KOCHI: Picture God’s own country, encompassing lush green paddy fields, palm-lined beaches, spice and tea plantations – nature at its pristine best. Despite the abundance of multicultural motifs of art and culture that could signify the state, what better to illustrate Kerala than the unassuming, unpretentious coconut, which finds a place in the economy, culture and our plate. Comprehending this, Ratheesh Menon innocently named his venture ‘Coconut Stories’ (IG handle: @coconutstorieskerala), a lifestyle brand encapsulating everything Kerala, from souvenirs and collectables to daily wear.
A firm believer in the fact that home is where the art is, the venture is his brilliant expression of love for his homeland. Though a partner with Popkon Creatives, an advertising powerhouse in Kochi, Ratheesh dreamt of more. “Kerala’s topography, natural beauty and heritage have immense opportunities to be ambassadors for the state. I wanted to develop these elements into a graphical format for the current generation in a trendy manner. We have brands like Chumbak and India Circus characterised with an innate Indianness which is colourful and fun.
I wanted to incorporate certain components of Kerala along the same lines. Therefore, the brand is something to be proud of when a Keralite wears it. For the non-resident Malayali, it brings a fresh whiff of nostalgia and for non-Malayalis, Coconut Stories is a love letter from us,” says Ratheesh.
Ratheesh launched his first collection in a flea market last December. ‘Florals of Kerala’ was a befitting ode to the flowers commonly found in the state. ‘Thamara’, ‘Chethi’, ‘Chembakam’, ‘Chembarathi’, ‘Gulmohar’ and ‘Arali’ were among the ones chosen, to adorn notepads, t-shirts, coffee mugs, badges, desktop calendars and more. Rather than depicting the flowers as they are, ‘Coconut Stories’ portrayed them close to a pop art palette yet retaining their innateness.
Even though Ratheesh’s work kept him busy, his second flea market in February saw his second collection ‘Literature of Kerala’ which comprised photo frames with quotes borrowed from Malayalam poet Kunjunni Mash and writer Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. These were an instant hit – it brought in fanfare, including appreciation from Basheer’s daughter.
“The current generation could be unfamiliar with our poets and writers. ‘Literature of Kerala’ is a reminder of the same. Even our floral collection is meant to create a reminiscence. The brand modernises and popularises it. ‘Coconut Stories’ is a brand which represents Kerala in an avant-garde manner,” he explains.
During the lockdown, Ratheesh began expanding the floral collection, working on the e-commerce website and ensuring the availability of his products on Amazon, all due this week. “We’ve also been working on several themes -- culture, festivals and landscape of Kerala are definitely on the list -- and expansion of products such as decor and fashion. Many brands are solely focusing on Malayalam filmy dialogues or cinema characters. We aspire to be a step ahead, with a story behind every product that celebrates Kerala,” Ratheesh adds.You can view the brand and products at www.coconutstories.in.