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Amidst the constant tension between the Indian army, people and government of Kashmir, fashion brand ‘o.g.r.s.m’ attempts providing a breathing space to Kashmiri women artists in difficult conditions.
Terrorism, social and political unrest, curfews, killing…these are the words that cross our minds when we think of the Indian state of Kashmir. Often, it is so disturbing to even sit and watch the news about the conditions there, from the comfort of our living rooms. It’s unimaginable then, for most of us, what the plight of people, living through all of that conflict for decades now, might be like.
The positive pieces of news from Kashmir I have heard, over the years, are very few. But I am proudly adding one to the list myself now. It’s the first campaign of the Kashmiri fashion brand ‘o.g.r.s.m’ titled #womenforwomen. This is a production of fabric, jewellery and apparel completely run by women artists from Kashmir.
Through all the turmoil prevailing in the state, it is local artists who have kept the age old traditional Kashmiri art alive. With that they have indeed safeguarded the rich culture. But with almost no support from the state government and the downturn in tourism, artists are struggling to make both ends meet. Without a steady livelihood they are breaking down. Giving up their craft, they are looking for other sustainable opportunities.
With the decline of art, Kashmir is on the verge of losing its best parts. All these developments have especially affected Kashmiri women artists, who are impacted both by conflict, fear for the men in their families, and often, due to social, religious and cultural restrictions have limited financial freedom and end up being forced to work for lesser wages.
Such heartbreaking conditions of women artists moved two young friends – Mahroosh Banday and Mehvish. o.g.r.s.m is their effort to make a difference in the lives of women artists from Kashmir and save the art.
The organisation was started a year ago for providing livelihood to many women artists in the valley. Their brand stands for freedom, boldness and liberation. They started at a time when the world was beginning to openly talk about issues related to bodies, sexuality, gender and social justice. They realised even in the Kashmir valley there was the need to be bold and start conversations about such matters of importance.
In an email to us, Mahroosh says that they derived the name ‘o.g.r.s.m’ from ‘orgasm’ since they want it to symbolically speak out to the deep rooted power dynamics where women are often overpowered. It’s a statement made to say that women have the rights to express as well and their attributes must be celebrated.
Denim dress from o.g.r.s.m with ari work
Fashion from Kashmir is often known to be ‘modest’. But o.g.r.sm is making all effort to break from tradition even while building on it. One of their recent collections is called ‘Nude Women’. They showcase their products online through their website although at the moment, one needs to write in to order.
They are one such brand from a troubled state working with Kashmiri women artists who are very much in need of more such platforms. Kashmiri women don’t need charity – only the opportunity to prove themselves. Their attempts deserve applause and must be heard beyond boundaries.
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