Northeast ranks high when it comes to street fashion, and anyone who has visited this part of the country would agree that it is common to spot youngsters sporting trendy outfits fit for the ramp, at the mall or the local coffee shop. It is therefore obvious that street wear, a distinct style of street fashion, is very popular with the local fashionistas, so much so that it inspired Mizo graphic designer, Joel Sailo to start his own street wear company, Tribe Fiction.
Street Wear in India
Very few would think of starting a street wear company in India because it is still a growing trend everywhere except maybe for the Northeast. No one would want to put their money on such a niche market but Joel did. One of the reasons why he decided to take the risk was because he had always been interested in street wear but realized that the designs he liked were not easily available in India. ‘In India, if you are looking for cool street wear with unique designs, you are bound to be disappointed. Your only option would be to import stuff from abroad’. This motivated him to make street wear that he himself would be proud to wear and hoped that others like him would appreciate as well.
But starting a company is no cake walk and so Joel mulled over the idea for a long time and did his research before taking the leap. Fortunately for him, he was not completely unaware of what was in store, his experience working with various fashion brands in India such as Lee and Zovi.com came in handy. Sure, he knew all about the designing part, but what about the manufacturing and printing? And this is where the ‘mighty’ Youtube came to his rescue. ‘I spent hours looking at videos and observing the process,’ informed Joel. It was also encouraging to have his wife Remi Sailo and close friends support him every step of the way.
Finally in the month of September 2013, operations were underway. He decided on the name ‘Tribe Fiction’ to pay homage to his Northeastern roots. Since he was based in Bangalore, he started getting his t-shirt designs printed in Tamil Nadu. He was selling them from his home and via Facebook but that did not affect sales as they sold like ‘hot cakes’ among Northeast students living in the city. With time, he set up a Tribe Fiction retail outlet in Aizawl which was well-received by locals.
Printing Unit in Aizawl
Very soon, like most enterprising Northeastern individuals based outside the region, he started thinking about returning to the hills. ‘I needed to be among the people I was designing stuff for’, he explains. He set up his own printing unit in Aizawl and is aided by his brother John who takes care of administrative duties, brother-in-law Gwati who is the head printer, Amos who handles online marketing and advertising, and Puia and Thianga help Gwati in the printing department; his wife helps him oversee the process.
He may be a dreamer but he is a realistic dreamer, he knows that getting to the top will take time. ‘I do not expect the company to make a whole lot of profit or become extremely popular in the first couple of years. I know it will take time and everyone involved in the process is aware of that fact. Our aim is to do our best and make quality products that we are proud of’.
Tribe Fiction offers reasonably priced tank tops and t-shirts for men and women. The designs are unique and trendy which is why the label is becoming a hit among youths across the region. All designs are up on their site for anyone to browse and buy.
Follow their FB page for all the latest updates.
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast (Sep 2015 issue)