In the 21st century, India is trying to move away from colonial influences and find its own identity in every arena. The footwear industry has emerged as one area where Indians are trying to create brands that showcase Indian craftsmanship, stories, and culture using locally sourced materials, keeping in mind the Aatmnirbhar Bharat and Make in India initiative.
Gully Labs was founded with the same vision: to Indianise sneakers and provide alternatives to big brands that are not pocket-friendly or include Indian culture and stories in their products.
Sneaker culture emerged in the West, led by American pop culture, rap artists, basketball players, and the African-American community. It grew from the grassroots movements, representing communities and their stories.
However, the sneaker culture in India is just a derivative of Western trends and does not represent the Indian culture or communities.
The Founder’s Words
Arjun Singh, with a dream to redefine the sneaker culture in India and leave behind our colonial influences, started this brand with a vision to showcase the lesser-known stories of people across India, and today, his brand is creating headlines and turning heads.
“It is very easy for us as Indians just to consume anything that is from overseas, thinking it’s cool and premium. Now I feel is the time that we should be building and creating just cool premium stuff and should not be afraid to talk about it locally.”
“Sneakers are an amazing medium to have cultural collaborations with artists, sports people, or just people who have done something cool in life.”
– Arjun Singh (Gully Labs Founder)
How Does Gully Labs Promote Indian Stories and Culture?
When premium products are launched in India, the names are always anglicized. For example, Peter England, Monte Carlo, and Da Milano, it seems like we are hanging onto borrowed credibility, and we Indians cannot produce any premium products. Gully Labs seeks to shatter this belief and emerge as a global brand offering premium products with an Indian tadka.
The brand uses materials that are sustainable and sourced locally. Along with that, the names of their products are all Indian. The brand name is big and bold on the backstay of the shoes. It says Gully in Hindi and Labs in English, naming the brand as गली Labs, which brings Indian-ness to the shoe itself.
All of their shoes are handmade by workers in Delhi, who do both the designing and manufacturing. Gully Labs uses a variety of traditional stitching techniques from India, which are indeed impressive.
Their first shoe design features a prominent Kantha stitch, which also incorporates a hole pattern on the front of the shoe that was inspired by Rangoli’s designs. The shoes are named Patang Red, Firki Indigo, and Chai Beige, which were intentionally chosen to represent Indian-ness.
A Community-Centric Approach and Cultural Reclamation
Apart from the design perspective, Gully Labs has a very community-first approach. They are collaborating with several artists and communities to co-create, host events, and launch limited editions that will uniquely represent the artists. Almost 95 percent of the raw materials for the shoes are also sourced locally, which benefits domestic businesses and creates employment opportunities.
This cultural renaissance and reclamation appear to be the beginning of a larger movement where Indian brands showcase their identity with pride and become the first choice for the people. This strong sense of identity is reflected in today’s India, which has embraced its identity and is emerging as the Vishwa guru in the new world order.
It’s inspiring to see Indian brands like Gully Labs showcasing their identity and culture with pride through their products. This initiative towards embracing the national identity and creating premium products with an Indian tadka is reflective of India’s strong sense of self and emergence as a global leader.
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