“The future of fashion excites me as its focus is on tiny corners of the globe where there are many stories and storytellers to be explored,” says emerging stylist Manglien S Gangte. Originally from a small town called Lamka located in the south of Manipur, India, Gangte spent his childhood watching his mother hand-craft a variety of garments, from pyjamas and sweaters to colourful woven shawls. This was the gateway to both his love for fashion and his ability to interpret clothes in different ways.
This environment was religious and culturally rich, and much of his influences stem from his upbringing and the stories that were passed down to him through the generations. “In Lamka, its inhabitants are of Chin-Kuki-Mizo origin who share the same myths and fables in different versions that have been passed on from a very long time ago,” says Gangte.
Like many of us, Gangte has run into difficulties due to the pandemic, but this didn’t stop him from producing a photoshoot with some of his designs. Taking photos on his smartphone, he experimented with cut and paste, rephotographing and scanning techniques, inspired by old folk tales and the way they were imprinted in his memory. Here, Gangte talks about the road to the final product of Did you miss me when you were looking for yourself out there?.
“The inspiration for this project was based on how my tribal ancestors dreamt and sang about the female embodiments found in folk songs and stories passed down by word of mouth. Legends about how these women escaped into the underworld with their lovers, how they offered prayers to the harvest moon, or love songs addressed to the rivers have always provoked my curiosity. And this project is my interpretation of the women in those stories and how they are pigmented in my memory.”
“I have worked in Delhi as a fashion stylist for an e-commerce website, without having attended fashion school. Last year I got selected for Mentoring Matters, a mentoring scheme that aims to redress the balance of equality in the fashion, beauty, and creative industries. I was mentored by Nell Kalonji, who helped me conceptualise and execute this project. And most importantly, it gave me enough conviction to shoot the whole story with my Android smartphone.”
“There hasn’t been much going on
Apart from the afternoon sky that always gets clouded with the daily round,
A graveyard of dreams that, when dusk sets in,
Brings me back to dusting the passenger’s seat of my memory –
Sudden whiffs of tobacco in the air, oud laced with mint;
The smell of geraniums that reminds me of my mother’s old Revlon lipstick.
Perhaps this is how one makes sense of what people mean to other people –
Through the interrupted thoughts you are forced to hum along to,
Like the tune of a pop song you once heard in a past life;
An ordeal astoundingly ordinary, yet somehow never settling,
Until daylight breaks to fill the sky with the song of sparrows.”
“The story is titled Did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?, in a way to rhetorically symbolise how we all have been forced to revisit and interact with the memories of our past amidst the lockdown because of the pandemic. A text has also been incorporated in one of the images, which was taken from my journal.”
“Planning the shoot and executing it was a little easier than expected because it happened around a time when the situation got safer and all of it happened at secluded areas within the vicinity of the neighbourhood. All the models casted in this story are younger sisters of my friends. And we couldn’t gather any production team as we were trying to minimise the head count as much as we could. My friend Lalthang helped through everything, which normally would have been at least three people’s work.”
“The honesty of how this project has been approached really makes me happy, to be able to put out a form of autobiographical reflection on loneliness and escapism and to be able to merge that with localised versions of fashion imagery that I love. And I look forward to creating more stories based around these themes.”
Follow Manglien S Gangte on Instagram here.
Models: Sharon Tombing, Pearl Hanghal, Maria Guite, and Venkim Guite. Special thanks to Lalthang Khuptong, Lian Dousel, Ben Kelway, and Nell Kalonji.