Yaas Debi: How did Parama Ghosh's label make Kolkattans re-connect with homegrown thought?
Parama Ghosh has, perhaps unknowingly, changed the course of the quintessential Bengali styling; her eponymous label Parama which is only four years old has garnered stellar renown for its cheeky, re-imaginations of homegrown thought. If you’ve had a look at her Mahalaya blouses or Howrah Bridge saris, you’re probably nodding in agreement.
But Ghosh tells us as beautiful as her numbers are, the brand was born out of the love for the simple essentials in life which always stay back. “People never talk about the mundane things or normalities, on saris or blouses, at least; my label is about celebrating everyday,” the designer tells us. So, how did she make fashionistas of the city obsessed with the ‘Bong element?’ Here’s finding out:
Tell us how Parama was conceived
Back in 2015, it was more like a weekend venture, I was a lawyer but my relationship with law was not working out. I was also a trained artist and I really wanted to pursue it. I call my pieces stories on fabric because clothes do not stay, narratives do. Parama was born out of the love for mundane because only the mundane stays with us. The idea is to celebrate the elements we see in everyday life.
When did you realise that the brand was working?
This was such a huge leap of faith for me, I gave up a very well-paying career which had sustained me for almost a decade, and it was a big deal. I first got a sense that Parama was being noticed was the moment I saw copies being made.
If you’re being copied left, right and centre within six months of your venture, you take it as a validation. Even now, you see copies of my blouses everywhere, the back-embroidered blouses, especially! (laughs)
Tell us about your influences…
My embroideries are associated with nostalgia, and I keep saying my muse is Kolkata. I’ve only known this city since I was a kid and I never needed to look out as the city has enough to inspire me for a lifetime. I knew people re-connected with their identities through my products, but even people who have no connection with the city whatsoever are also enjoying my numbers immensely.
My Kolkata skyline blouses have been brought mostly by people who are not from the city! It’s surreal and eye-opening. But we also buy tees with ‘I Love New York’ on them even if never been to NYC, but we’re just intrigued by that place.
How many people do you employ?
As far as the embroidery is concerned there are about 40 people who work for me; the kantha batik unit has around 75 women from rural Santiniketan, they work with my designs. I do not source anything, not even my fabrics unless I’m sourcing khadi or some other material. I have my own weavers in Phulia and work for me exclusively.
What has been the most significant challenge while running your own label in Kolkata?
People do not readily want to support small businesses here, as the city has a reputation for not being cash-rich; people are smart about their buying choices and play safe. If you’re a small homegrown brand, it will take you some time to get noticed. Plagiarism has also been a challenge for me, I’ve never really seen anything like it.