It was a risk that has paid off for Kerala-based designer Sharmila Nair.
Two weeks ago, Nair hired transgender women to model for her latest sari collection called Mazhavi (rainbow in Malayalam.) And to her surprise, she is swamped with orders like never before. The collection is called the rainbow because the designer has used the colours of the rainbow in the saris.
“When I decided on the models, I was honestly not sure of the kind of reaction we will get,” Nair told Quartz. “Transgenders are not treated very well and there are several misconceptions about them. Even I had prejudices about the community. But when I worked with them, I realised that they are just like us.”
Nair decided to work with transgender models after Kerala released its transgender policy. In November 2015, the state government launched a policy—a first of its kind in India—under which transgenders in the state would have equal access to social and economic opportunities.
The two models, Gowri Savithri and Maya Menon, were surprised when Nair told them about her idea. “They told me that your brand will suffer if we model for you,” Nair said.
But the response has proved them wrong.”Some people want the same blouses that have been worn by my models because they believe it’s auspicious to wear clothes worn by a transgender woman,” Nair said.
Here are photos of Nair’s latest collection: