recycling!” says Anjana , Nayana and Alina, the owners of popular instagram based thrift store “We are 3 college students juggling classes and our online store, on a mission to make Kerala more sustainable. We believe that with the support of our community, we can make it happen.”

The culture of thrifting has spread extensively in the state. Kajal and Gopika, sisters who are natives of Kannur, run Teal Blue store whose roots began on Instagram and eventually led to a beloved retail store in Kochi. “We used to see trendy clothes in the metro cities of India but couldn't find any in Kerala that sold high-fashion items at budget-friendly rates. Corset tops, bodycon and slit denim skirts…we couldn't find a lot of these in shops here. So we wanted to bring in the purchasing experience of shopping at a store outside to Kerala”, says Kajal.

Photo: Special arrangement

Rather than fixating on a binary, gender neutral fashion is being preferred now. On this idea, Kajal observes, “We market ourselves as a business for women but fashion has transcended these gender barriers. There are many occasions where guys who accompany ladies to the store find summer shirts and floral prints that catch their eye and end up purchasing them”. By creating opportunities for men to dress up in traditionally feminine clothing and dismantling restrictions on women's choice of garments, fashion now reflects the progressive ideals that Malayalis hope to nurture.

“I view fashion trends here as a baby learning to walk”, concludes Nyla. “Earlier, we didn't have a solid ground but now we're catching up with the trends really fast because of the growing popularity of apps like Instagram and Pinterest, which expose us to fashion and design as a culture.”
(Models: Anoop K G, Reshma Manmadhan)

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