Latest Red Lotus Sari Collection Dedicated to Transgender Movement

Red Lotus, a sari label owned by designer Sharmila Nair, has taken up the cause of transgender people in India. In a society where the word transgender is associated with ridicule, it was a bold move on Nair's part to design her newest body of work with inspiration from the transgender community in India. Even riskier was her choice to use transgender models.

Red Lotus
Having just recently released her collection to the public, Kochi-based Nair has been busy participating in interviews with a batch of publications regarding Red Lotus' digital ad campaign. With the dual benefit of getting her work into the public eye and spreading a message of acceptance, Nair has a clearly-formed vision. Raising awareness about gender equality and portraying beauty beyond physical appearance, Nair's work takes on a different quality.

Conducted in-house rather than through an agency, the shoot posed some very telling difficulties. Even after cancelling nearly 5 times because finding a location and booking a makeup artist were so difficult (Nair was turned away with "a vague reason to avoid us" she says in an interview with Polka Cafe), the shoot has been a rousing success. An outpouring of support from the LGBT community have sent models Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri into viral territory. When the idea of using transgender models first cropped up, Nair said that she didn't know how to go about finding them. Luckily Jijo Kuriakose, founder of LGBT community Queerala in Kerala, bridged the gap between the two 29-year old models and Nair.

At first, Menon and Savithri approached their working relationship with cautious eyes; understandable considering the stigma a transgender person must fight against. Eventually, Nair's dedication to getting the shoot done and sharing parts of herself paid off, "as we interacted, things started becoming more and more clear and comfortable ... they were dedicated and confident with whatever they were doing," despite having no prior modeling experience. In an interview with afaqs!, Nair states that they were looking for inexperienced models, and forewent the screening process entirely. The authenticity that accompanies unfamiliarity gave this campaign the jolt it needed.

Having been inspired by the transgender community, it is only natural that the collection have an appropriate name. Mazhavil, meaning rainbow in Malayalam, is the name Nair chose for her latest collection. Every color in the rainbow has been used in this collection, made of organic, hand-loomed Hubli cotton which has been naturally dyed to retain its vibrancy over the years. A sari will cost anywhere from 1,500 rupees ($23, £16) to 2,500 rupees ($38, £26).

The reception of such a daring ad campaign teetered until the internet got hold of the pictures. Nair went forward with the campaign despite skepticism from associates and even the models themselves, according to an afaqs! interview: "So, people asked me if I really wanted to do this? Think twice, or three times before doing this, but I was pretty confident that I should do this."
Support from the LGBT community and Facebook regulars alike continues to support Nair's decision.

Queerala, a non-profit organisation that fights for LGBT rights, is located in Kerala, one of the most forward-thinking states of India. The city Nair is based out of, Kochi, is a district of Kerala located in the southern part of the country. Last year in November, Kerala's state government passed a Transgender Policy in order to ensure that their rights to freedom and movement will not be infringed upon. Access to social and economic opportunities are now legally guaranteed. Proper terminology has been enacted to cover transgender people in all forms of transition. This follows on the heels of a 2014 decision by the Indian Supreme Court to introduce a third gender.

Red Lotus

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