The city is used to caressing — be it with the warmth of the sun, the sea breeze or the ocean waves. So when its residents try to flatter the city by wearing themed tee shirts, based on its culture and geography, one can hear its roaring narcissistic laugh.
Feeding into its ego was the Madras Week celebrations. While people wished Madras a happy birthday, many also made it a point to grab clothes to flaunt their love for the city. “I got a tee shirt from Dude Tamizha which had images showing a step by step process to tie a lungi,” says Aslam Khader, an IT employee. “It was funny and so Chennaiish,” he says with a laugh.
Not just clothes, Chennai Gaga, yet another Chennai-themed brand shop, has a wide range of mugs, magnets, bookmarks, bags and tea coasters.
“Sometimes, the love for the city is so much that I feel like hugging and planting a kiss on it,” says Vandana Nandan, taking a sip of her morning filter coffee. The mug, with the image of the kaapi glass and a collage of Tamil words written on it, she says, was bought from Chennai Gaga.
However, according to Nandini and Nathan, the couple who started Dude Tamizha last year, it is the non resident Indians who consistently buy in bulk everytime they come to Chennai during their holidays. “It’s more like a thread which keeps them connected to their homeland,” says Nandini. Sometimes, as Sujata Tarakesan, owner of The Gagashoppe at Besant Nagar, says, “They go back to their country and send photos to me to show that the tee perfectly fits.”
While for the customers it’s all about wearing their heart on their sleeve, the owners have a different story to say. “As you have seen from the atmosphere that we have tried to create, we want to sell the Tamizh culture, not just Chennai,” says Nathan, pointing at the Tee Kadai emulation.
There is a comb of bananas hanging by the side, a set of the old thick chaai glasses, an old taperecorder and the biscuit jars kept in the shop. The tee-shirts are aligned like a curtain on the side with a dressing room that opens up like those machines in Transformer.
“Petromax lighte dhaan venuma?” he reads out the famous Goundamani joke written in one of the tee shirts. This, according to Nanda, has sold the maximum, more than 6000 pieces! Then there is another range with Rajini’s image and with philosophical thoughts like ‘This too shall pass’ written on them in Tamil. “We are from the advertising field, so we know what will click,” says Nandini, who thinks that more than patriotism, it is the open-minded and fun quality of the Chennaiites which encourages them to opt for these designs.
“‘Made in Madras’ tee shirts are a rage!” says Sujata. “One of my friends from London called me and said that she saw someone wearing the gaga tee there,” she adds. “I have seen Rajiv Menon, Maniratnam and Vivek wearing it on several occasions,” she adds. Designed for all age groups, right from toddlers to 80- year olds, the tee shirts make good souveniours of the city.
The Napiers Bridge, Central Station, Madras mania with MGR, Sivaji, Rajini and Kamal’s faces and Marina Beach, among others find their way on to the product list of Chennai Gaga, which was started three years ago.
What’s their marketing strategy? ‘Word of mouth’, comes the unanimous answer, while the tees, like the fame of Rajini, coast of Marina and depth of Tamil literature, continue to expand their presence globally.
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