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The Punjabi T-shirt Revolution

Discussion in 'Sikh Personalities' started by Gyani Jarnail Singh, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Thinker

    Jul 4, 2004
    Likes Received:

    The owner and brains behind a highly successful retail chain would surely be
    some corporate shark, with a no nonsense attitude - the kind of guy who is
    inclined toward power dressing.

    Hmm.. not necessarily. Meet Harinder Singh, the man who invented the "Puri
    Punjabi" T-shirt. If you don't own one of his t-shirts, you must have seen
    them around. What sets them apart are their catchy captions: Mein Gabru Des
    Punjab Da, Sadke Jaavan, Vekhi Ja Pher Cheri Na, Proud by birth, Sikh by
    choice, and many more. They're kind of hard to miss.

    His stores in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Karnal and Jalandhar also qualify as a
    memorable shopping experience. The merchandise, the display and ambience all
    combine to exude the flavor of a culture, centuries old and celebrated world
    over. But more than the store, it's the brand name that takes the cake in
    uniqueness. A number that's hard to forget:1469.
    For those who weren't paying attention in class, that's the year Guru Nanak
    was born. But getting back to Harinder Singh . . . don't be surprised to
    find him in chappals, shorts, a T-shirt (Purï Punjabi of course) with a
    backpack slung over his shoulder. A total bohemian by nature and appearance,
    he's about as un-corporate and un-sharky as you can get.
    Was your inspiration for the store your hometown in some rural part of
    No. I am quintessentially a metropolitan but I have a passion for Punjab.
    It's such a rich and proud culture after all.
    Besides this store, personally, I have tried to uphold true "punjabiyat" in
    my family. We pride ourselves in being able to speak fluent Punjabi even
    when none of us has ever lived in Punjab.
    What made you conceptualize a brand around Punjab?
    Well, I've been itching to do something different and then a small incident
    took place that greatly changed my perspectives. I was in Florence, Italy,
    with my family, when some children misidentified me because of my white pag.
    I realized that if I truly felt for my homeland I had to ensure that my
    endeavors help create the correct identity of my community.
    Okay, but why T-shirts?
    There are a couple of reasons. First of all, my family is in the garment
    business; mainly for export. Then I have 18 years experience in Uni Style
    Image. So professionally speaking, making and selling T-shirts was nothing
    new for me.
    Secondly, you have got to understand the T-shirt. It is not just a garment;
    it's a medium of communication and a very effective one. Suppose you put an
    ad in a newspaper or on television. It will cost a lot of money and run for
    a just a brief time. When you put a message on a Tshirt the buyer funds the
    message and the message is out there in the public eye for as long as the
    T-shirt is wearable. The 'Pur� Punjabi' T-shirt is an amalgamation of
    cultural creativity and retail understanding.
    When did you launch them?
    First I experimented using surplus tshirts from our business. My first shop
    opened in Defence Colony, New Delhi, in April 2005. I called it 'Traditional
    Value' but I soon realized that the name was no good. It was too commercial
    and detracted from the aesthetics of the concept.
    Somehow, 1469 struck me. That is the year Guru Nanak Dev was born. It's a
    unique numerical that signifies the start of something new so that made it
    ideal for a completely new venture. Plus, as a brand name it generates
    curiosity and sticks in people's minds. So many people who come into my
    shops ask about it.
    Many of your T-shirts not only carry messages in Punjabi, the message is
    written in Gurmukhi, a script that few people outside Punjab or other than
    Sikhs can read. Why have you done this?
    If you know Punjabi, then you know that it is a language with depth and
    power; and its script is beautiful. Our T-shirts sell all over the world.
    Imagine you are wearing a Pur� Punjabi T-shirt where the language is not
    known. People will be curious and you will have something to tell them. The
    messages center around art, character, humor and religion. It's a real high
    seeing our T-shirts in places like Spain and Portugal.
    So your T-shirts were an instant success?
    Yes! Our first few batches in Punjabi were done in earthy colors and they
    got a massive response in Delhi. The NRIs picked them up in bulk. We have
    recently got recognition for our efforts too. The Washington DC-based Sikh
    Council on Religion and Education commended us as a successful attempt to
    preserve the heritage of Punjab.
    So who all are behind 1469?
    My wife, Kirandeep is my biggest support, but we also have a creative team
    in place.
    Where do you get the ideas for your T-shirt messages?
    Everywhere! Anywhere! It's not like we're some copywriters at our
    workstations. In fact, we seldom get work done sitting down. Whenever an
    idea strikes, we don't waste time in conceptualizing it. Like, once I hired
    a Bullet in and drove from Okhla to South-Ex. Zipping in and out between
    bigger vehicles was so liberating; I felt like a tiger. No sooner did this
    thought occur to me than I parked the bike and wrote it down. The T-shirt
    version shows a Bullet and the tag-line Khulle Sher. That has been one of
    our best-sellers. After T-shirts what?
    Actually, from the beginning 1469 has been a concept store selling a whole
    range of handicrafts. For example no where will you find a wider range of
    phulkari embroidery than in our stores. We sell juttian, little figurines of
    women embroidering phulkari or men dancing bhangra. We source from all over
    Punjab - and not just East Punjab either. Some of our merchandise is
    imported from West Punjab.
    We want to go beyond ordinary handicrafts, because the culture of Punjab
    cannot be defined by just those items seen in state emporiums. Punjab is
    much too big for that. We are up for stocking anything that reminds people
    of their culture . . . a bust of Bhagat Singh, framed calligraphy of mukh
    vakhs from the Guru Granth Sahib, original paintings of the Golden Temple,
    antique locks, keys, gramophones, utensils, swords. If a thing is uncommon
    we definitely want it.
    But in your shop, we see stuff from other parts of India too ...

    Yes. We stock pottery from Auroville, Pondicherry, silver jewelry from
    Jaipur and ethnic embroidered bags from Gujrat.
    You could say we're trying to blend Punjab in these items in our own little
    way. For instance, the tea set from Auroville, has "cha" written in Punjabi
    WAMA women in Gujrat are making bags with embroideries of "Khanda" and "Ek
    Onkar". We also have the marketing rights to sell ragi Dya Singh's CD's.
    So Punjab is your passion in life?
    One of my passions. I'm also passionate about the environment and sustaining
    development. Every single item we stock is handmade. No plastic products in
    any form. From the garment factory we send cloth scraps to Kangra villages,
    where women weave them into fabric for other products. This way the women
    earn a living and the scrap that usually would be dumped is recycled. After
    all, it's not really just about doing good business. It's about adopting a
    lifestyle. Natural and simple! Our ancestors did it and I think we should
    too. All I do is live by Sikhism's most prominent teaching, Kirat Karo, Naam
    Japo aur Vandh Chakho.

    Hindustan Times ePaper
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  3. OP
    Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
    Expand Collapse
    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Thinker

    Jul 4, 2004
    Likes Received:
    I saw this ad on SPN's Main page and always wondered about the person BEHIND it...and today in the Hindustan Times I read about him...super !!:happy::happy:
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