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Naga #Iger is Slaying the #OOTD With Her Ethnic Wraps In the fashion capital of the North East, a ‘mekhala’ evangelist has taken her crusade to Instagram to make the humble wrap a daily wear

@otuslive

THE FOLLOWING text reads like an #OOTD (outfit of the day) post in a chic western wear fashion blog.


“…Its myriad colours make it so versatile that I gave in to the urge to wear my lilac socks with my duck egg blue heels. The light milky aquamarine necklace is a gift from a colleague & my mom’s suit jacket is another repeat wear item”


Except it is not.

It’s a part of a post on a now fast-trending Instagram account, @Mekhalamama, run by a mother-of-three and ex-Hindu College (Delhi University) lecturer, Theyiesinuo Keditsu, from Kohima, Nagaland.

Read the complete post 👇👇👇

The outfit in question is a mekhala, ethnic Naga wraps, which Theyie mixes and matches with daily wear, bringing ethnic chic to her Instagram posts.

“I got my love of fashion and textiles from my mom. I grew up dreaming that one day I would wear her gorgeous mekhalas and shawls. As soon as I was old enough, that’s what I did,” says Theyie.

Most women in the rural areas of India’s North East wear mekhalas everyday, but not the younger women or those in urban areas, especially working women, for whom the mekhala is deemed old fashioned.

“Indulging my love of indigenous textiles was provocative,” says Theyie. “While many expressed appreciation, there were also embarrassed sniggers and questions from those who, I think, perceived this style choice as regressive. Why would I want to wear mekhalas like an old village women?”

But Theyie was so passionate that mekhalas can be worn – with elan no matter what shape, style or age a woman is – that in October 2017 she decided to prove it.

It was the reactions of people around me when I started wearing mekhalas to work every day that prompted me to start this Instagram account

As high-street global fashion and homegrown brands inundate local markets, keeping indigenous weaves current and relevant would seem challenging. But Theyie, who flirted briefly with photo editing at Vogue India magazine, has a knack for accessorising her daily mekhala with current styles.

“I keep it relevant by incorporating global fashion influences in my looks. This is possible by experimenting with what I wear with my mekhalas – colour, texture choices, accessories – and I also play around with wrapping styles and lengths.”

The word ‘mekhala’ is derived from Assamese ‘mekhela’ used to describe the lower half of their traditional attire – mekhela sador or chador. Nagamese is a pidgin and so the term ‘mekhala’ is now used to describe the handwoven wraps.

Nagaland is home to over 16 tribes, all of which have unique traditional motifs and colours. While new designs are coming out all the time, mekhelas are mostly woven on a backstrap loom by local women.

Weaving is an indigenous industry and a vital cultural institution through which we articulate our identities and tell our stories

Mekhalas are expensive. So Theyie would ask her parents to gift them on birthdays and Christmas. She has her mother’s mekhalas, and even one each from her maternal and paternal grandmothers. She now owns a good number of fabrics in her personal collections.

Living in Kohima, an Angami territory, and by virtue of her mother being from another tribe, Sümi, Theyie has access to the weaves of both tribes. Mekhala stores in Kohima also stock weaves of nearby tribes like Rengma, Lotha, Chakesang, Zeliang and Ao. Getting mekhalas of tribes that are further east, though, is not easy.

 

“I always say, I want to meet the mekhala before I wear it. There are a few exquisite pieces, sitting in my closet, unworn because I am waiting to hear about them. Each one tells a story. My aim is for people to learn about their own tribes and about other tribes and communities through the stories our textiles tell.”

They send me photos etc and it’s great, because it’s like a mekhala sisterhood that I am now a part of

Thanks to her Instagram account, many women, some of whom are big influencers, have pledged to make the mekhala part of their regular wardrobes.

“What’s important for me, as I get more followers on @mekhalamama, isn’t to simply showcase the mekhala as a fashion ‘item’ but to share our textiles as stories weavers tell about their lives, their identity, their tribe.”

-ENDS-

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