Sudheer Rajbhar is an artist-activist gunning for social change through the medium of fashion. The Bombay born artist is behind the brand Chamar Studio, which has made minimal bags out of soft, recycled rubber tyres for their debut collection, Bombay Black. He works with cobblers and leather craftsmen from the Dalit community who were made redundant after the beef ban was instituted. The word ‘chamar’ has long been used as a slur; this brand is Rajbhar’s way of reclaiming the word.
“I grew up in the slums of Kandivali. That’s why I am very close to these artisans,” says Rajbhar. The idea for brand was rooted in art project that Rajbhar had undertaken. In 2017, he participated in a show at Jehangir Art Gallery, where showed his work Dark Homes. “When we see Bombay from the top, it’s always covered in black and blue – plastic sheets. So I decided make my own dark home.”
He started experimenting with rubber, and fashioned it to look like thelas or plastic bags, with the help of cobblers. “During this period, slums around the city were being demolished, so I went to the ruins and collected a few items from the demolished remains. I placed these objects in the bags I made. The idea was to show each bag as an individual house [full of precious things].”
Today, Rajbhar works with five artisans out of his workshop in Kandivali, and with whom he shares 50% of the proceeds from the profits earned. After a well-received debut, he’s planning his sophomore collection. He hopes to work with “bio-composite material made from entirely organic and sustainable bacterial cellulose, formed by agricultural waste”. “This time I’d like to collaborate with the shoe shiners (cobblers) who sit on the railway platforms between Virar and Churchgate, so they can earn something beyond than their regular income. I’d like to make these in the same colour as their uniform, blue.”
Find Chamar Studio at Le Mill