Sudheer Rajbhar’s label CHAMAR is more than just a fashion statement. Find out why!
From cobblers in the Maximum City's railway platforms to artisans from Dharavi he has been trying to find those close to the craft but otherwise forgotten.
When artist and designer Sudheer Rajbhar started the label CHAMAR a few years ago, he aimed to create a line that is subversive and bold. As we speak to him and talk about his latest creations, he reminds us again that it was more than a fashion statement that could challenge the diktats of the caste norms and symbolise Dalit pride. From cobblers in the Maximum City's railway platforms to artisans from Dharavi he has been trying to find those close to the craft but otherwise forgotten. Apart from following sustainable tenets to the hilt, Sudheer wants the name of the label to be a reminder of the skill possessed by artisans from this community who could turn anything into glamourous bags, belts and jackets.
What’s in a name
When you look at their bags, they look luxurious to the hilt and could very well be a chosen accessory of a runway model. He shares, “CHAMAR was once used as a slur and we tried to end that. When people heard this name abroad, they thought it was a mix of Chanel and Shalimar, they related more into luxury.” The origin of the brand happened around seven years ago when as an artist Sudheer was experimenting on the ostracisation of communities. He tells us that when the 2015 governmental leather ban happened it rendered several members from artisans - mainly from Dalits and Muslim communities - jobless. He searched for a material that could replace leather and in 2017, he developed a new recycled material made from waste, with properties really close to leather. “We met with the leather artisans to research and work with this new material. It has turned into a dialogue around a material, skills crafts from artisans and a designer. This is how CHAMAR began,” says the Mumbai-based founder.
Making a point
Sudheer and the artisans he works with have used the collections to certainly drive home a few points. “In the history of our collection, you will find Bombay Black relating to the black plastics covering the ceilings of the house of slums, Blue Collar highlighting how labour is used as a cheap human force, Black Fortune is an emphasis of all the daily survival objects used in slums for carrying water, food, transcribed in collection’s shapes,” informs the artist-activist. Sudheer asserts that the new normal after the pandemic hit was only a confirmation of their thought and design process. “It showed us that we are on the good track of rejecting previous industry schemes,” she shares.
Bold and beautiful
The bags and jackets made by them are waterproof handcrafted, gender-neutral, cruelty-free, and offbeat. He asserts that the idea is to make timeless signature products with a high quotient of functionality. Some of their latest designs include the bold Chamar Tokari called weaving bag in blue, white and green. That apart, one should also check out their Bora Overweight bags are available in striking colours like dark green, blue, red with striking visible threadwork and crafted from handcrafted recycled rubber. Apart from the bags, they are making weaving chairs and upcycled metal chairs. Currently, they are also working on a nylon market bag collection plan to launch in the next few months.
From Rs 1,500 to Rs 40,000.