DISHOOM LAUNCHES ‘THE TRAILBLAZERS’ WITH MANJIT THAPP
On Monday 31st July, Dishoom will debut ‘The Trailblazers’: its first merchandise collection in collaboration with female UK illustrator Manjit Thapp. Available to purchase on the Dishoom Store, three exclusive t-shirt designs (£35 each) will feature the profiles of three inspirational, yet largely unsung, underrepresented, and sometimes even unknown, women from Indian history.
The limited-edition t-shirts showcase the impressive achievements and inspiring stories of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, Queen of Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai, and female photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla (more information on these individuals is outlined below). Trusted with the task of bringing this dynamic trio of women and their stories to life is 29 year old Manjit Thapp. Manjit’s work often revolves around female characters, the female experience, beautiful reflections of South Asian female representation, and exploring their depiction in popular culture.
Manjit Thapp comments: “I loved Dishoom’s concept for this project and jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with them to honour these three women. In my own work, I illustrate South Asian women because, growing up, I didn’t see myself represented and wanted to change that with the work I made. It was a joy to be able to illustrate these particular South Asian women from history for this project and shine a spotlight on their stories. I’ve enjoyed learning about the rich tapestry of their lives and then weaving elements from it into the final illustration. I especially loved how each of their lives is so different from one another, but there’s a thread that connects them all.”
For each t-shirt purchased, a donation will be made to The Girls Network, a charity to empower girls aged 14-19 from the least advantaged communities by pairing them with a mentor and network of role models who are women.
Sophia’, £35, available to purchase via the Dishoom Store on 31st July.
An Indian princess raised in Britain as Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, Sophia Duleep Singh was a British Indian Suffragette born in 1876. She was, in fact, one of the Suffragette movement’s most high-profile players, yet is so often absent from the narrative around this well-known historical period. Sophia was unapologetically and unstoppably wedded to her cause – she sold the Suffragette newspaper outside her Hampton Court Palace home; threw herself in front of the Prime Minister's car; and chased violent police officers. In May 2023, English Heritage erected a blue plaque at Princess Sophia Duleep Singh's former London home.
The ‘Sophia’ t-shirt represents activism and a fight for female freedom. Manjit’s intricate design features symbols which embody Sophia’s story – the violet flower which came to represent the Suffragette movement; a trumpet blowing angel, the emblem of the Women’s Social and Political Union; and a lion, representing Ranjit Singh (or ‘The Lion of Punjab’) who was Sophia’s Grandfather.
‘Homai’, £35, available to purchase via the Dishoom Store on 31st July.
Born in Gujarat in 1913, India’s first female photojournalist - Homai Vyarawalla - had a superpower: invisibility. With nobody expecting a woman to be working for the press, Homai defied societal norms and slipped unnoticed into the epicentre of Indian politics, capturing iconic images of world leaders and of India on its way to independence, through the horrors of partition, and beyond. Whilst Homai may have been hidden behind a camera, her legacy is as vibrant and alive as the moments she captured.
In her design of ‘Homai’, Manjit has incorporated symbols that are synonymous with Homai’s life, including the Bombay Chronicle - the publication that featured her first photo series, J.J School of Art - the institution where she first discovered her passion for photography, a press card - a nod to her unwavering commitment to truthful reporting, and a photograph from her extensive collection of acclaimed published works.
‘Rani Lakshmi’, £35, available to purchase via the Dishoom Store on 31st July.
Rani Lakshmi Bai - the 19th century Queen of Jhansi - has been immortalised as a national symbol of resistance and female power. Much of Rani Lakshmi Bai’s life story is unknown since her written history was destroyed by the British, yet her fearless legend still echoes across India to this day. After her husband’s death, she was left to rule over Jhansi, whilst The East India Company (which controlled most of India at the time), refused to accept the couple’s adopted son as heir, and plotted to take her kingdom. Rani Laxmi Bai stood her ground against the British during the Siege of Jhansi in 1857, and while there are many stories attached to her name, her image is mythologised in images of her riding into battle, sword in hand, with her infant son tied to her back. Outnumbered and outgunned, Rani Laxmi Bai stood her ground, becoming a true warrior queen.
Manjit’s design of Rani Lakshmi pays homage to her legend by weaving in the likes of a horse (a reference to the legendary story of Baadal), the word 'Jhansi' etched into a metal shield, and a letter representing the only remaining evidence of her life after the British invasion.
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