We Are Kora brings to you vibrant and traditional art on the canvas of your tote bag.
DO YOU know what’s special about this flower?” quizzes Saketh Singh, as he rolls out a biscuit-coloured cotton tote with an intricate pen-and-ink sketch of a blossom. “It is the cannonball, the state flower of Pondicherry!” It is such oft-forgotten elements that form the bedrock of newly launched Pondicherrian brand, We Are Kora. The founders, Indian-German couple—architect Saketh Singh and freelance media professional Steffi Kirstenpfad—chose the element of nostalgia to distinguish themselves from other fashion merchandise brands. “We did not set out to create a brand; we wanted to create an idea that could capture different elements of nostalgia associated with various parts of India,” explains Singh. “Nostalgia varies depending on who you are, how old you are and where you are from,” he adds.
Their first line of products, rolled out in May, is a collection of totes that depict profiles of enigmatic Varanasi rishis with matted beards and vermilion smeared foreheads, performers of Theyyam, and the Indian lotus. We Are Kora will begin launching its products from July—sling bags, organic canvas clutches, posters and even ties. But they fall into six categories: people of India, cultures, customs and traditions, flora and fauna, products made in India and mythical characters.
There is a lacuna for high quality city-specific merchandise, believes the couple, who are excited about a tote depicting Pondicherry’s beloved ‘Mairie’ building which collapsed last year. We Are Kora fashions itself as a minimalist, artistic alternative to funky, kitschy city merchandise that are popular today.
While the accessories are designed by a collective of artists and design students, the brand is keen on keeping its production eco-friendly. Organic GOT certified cotton from south Tamil Nadu is weaved in solar-powered looms in Auroville. After the bags are tailored in Pondicherry, they are packed in recyclable cardboard boxes with butter paper wrapping.
“We want to go one step ahead and minimise all packaging waste,” says Singh holding up a glass mason jar. Inside, a tote with a bearded rishi rests on a bed of camphor. “Nostalgia is also about smells,” he grins.
The brand’s name is unusual. Humming the opening line of ‘Kora Kagaz’, Saketh says, Kora means different things in different languages— a blank , a beautiful woman, a musical instrument. “We love that the word evokes so many different things.” Just like nostalgia itself!
From Rs 600, July onwards, at Casablanca in Pondicherry, Maalgaadi in Chennai. Details: www.worldartcommunity.com
—Olympia Shilpa Gerald