In 2009, when we began thinking about launching a brand for Uniquely-Chennai T-shirts and Souvenirs, we were holding most of our discussions over lunch and dinner at various restaurants in Chennai. Later, once we had finalised the name 'Chennaigaga' out of a variety of 27 names or so, we began setting aside blocks of time to meet and discuss the work involved.
One of our first hangouts was ‘Chamiers’, the cafe. It was then on the opposite side of the road from where it is located right now, with a spacious open-air café, which had many tables arranged outdoors. We invited designers and other associates to meet with us there since we did not have an office. We also met at the Coffee World on C.P. Ramaswamy road which is no longer in that location. We also frequented various other cafes across Chennai that were popular then, and conducted our discussions there. This went on for many weeks until we found a small office space for Chennaigaga closer to home.
We interviewed designers who came recommended through friends and family. It was a beautiful experience to speak about the ideations and concepts with them and receive reciprocal interest. The designer-pool had both women and men in it and this led to a well-rounded output for the first-ever Chennaigaga collection. Being a souvenir brand, the unisex aspect had to be adhered to for otherwise, the whole fashion quotient would have come in and diluted the core idea.
Our first collections had t-shirts, mugs, cloth bags and coasters. The t-shirt designs were simple and turns out, evergreen! The Chennai - Hot it is, the Madras Central station, the caption about namma Chennai weather titled Four Summers, the Auto rickshaw design titled ‘Chennai – Hot Meter’, the Marina Beach, and a couple of whacky designs that we did not pursue beyond the first collection. Chennaigaga was the first ever, to brand the ‘Chennaiite’ and this design featured in our first collection too!
We did not know much about the elements of design then, as our strong points were the concepts and content. The rest flowed naturally. It has been an enriching experience since, and we will soon complete a dozen years of Chennaigaga. Hope you are as excited as we are, to continue this journey together!