Out of the ordinary

Nupur Pradhan
Sunday, 26 August 2018

Quirky is the new cool. We explore how this trend of offbeat designs has made its way into the mainstream.

A Google search on ‘quirky things’ yields a million results. Quirky defined as ‘having or characterised by peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects’ has not remained a personality trait anymore. Anything different or out of the ordinary with respect to materialistic things is now labelled as quirky. 

But how did this trend begin? Most of us remember buying souvenirs on our trips across the country. If you went to Rajasthan, you’d buy items with royals, palaces or camels and elephants painted on them. Goa would have the sun, sand and the sea. At a pilgrim site, there would be countless street vendors selling different types of things with a photo of the temple or the deity on them and hand-made toys of different shapes for kids. 

The designs which were earlier limited to a certain products in their own area slowly started making their way throughout the country into our clothes, kitchenware, dining, workspace products and accessories. Traditional and conventional designs have given way to animal prints, fruit prints, ice creams, auto-rickshaws, trucks, inspirational or funny quotes, movie posters, favourite characters and what not!

These designs are nothing but an inspiration of everyday objects, seasons, people and internet memes from across the world which express a sense of belonging and the need to stay updated and come across as ‘cool’.

Irisha Poonawalla of Irisha Originals, an eco-sensitive design and fashion brand, says that anything that gives a person creative freedom is an instant form of liberation and this liberation is what made ‘quirky’ so popular among the masses. 

Nowadays, parading your quirky collection has become the norm and a part of status symbol. According to Ritika Narang Tickoo, co-founder Either Or, the original quirky store of Pune, “People now have accepted that a sense of humour and informality is something to be celebrated. Also, the whole world with the advent of social media has promoted the general idea that one must express all that one believes in and must be open about it. The merchandising has been a manifestation of that.” 

The trend caught up in the mid-2000s as the generation which was in their mid-thirties had memories of growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and had disposable income to enjoy it being expressed in products and utilities, says Tickoo. “Also a lot of the consumers were studying or had connections overseas so it was good to have these products that reminded them of home when they were out of the country,” she adds. 

Poonawalla resonates with her. “Quirky has found its way to “mainstream” because we, as consumers, collectively wanted to break the mould and opt for things that spoke to our colloquial, expressive and edgy side as individuals,” she says. “It started with the age of non-conformism as a revolutionary statement; be it fashion, decor or styling of any kind. The idea of ‘being yourself’ brought on a radical and very colourful shift in consumer behaviour,” Poonawalla adds.  

Started almost 20 years ago, Either Or began with introducing quirk with a desi slant which was a completely new concept. They drew inspiration from old Hindi movie posters and got hoarding artists to paint them on hand bags and tee-shirts and there has been no looking back since. 

But for the past 20 years, there have been numerous stores online and offline which introduced bright, bold and relatable designs to us. Not all of them though were eco-friendly or hand-made. Most notable of brands to popularise quirk were Chumbak and Happily Unmarried that came up with online and offline stores. They helped bring quirky items to the mainstream with their wacky, eccentric and relatively cheap designs and a good brand promotion. 

With so many designs and patterns available in clothes, footwear, dining, kitchenware, accessories etc, is that too much? With excessive bombarding of these designs, are people tired of it? 

Tickoo believes everything has a cycle and the trend will find a way to reinvent itself. “It will certainly need a new language when it’s done speaking the way it does now,” she says. Poonawalla adds that fashion, much like history, tends to repeat itself. “Maybe in different forms at different times, but I think ‘quirk’ will always find a way to reinvent itself with the times. When it comes to design, sky is the limit. Innovation in clothing, accessories and home-ware will be a continual and ever-evolving endeavour.”

Many have tried their hand but not all have been successful. Major industries have taken up the concept on a big scale and earned a heavy profit over merchandising. Disney, Marvel, WB for example have their own merchandise stores that sell numerous items with the favourite characters or quotes on them. But generating profit might not be easy task for everyone. Opening an online store has benefits over an offline store which is why there are so many of them. The youth is hooked on to these websites to hunt for the latest design fad that will make them stand out from the rest of their peers.

Many local designers also operate from their homes with just a Facebook page, cutting the investment costs to a website and deliver offbeat customised products as per the order across the country. All that you require is to have a good quality product and an excellent business sense.

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