WOW | Designs On You

Blurring The Divide – Hana Rai

Gender neutral clothing is a global trend. As the lines constantly blur and shift between gendered fashion, Lagom Nepal is leading this trend in the capital. Lagom derived from a Swedish word means neither too much nor too little. Founded by Hana Rai, Lagom came into existence in September 2019. Since its inception, the brand focuses on sustainability through unisex fashion. “It is a result of changes within our society where people are now fighting for gender equality and are trying to create gender awareness,” says Hana who was fascinated by designing since childhood. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design from Raffles International College, Hong Kong.

Located in Thamel, the label is a slow fashion brand with influences from several cultures. Thrifted and vintage selections are also part of the store offerings. In conversation with WOW, Hana talks about unisex fashion, her brand and customer trends.

Gender-neutral clothing is one of the biggest trends on the global ramp. Are homegrown designers making the cut?

I have been creating genderless clothing since 2016 and this is my first try with opening in the Nepali market. The response has been overwhelming and I am thankful to each and every one who has supported me. If this is how our dedication to all genders is appreciated, I see homegrown unisex designers making a big statement now as well as in the future.

Is there any cultural influence in gender neutral clothing?

Clothing is very personal to each person and so it is for me. I can’t say much for all the brands that are influenced by specific cultures. However, during my research on gender neutrality, I read about Mosuo tribe of Tibetan Buddhists who practice matriarchy, a society ruled by women that do not oppress men. That played a very important part in my collections. I am also very influenced and inspired by Rajasthani men’s clothing which has both a masculine and feminine touch.

Most gender-neutral clothes that you see on the runways are inspired from cultures, traditions and past eras. Men in skirts, women in trousers are fashion movements that started from 1920s. The question is have we acknowledged the roots and importance of it?

I remember my male model walking down the runway wearing a handmade pleated school skirt which became the statement of the show. Why should it only remain on the performance realm when fashion itself is very much a part of our culture and art? I would love to see more men in skirts, to see masculinity breaking down that “cliché”.

Does Lagom also involve unconventional sizing?

Yes, we do. For me, human bodies are the most fascinating art that was ever created. I believe every person is born unique and so are our bodies and features. We design clothes that don’t follow predetermined demographics and aren’t defined by gender; clothes that gives a sense of freedom.

Comfort and functionality are my primary focus while designing. The human body is made to function. We fall, we rise, we bend, we move, we jump and we dance. We aren’t robots. We humans are bound to seek comfort in everyday life. Understanding that need, I always question myself, if I had to wear the clothes I design, would I be able to do all the things I want to without compromising that comfort and freedom that my body seeks?

What fabrics do you play mostly with in your collection?

I have always been an avid fanatic and wearer of natural fabrics. Linen, cotton, bamboo and hemp are very dear to me and blends of two natural fabrics complete my collection.
Apart from silhouettes, does the brand also play with gender-neutral motifs?

For our vintage garments, yes we do.

Your designs also have a bohemian feel…

I guess my designs are very much inspired by the wanderlust in me, personal travel stories and my undying love for vintage eras and how style was freedom of expression rather than being a victim of fashion trend.

Are the youth in for ‘losing the label’? Who is your target audience?

I guess we all at some point in our lives grow up questioning our identity, and that’s where we begin to explore outside of gender realms. Youth as we say are very powerful and have a magnificent voice to bring “change” and yes so far it’s been true to the brand. My target audiences are all genders coming from different cultural backgrounds and walks of life, who are unafraid of completely being them, love to address rawness of being a human before gender through the garments they wear. Someone who enjoys “individuality” as much as Lagom does.

Usually females are more experimental about gender neutral fashion, how has the response from men been so far?

I am grateful that the number of buyers and enquiries that I am receiving so far are from men. I guess we are breaking down the stigma and the taboo that has been imposed in fashion regarding their buying habits.

By representing unisex clothing, fashion innovators could avoid the marginalisation of transgender people…

I think it could be more like “empower transgender people”. At the end of the day, we all are human at first and I think clothing should be made to unite, thrive, protect us and not the opposite.