Manglien S Gangte, an emerging Indian designer inspired by old folk tales


Main pictureDid you miss me while you were looking for you there?Photography and styling by Manglien S Gangte

“The future of fashion excites me because it focuses on small corners of the world where there are many stories and storytellers to explore,” says the emerging stylist. Manglien S Gangte. Hailing from a small town called Lamka in southern Manipur, India, Gangte spent his childhood watching his mother handcraft a variety of clothes, from pajamas and sweaters to colorful woven shawls. It 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 its influences stem from his upbringing and the stories passed down to him from generation to generation. “In Lamka, its people are of Chin-Kuki-Mizo origin and share the same myths and fables in different versions that have been passed down for a very long time,” says Gangte.

Like many of us, Gangte struggled with the pandemic, but that didn’t stop him from having a photoshoot with some of his creations. Taking photos on his smartphone, he experiments with copy-paste, rephotography and digitization techniques, inspired by old folk tales and how they are etched in his memory. Here, Gangte talks about the road to the end product of Did you miss me when you were looking for you there?.

“The inspiration for this project was based on how my tribal ancestors dreamed and sang the female incarnations found in folk songs and stories passed down by word of mouth. The legends of 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 aroused my curiosity. And this project is my take on the women in these stories and how they are pigmented in my memory.

“I worked in Delhi as a fashion designer for an e-commerce site, without having attended a fashion school. Last year I was selected for Mentoring questions, a mentoring program that aims to restore the balance of equality in the fashion, beauty and creative industries. I was mentored by Nell Kalonji, who helped me conceptualize and execute this project. And above all, it gave me enough conviction to film the whole story with my Android smartphone.

“Not much has happened
Apart from the afternoon sky which always darkens with the daily round,
A cemetery of dreams which, at nightfall,
Takes me back to dusting the passenger seat from memory –
Sudden puffs of tobacco in the air, oud mingled with mint;
The smell of geranium that reminds me of my mother’s old Revlon lipstick.
Maybe that’s how you make sense of what people mean to others –
Through the interrupted thoughts that you are forced to hum,
Like the tune of a pop song you’ve heard in a past life;
A surprisingly ordinary ordeal, but one that never gets better,
Until daybreak to fill the sky with the song of sparrows.

“The story is called Did you miss me while you were looking for you there?, so as to rhetorically symbolize how we have all been forced to revisit and interact with memories of our past amid the lockdown due to the pandemic. Text was also incorporated into one of the images, which was taken from my journal.

“Planning the shoot and executing it was a little easier than expected as it happened at a time when the situation became safer and it all happened in isolated areas close to the neighborhood. All of the models cast in this story are the younger sisters of my friends. And we couldn’t get any production team together because we were trying to keep the workforce as low as possible. My friend Lalthang helped everything, which normally should have been the work of at least three people.

“The honesty of the way this project was approached makes me really happy, to be able to put out some form of autobiographical reflection on loneliness and escape and to be able to merge that with localized versions of fashion images that I have. love. And I can’t wait to create more stories based on 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.

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