Carrying a sense of pride

So what when the things you wear don’t define who you really are? While others would often make do with the options available, the duo refused to accept this sartorial fate.

Published: 02nd June 2022 07:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd June 2022 07:55 AM   |  A+A-

(L-R) Tripathi and Anas working on their designs

Express News Service

Fashionistas—and others—will vouch that personal style is a form of self-expression. Imagine being stuck in a rut because you feel that your clothes do not quite match your vibe? It was a similar feeling that plagued Okhla-residents Syed Mohammad Anas (22) and Utkarsh Tripathi (23).

Tripathi and Anas—they identify as queer individuals—were unable to find prints that would resonate with them. “Products, nowadays, are very generic. It does not say anything about you. It does not resonate with the things you believe in or stand for,” shares Tripathi, who recently completed his master’s in mass communication from Dwarka’s Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.

Be unabashedly you

So what when the things you wear don’t define who you really are? While others would often make do with the options available, the duo refused to accept this sartorial fate. In fact, their solution was simple! They decided to start their own label with a range of accessible products featuring motifs that make it easy for people to showcase their true identity. Their brand ‘Cosmic Jalebi’, which specialises in tote bags, was launched in October 2021.

“One of our bestselling totes is a bag with ‘Material Gworl’ written on it. It has a personality of its own, and speaks volumes about the person carrying it,” explains Tripathi. Speaking about the unique name of the venture, Anas tells us how the co-founders had instantly connected with it. “Jalebi is never straight. Similarly, you will not find anything straight or simple in our products. It is queer, loud, and fun. Just the way we like it,” quips Tripathi.

The totes—prices start at Rs. 299—feature prints of digital designs created by Anas. With vibrant prints in bright hues, these totes usually highlight pop-culture references, phrases, and quotes, and are sold pan India through their website.

Growing strong each day

 As a city-based queer brand trying to make their mark in the Indian fashion space, Cosmic Jalebi has—and continues to—faced their share of challenges. “Even in 2022, people are still afraid to accept the concept of queer. Our family is still unaware of it. This becomes a challenge to keep the brand 'in the closet' while also trying to grow,” shares Tripathi.

In a country that is still learning to understand and respect LGBTQIA+ rights, the duo has also had to be wary of how they interact with local suppliers. "It is very difficult to source products when you do not fit in. We have to pretend to be what we are not—wear certain clothes or walk a certain way," adds Anas.

However, they believe that despite the struggles, brands such as theirs will help make the queer community more acceptable and accessible to a larger audience. Prabudh Taneja (23) from Sarita Vihar who has previously purchased tote bags from Cosmic Jalebi, agrees, “It is our responsibility as consumers to uplift these queer brands because they in turn uplift and support the community.”

“People will be more comfortable buying from us since they know they won’t be judged,” mentions Anas, a student of fashion design from Amity. 

Mentioning that theirs is a social-commerce brand, the duo shares that social media has played a major role in their growth. Talking about how the platforms help provide transparency about the founders’ and customers’ beliefs, Anas concludes, “It is always fun to buy from someone who you know. Social media helps with that a lot and creates an impact with a larger audience.”

Embracing my true self

 Speaking of their individual self-acceptance journeys, Anas shares, “As a queer kid, it wasn't easy for me. I grew up with a lot of homophobic people around me so the initial days had been extremely difficult. I was in denial for the first few years and would associate queer words with something bad. I think my most important decision in embracing my true self was to cut off all these people. Life is short and we don't know how long any of us are in this world; so it's best to be accepting and kind rather than spewing hatred.”

Tripathi adds, “I always knew I was sort of different; I just did not know the words for it. However people would use these as derogatory terms, which pushed me into the closet. I think seeing people from our community thriving really helped me. I realised I was not alone and have it was okay to be queer. I now know it is my greatest strength as being queer allows me to see the world from a different perspective and be more kind because I know what it feels otherwise.”


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