[Photo Credit: Pooja Dhar]

It’s 2019 and streetwear is a huge trend among millennials. Personally, I’m grateful because I can wear t-shirts again and be stylish. Naturally, I turned to Instagram when I started my collection. I was pleasantly surprised to find a burgeoning market for South Asian inspired streetwear. I am fully here for it.

The collaboration of Badal Patel (ByBadal), Rootsgear and Brown Girl Magazine (BGM) for the “Ladki Power” (female power) T-shirt line can only be described as the natural progression of their footprint in the South Asian influencer space. Badal Patel is a multidisciplinary graphic designer based in NYC. She has worked with big brands such as Clinique, Corona, and Kashi. Her classic pink color, used for her creative projects such as South Asian inspired greeting cards and T-shirts, has made her work recognizable on the gram. These three businesses have come together to design a minimalistic, yet classic T-shirt design that screams, “We’re here to represent South Asian culture in the digital space.”

After two years of IG stalking and months of basically living in my Hanji Hello sweatshirt, I finally got to interview half of the rockstar duo that started the South Asian inspired streetwear line, Rootsgear Clothing Company. I was introduced to Tanmit, who founded the company with his brother Sunmit, by a mutual friend. Before speaking with Tanmit I was simply a fan of the clothing. Now, I have deep respect for what Rootsgear is doing for the culture. We talked about their different lines, their business and their most recent collaboration with BGM and Badal Patel.

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Q&A with Rootsgear

BGM:  I know you from the amazing line, Hanji Hello, but tell me, what exactly is Rootsgear?

RG: Rootsgear is the dopest marketplace for South Asian inspired streetwear. We carry the best brands along with our own in-house collections. Some of the brands we carry right now are, Hanji Hello by Raxstar, Gang Gang by Fateh, and products from Do Not Touch designed by Jessie Sohpaul, among many others.

BGM: Oh, wow! I was under the impression that all the collections on your website including Hanji Hello were y’all!

RG: Yea, we are starting to do more education around what our brand really is and how it functions. Hanji Hello is Raxstar’s brand. Raxstar is a South Asian Hip-Hop artist based in England.

BGM: Y’all are older than Instagram. Tell me how you got started.

RG: My brother, Sunmit and I started in 2004. It was a side hustle for nearly a decade. In 2013, we came to a point where we were trying to figure out whether we wanted to legit do Rootsgear or not. We decided to go for it, let go of our third partner and gained full control of our website. That’s when we came across Shopify (the Canadian e-commerce platform) and went full force. I left my job as an accounting manager in 2016 at a non-profit in D.C. To make it happen, I barely slept for an entire year. I set a financial goal and when I met it, I quit my job and went full-time with my company.

BGM: If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is. Your niche audience is primarily Southeast Asians. Do you feel limited by this?

RG: No, because our goal has evolved from the brown market to the mainstream street-wear market. We started off as a loud and proud Punjabi brand, but we are starting to become more mainstream. There is a void in mainstream streetwear. Brown culture isn’t represented. Our goal is to be a top 10 competitor in mainstream streetwear.

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BGM: Explain the creative process when it comes to concepts for your culturally relevant collections.

RG: I observe design elements popular in mainstream culture and give it a desi twist. I’ll see that roses are a trend, but in desi culture, it’s a lotus flower. So, we will design apparel with lotus flowers on it. Emojis are trending as well, so we will do apparel with the mango emoji. Bomber jackets are big, so I designed jackets with a lining made of Indian silk fabrics.

BGM: Genius.

RG: Thank you!

BGM: Let’s talk business for a sec. Brands come and go all the time. What makes a brand sustainable?

RG: What drowns a majority of apparel brands is inventory. You make your money in the first 30 percent of your inventory. We use Supreme’s model which is to produce products in limited quantities. It’s enough to know you will sell out. It’s a sustainable model: quality over quantity. You make fewer products, but you make them dope. In the world of fast fashion, it’s survival of the fittest. Track the lifeline of each of your products. If it doesn’t sell out, it goes to clearance until you’re out of that product. You can do flash sales and break even or make your money before 50 percent of your inventory sells out.

BGM: You recently released a limited edition t-shirt line, Ladki Power, in collaboration with BGM and @ByBadal.

RG: I’m super proud of our collaboration with Brown Girl Magazine. Working with Trisha is an absolute delight. Her creative energy, her drive, and hustle are infectious. The design by Badal Patel is simplistic yet bold and we’re grateful to bring both their visions to life.

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