One might not able to locate where Manipur lies! Intellectuals have been even confused on several occasions on where about this state is as a foreign nation. Their assumptions seem a dream come true today! The youths and teenagers are fashion cognisant and that too not Indian apparel, but foreign lifestyles. The business of fashion in Manipur is more advanced than geekowear other cities of India, leaving those metropolitans.
Manipur is an extraordinary place, full of charm, beauty and creativity. It lies in the North-Eastern region of Indian Sub-continent, between 23.5 oN-25.3 oN Latitude and 93.4 oE-95.3 oE Longitudes, bordering Myanmar in the east, Nagaland state in the north, Assam and Mizoram in the west. Encircled by nine hill ranges, Manipur is marked out by a picturesque valley in the midst. The total area of Manipur is 22,327 sq. km. Out of this only 2,238 sq. Km are valley while the remaining areas are covered with hilly tracts.
Manipur, a small state which lies on a melting pot of culture is regarded as one of the world’s beauty spots. The Rasa Lila, a classical dance of Manipur is world famous for its gentleness and serenity. Modern day polo was first played here as royal sport. Thus, the world credited the state as the home for polo game.
The place of surpassing attractions include superb panorama of evergreen hill ranges, the soil of Khongjom soaked with sacred blood of martyrs, the first battle of Anglo-Manipur war of 1891 at Kangla, the erstwhile capital of Manipur Kingdom. The Loktak lake-the largest freshwater lake in the North East, natural habitat of Brow-antlered deer at the Keibul Lamjao National Park-the only floating National Park in the world, the I.N.A. Memorial at Moirang where the first tricolour flag of Indian Independence was hoisted by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the Siroi Lily found only on the Siroi Hills, the symmertical two Second World War cemeteries, exquisite handloom and handicraft products of world fame.
Manipur is famous for the ‘Ema Keithel’ – women’s market at Khwairamband bazaar- the only and the largest market in the world run by women, the gold-domed Shri Govindajee Temple, the Saheed Minar, the Khonghampat Orchid Yard, the Tharon Cave at Tamenglong, the Khanghui Cave at Ukhrul, the Kangla Park and the Moat surrounding the old historical palace of the Maharajas of ore-British period.
Manipur is not only the gateway to the North Eastern region but also a fascinating destination for discerning tourists. Legends say that the discovery of Manipur is the result of the delight the Gods took in dancing. It is this remarkable bid that gives Manipur a unique identity of her own. Blessed with a salubrious climate, famous for its distinctive cultural pattern and its evergreen scenic beauty, extend the tourists a cordial invitation to visit Manipur.
The shops and malls located here are flooded with foreign goods. From trousers, shirts to shoes and even caps – all are highly fashionable with excellent quality. Thanks to various factors – remote locations, border area, indefinite blockades and of course, the pressure from revolutionaries.
Two major shopping malls are very popular in Manipur. Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade was established on July 17, 1998. The mall is a four-storey building with different plot sized shops. Unlike Mumbai and Delhi, it is not own by one proprietor or retail guru. Every shop owner is the owner of his own shops or plots. The first floor has around 25 shops with a vast area of 28 square metres each. Cost wise, each shop has retail value of Rs 7-10 lakhs. Second floor housed around 60 smaller shops with an area of 12 square metres. The top floor housed several offices and a cable operator, ISTV which is the sole cable channel in Manipur.
The second floor shops are rented for Rs 750 -1000 per month. Besides apparel and lifestyle cloths, there are beauty saloon, cosmetics and restaurants inside the Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade. The name ‘Gambhir Singh’ is dedicated to the great kings of Manipur Kingdom who freed its people from the clutches of Burmese (present day Myanmar) invasion. Thus, people here used to say, the shopping mall freed from normal and orthodox lifestyles. Ever since the mall came, teenagers and youths here are fashion conscious and they could compete with any models and actors from Bollywood.
The other shopping mall is Leima Shopping Plaza at Governor Road, behind the Polo Ground. The word ‘Leima’ refers to ‘respected lady’ in regional language. Definitely, the plaza is meant for women in general. It has around 35 shops and others are in the final stage to be open for the public. The Leima shopping Plaza was earlier a huge movie theatre with modern Dolby system and other modern facilities, named ‘Friends Mini’. Hollywood box office grosser like ‘The World is Not Enough’ and Bollywood superhit ‘Hum Aap ke Hai Kaun’ were the last movies the Manipur cinemagoers could remember. But due to the revolutionaries ban on Hindi films in the state since last 4-5years, people stop viewing cinemas. The owners of the theatre had then converted it into the current plaza. Like the previous shopping mall, it is the hunting ground for the foreign fashion.
