Describe your image
Image Credits: Photography and HMU - Yeesha Sharma, Styling - Preeti Chhatpar, Wearing Mirchi Komachi
In Frame: Yoshiko Inoue, Head Designer and CEO of Mirchi Komachi
Mirchi Komachi: 'Chalo Ladies, The World is Ours!'- Conversing about activism, Indianness and their intersection with Fashion
A candid conversation with Mirchi Komachi's beloved CEO and in-house designer turned model Yoshiko Inoue.
1. How did the brand come to be?
I never had considered starting my own business until about a year before I started one. However, while working as a corporate employee, where I found joy only in the evenings and weekends, I realised that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing something that truly fulfilled me. With limited options and lacking confidence, I reluctantly chose to create and sell clothes as a means to sustain myself.
The two pillars emerged from contemplating. "If I were to start my own brand, what kind of value would I want to give back to Indian society?
Pillar 1: Bringing Indian Handcrafts into Everyday Life
India possesses magnificent traditional handcrafted fabrics, but they are primarily used in traditional "ethnic wear". Moreover, the emphasis tends to be on dressing up only for special occasions. I aspired to experience the beauty of Indian fabrics in daily attire, even in Western-style clothing. I aimed to contribute to a fashion movement that showcases India as a country where you can find distinctive street fashion that is unlike anything else in the world, like the crazy street fashion in Tokyo in the ‘90s. Additionally, by doing so, I hoped to ensure year-round employment for Indian artisans skilled in handcrafting.
Pillar 2: Empowering Women in India to Live Freely
Upon arriving in India, I witnessed the staggering prevalence of violence against women and the pervasive influence of patriarchy in everyday life. When creating a clothing brand, I pondered what it truly meant to operate in a country where even wearing jeans outside of major cities can be forbidden by one's family. Was it about designing culturally approved “Sanskari Western” attire? No. Wearing the clothes one desire is connected to self-expression, pursuing one's aspirations,
choosing one's own partner, and living life on one's own terms for women. I realised that I should contribute to creating a society where all women can do so. This effort is a part of the force to foster equality, opposing all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexuality, and caste. While we’re so so SO far from achieving any tiny bit of these pillars, I always keep these two ideals in mind.
2. What was the rationale behind the name and tagline? How has this moulded the core values of your brand?
The name "MIRCHI" represents the fiery and bold spirit of chilli, while "KOMACHI" is the ancient Japanese word for wise and elegant women.
With this brand name, we blend the essence of India and Japan, symbolising the fusion of edgy strength and intelligent grace, and the women who have both of these within. Our aim is to create a brand for such women to feel confident in themselves and express who they are in daily life. The tagline “CHALO LADIES, THE WORLD IS OURS!” came naturally along with the brand name and the aim behind it.
3. What inspired your brand's visual identity?
MIRCHI KOMACHI creates everyday clothing.
Rather than focusing on new clothing designs, we adapt "regular" Western clothing to suit the Indian environment, particularly in places like Bombay with its hot climate. Amidst a world dominated by Western fashion, I take pleasure in transforming Western clothing to fit the needs of Indians, ultimately creating something unique to India. It’s a secret revenge for Western people plagiarising Indian/Asian clothes in various ways! Furthermore, as a recent trend, I incorporate my desire to voice social messages through block printing. I satirically express strong sentiments inspired by societal movements, linking them with films etc, and integrating them into block print designs.
4. Could you shed light on the creative process of your brand?
Regarding the fabrics, we currently source them from wholesale markets since we have not been able to establish direct trade with handloom weavers yet, which is regrettable. As our initial processing method, we have done block printing with our original designs. In the near future, we aspire to collaborate directly with artisans/groups (especially
women!) specialising in techniques like mud resist dyeing in Rajasthan. We also want to incorporate other unique fabrics from different regions of India, such as handloom, batik, tie-dye, embroidery, and so on.
It is crucial for us to ensure that artisans receive fair compensation commensurate with their skills and processes. Therefore, we will never resort to bargaining for lower fabric prices. While the cost may decrease slightly as we increase production and sales a lot, we do not
intend to become a brand with extremely “affordable” prices. Recently, we have implemented a partial made-to-order system where we maintain fabric inventory instead of producing finished products in all sizes. This was aimed at reducing the disappointment expressed by customers who often found only one size available on our website and lamented, "My size is not available". Now, even
sizes not listed on the website can be ordered, and this has been well-received by customers seeking larger sizes. Ah, we never charge a “fat tax” if you wonder!
5. What inspires you to make the content?
Influences from social movements, movies, and though way indirectly, maybe music. Creating garments with prints of satirical blocks on handloom fabric, serving as an Indian version of message T-shirts, aligns with the current direction of our brand (acknowledging social movements and addressing societal issues rather than solely focusing on creating cute/beautiful clothing). For instance, Chipko Didi Print was created from observing the protests against unnecessary
tree felling in Aarey Colony. Pothole Zone Print was created to satirise the never-improving poor road situation in Bombay. In 2019, observing the turmoil caused by opposition to legislative changes deeply affected
me. It was during that time that I created the print "Democracy Cat"("D For De-meow-
cracy"). During the pandemic, witnessing less-privileged people being caught in the upheaval caused by government policies was yet another daily emotional experience. It made it impossible to continue posting about clothing as if in a happy and equal country. Our social media became subtly infused with my personal feelings (albeit quite restrained).
6. Were there any inspirational style icons that led you to creating Mirchi Komachi?
No, I can’t think of any style icons that I get style inspiration from. Rather I get inspired by the people who speak up, who fight against injustice, and who express themselves.
7. What is the vision you have for the brand?
By pursuing the two pillars mentioned above, we dream of making changes in society.
Clothes are one of our contents.
Even if it is just a few individuals, it would be honourable if we could make better changes in the lives of Indian artisans, particularly women involved in (or excluded from) traditional handicrafts.
If we could create awareness and popularity of some dying fabrics/techniques, that would be extremely honourable.
Furthermore, in order to create a society where Indian women can freely design their lives, we strive to be at least a part of that community. We organise events, engage in activities that support women's independence (including our in-house workshop), collaborate with feminists, and promote awareness.
8. Is there any message that you would like to give to our audience?
'Chalo Ladies, The World Is Ours!'