While the color black is a staple when it comes to international fashion, in India, it’s a different story. Not many women own black saris because bright colors are revered, however, one Indian sari designer is reinventing the “unpopular” black sari in her latest campaign, ’18 Shades of Black’. Designer Sharmila Nair is too used to hearing what women should and should not wear, where they should and should not go and what they should and should not do while on their period. In a bid to make a political statement, inspired by the women protesting to enter the famous Sabrimala Temple in Kerala, she wanted to address such restrictions made on women through the humble sari.
She wants to challenge outdated beliefs about the freedom of women
“We are told boys and girls are different, girls don’t talk or laugh loudly. In villages, even today, girls are encouraged to study humanities, not medicine or engineering. There is a lot of emphasis on marriage and having children. For instance, in many parts of India, the moment you turn 18, your family will start talking about fixing your marriage. And once you’re married, they’ll start asking when you’re going to have a child,” says Nair. On one hand, the country is talking about raising the status of women, giving more rights and talking about women’s and empowerment and on the other, women are being curbed when it comes to their everyday freedom like public transport and choosing to have a career rather than get married. The aim of the campaign is to challenge outdated beliefs in Indian culture and those that are steeped in patriarchy and have been used to control women for generations.
“By wearing black, we are trying to send a message”, she says
“It tackles issues like body shaming, discrimination on the basis of skin color, early marriage, the stigma around menstruation, caste discrimination, patriarchy and even a lack of clean toilets for women,” reported the BBC. This journey of the 18 Shades of Black began when she began speaking to women about their personal stories as well as the Sabrimala controversy and how it was being received by the majority of people in Kerala and all over India. Writer and development communications specialist, Remya Saseendran, “as I grew older, I realized that a lot of these expectations were imposed from outside… and I realized that motherhood really doesn’t at all have to be the identity of a woman. Motherhood is a choice, just as not being a mother is a choice.” More importantly, “There’s a popular saying that when you draw a line, you’re not just drawing a line, you’re changing the universe. By wearing black, we are trying to send a message that just like the Sabarimala pilgrims, it is our color too. We are also entitled to it. We are also an equal part of this society. We are also part of this sea of black,” said Nair.
Image credit: PinkLungi