When a teenager wears foreign outfits, naturally the looks need to be transformed to match with his dresses. For this, several saloons and parlour exists within the plaza. One might wonder how this fashion trends starts in this small state. Reaching Manipur is not one’s cup of tea. It takes nearly 3 days from Delhi by rail till Guwahati, then another night journey by bus. Reaching Imphal by airline could cost heavy expenditure, around Rs.12,000-Rs.15,000 per person. Lack of communication and improper contact with other part of the country is hampering the Indian fashion to reach the mind of Manipuris youth staying here. And when films and other source of Hindi serials have been forbidden from the youth’s life, where do they get inspiration of latest fashions?
Although bans from viewing Hindi and its movies, these youths crave to imitate Indian models and actresses. They love to be like the King Khans and the pretty priety Zinta! Moreover, recent renaissance of Manipuri films has paved the way for fashions to revive again. Today almost two films are produced every month and the quality and the customs of such miniature efforts are the best in entire North East India. Big players like Assam could not match the quality, fashion and customs that are shown in Manipur cinema, though mega and super malls such as the Hub, Sohum and the Vishal Malls are located in Guwahati. Visitors frequency are meanly for business and shopping purposes only. Unlike the big malls in other cities of the country the two malls at Imphal have a highest conversion percentage of business volume, nearly 79%.
Credits are given to the small town fashion designers who return back to Imphal from metro cities to experiment. The successful trends of organising beauty pageants and fashion show since last decades have welcomed the fashion to mingle with the Manipuri youths. They watch the MTV Asia and other foreign channels like Koreans, Japanese, Arirang and other South Asian media to imitate their latest fashions. What is new to Indian fashion trends is outdated one for these fashion aware youths. Examples can be cited from Manipuri youths staying in various states of India. One could easily notice that the dress they wear and the fashions they follow are only foreign trends. Hardly they buy from Indian Malls for their shoes, jeans and T-shirts. Reason being Indian Apparels are unnecessarily high priced and lack of new trends in West, says few students studying in Delhi.
Earlier goods made in Thailand and Singapore came to Manipur. Such goods are excellent in quality and the fabrics are well knitted. Manipur designers and fashion specialists prefer such apparels to Indian brands. According to traders in the Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade, now the manufacturing units and factories have been shifted to Beijing. This also is the reason why Nepal got foreign markets. Chinese made products are flooding the country, some are faked, others genuine and good quality. Such goods reached Manipur through a long voyage, from siliguri to silchar. Rapid bandhs and blockades on National Highway No. 39 forced the retailers and business traders to look out for Indo-Myanmar route.
Rajesh, an engineer student from Imphal, based in Delhi has said, ” Every time I wear any T-shirts brought from Manipur, and friends will ask is it from US or UK. I feel proud to reply them that its from Imphal. Looking at the price, they will request to order for them too.” Yes, the quality and cost factor is one prime factor that forced the Manipuri youths to opt for foreign goods. Fashions need to keep on changing. New product launched in the market is latest fashion. Unfortunately this kills the brand image. No one can predicts which is the best brand after every 3-4 months. Latest trends will arrive anytime and earlier fashion will dumped. This doesn’t happen frequently for Indian goods. Shirts like Park Avenue or Arrow will cling on its own finishing and cuts, that too for several months. In addition, price keeps on hiking. The MRP of Red Tape and Picasso shoes in neighbourhood mall at Guwahati ranges from Rs 1395-2095 and Rs 1495-1595 respectively, whereas All Stars and Valentino from Franch are available in the margin of Rs 200-Rs 700 in the Gambhir Singh Arcade. Fashionable youths will pick up these shoes which are latest in trends and new to them at cheaper prices.
The above table shows some brands of shoes which are available in both the Shopping malls and latest trends currently. Women’s shoes are limited, so some opt for Indian brands. Here, it is worth to mention that branded companies too established their small shops in and around Imphal to meet the requirements of the people. There are outlets of Nike, Reebok and Adidas. But the volume of business is not sound as compared to foreign shoes. Ida is the latest trends of women’s shoe these days. Among men, All Stars is the highest seller.
Most of these trousers are Bangkok or Singapore made. Among men’s brand, Phat Farm is the highest seller, followed by Mad Fish and Sha Bao Lu Jeans. ADL tops the women’s brand. Women Tops are mostly combination of imported and Indian brands. Popular among women shirts includes Ether from Bangkok, Sea Red, Idea and ANJ, Looks, Udare and Madame from India. Ether is available for girls from 12 years to middle aged housewives. This is the highest selling brand these days.