"What We Wear is a Reflection of Who We are and How We Think"

On the launch of HUEMN's fresh new fashion campaign, Cosmo India chats with co-founders Shyma Shetty and Pranav Misra about the inspiration behind this latest collection, the future of fashion post the pandemic and their vision for 2021.

With the dawn of the new year, Indian fashion label HUEMN has launched a fresh, new campaign. From the get-go, the photo imagery shared on the brand's Instagram handle has sparked interest and evoked stirring reactions from those who view it. Cosmo India caught up with HUEMN co-founders with Shyma Shetty and Pranav Mishra, to talk about the inspiration behind this new collection, the thought behind their gender-neutral clothing, the future of fashion, their vision for 2021 and more. 

Cosmo India: Tell us about the new collection and the campaign.

Shyma Shetty: Fashion’s impact on society is tremendous. What we wear is a reflection of who we are and how we think; and how we think is constantly evolving, pushed ahead by fresh narratives. The role of Fashion in our lives, its responsibility is so much more than putting clothes on our back, and that’s where our campaigns come in. As far as the collection is concerned, it is both, a reflective view of the HUEMN DNA and an exciting range of effortless fashion products that celebrate our hold on our craft.

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Cosmo India: What inspired this campaign. Is there a message you want to convey? 

Pranav Misra: Love and loss, and how they are somehow interconnected. You can't seem to really learn how to love, till you've lost (it), and you don't truly feel the loss something that you don't love. If there is one emotion that I have experienced more than the average human, it is that of love. And after having lost quite a lot of love, I'd like to believe that I finally understand it. Today I can say with confidence that love can only be given, regardless of what the outcome is, whether or not you ever get it in return. After so many years, I have finally trained my heart to be like the rest of my muscles—the more it breaks, the more it grows. I like to believe that my audience also dives with me into the depths where I like to create, hence I stay away from spoon-feeding my thoughts. What I want to convey is out there in the images—what you understand depends on your perspective.

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My great friend Mark Hanauer introduced me to crime photographer WEEGEE's work years ago and I drew my visual references from his craft. The idea of mixing love, time, and crime seemed exotic to me.

Cosmo India: This collection is gender-neutral. Is this a nod towards sustainability? Why do you think it's important in today's day? 

Shyma: HUEMN products are gender-neutral, simply because we don’t hold gender specifics as a framework for design. We do inclusive sizing so our customer can pick a product to fit their body well, but the design—it’s for everyone. People are non-binary by nature and these frameworks of ‘female’, ‘plus-size’, ‘brown’ ‘pear-shaped’ or whatever other stereotypes there are out there, are tools of a bygone era used to subjugate certain sections of society by saying that only ‘this’ is for you.

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Cosmo India: What according to you is the future of fashion, post the pandemic. Do you think the events of the last year will have a lasting effect on the way we dress and consume fashion?

Shyma: I think this is the biggest reality check for the fashion industry, to unlearn years of how it’s operated, especially with the massive growth of a new network of conscious fashion consumers. The e-commerce boom has been very real, with fashion consumers swiftly turning to remote buying, especially those from Tier 2 and 3 cities who are new shoppers. This gives us as suppliers a real chance to build trust because, with it, we also have the eyes of an extensive online network of individuals who consume the communication from the brand.

At HUEMN, we were able to adapt quickly, retaining all our partnerships and employees, unlearning and recalibrating how to move forward. Responsible brands have been able to hold on through the pandemic, building their business as leaders in times of uncertainty. As long as the consumer trusts in your product, your voice and your practices, you will get through it. As far as mindsets are concerned, comfort dressing has become the core of our buying choices thanks to the new working environments. People are more aware of homegrown brands and more particular about quality than they ever were. Consumers are spending carefully,  looking for longevity in their buys. I think that once there is normalcy, fashion will take a drastic turn to more fearless and individualistic dressing, but the brands that will survive are the ones who are able to gain trust now.

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Cosmo India: Who, according to you, is the HUEMN customer?

Misra: Someone who takes design seriously, has a keen interest in society, is aware of their surroundings and is sensitive towards them. Someone who is progressive and feels a sense of responsibility to change the world with their actions. Someone who is unapologetic about who they are and why they are wherever they are; and yet are consciously eager to evolve into a better version of what they represent. Someone who is not willing to compromise on quality, whether in clothing or in life itself.

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Cosmo India: What is your vision for the future of the brand, for 2021 and beyond? 

Misra: For 2021, we are putting a lot of structures into place. We have been vocal since the beginning, about the brand that we are creating.  Our vision has always been to create an impact and evolve culture and to be able to do that effectively, we are working on increasing our customer base. With an increased number of Indian customers opting for purchases online, our reach has multiplied and sales have increased, and we have been able to communicate the ethos of HUEMN  through our products as well.  We are streamlining processes to make them more efficient now. I believe that a horse will always be admired for the horse that it is, but only a well-tamed one, can win the race!

Cosmo India: What are your favourite pieces from the new collection.

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Misra: The Downtown dress (featured above). It is a hand-crafted product made from a photograph clicked by Kashmiri photo-journalist Azaan shah. It looks like Life reeking reality- even if you don't see it, you can never ignore it.

Shyma: The Gorilla Co-ords (featured above). It’s an effortless HUEMN Classic with our handcrafted insignia details. We just released it in a bunch of colourways on the e-store.

HUEMN Campaign Direction: Pranav Misra; Photography By Pulkit Mishra