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Transgender people, often spotted at weddings and births, have always held a distinctive place in Indian culture. Considered special, their blessings are sort at every momentous occasion. They are rewarded with a gift of money in exchange for their benediction. In the west they are seen as a fashion forward community who enjoy dressing up.

Kochi based designer Sharmila Nair recently launched her new collection of saris, featuring two transgender models. The models – Maya Menon and Gowri Savitri – have no previous experience in modeling. The collection is titledMazhavil or rainbow. The rainbow flag symbolizes the colorful aspirations of the LGBT community, of which the transgender are a part. Together the designer and the models transformed the sari world.

“In this collection we have mainly concentrated about the colors – using all the shades in the rainbow! Fabric used is hand-woven cotton that is naturally dyed so that the colors don’t fade. The saris are starch free, perfect for the summers,” said Sharmila to Polka Café.

The collection is certainly turning a lot of heads.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve already sold more than 100 saris. Besides people in India, we’ve received lots of orders from Britain, Singapore, Australia and the US,” Ms. Nair said to the BBC.

“I was thinking about how I was going to showcase this collection of handloom saris and I saw a Facebook post about the state government’s new policy to better the lives of transgender people,” she said to the BBC.


The models, both 29, are college graduates, but they are unemployed because they are transgender, she says. This assignment has brought them visibility.


Ritu Marwah is Social Media Editor at India Currents. She is an award winning author, chef, and debate coach.