T-shirts that Speak a Thousand Words
Juju T-shirts promote Nepali culture, and the great thing is that people have really connected with the concept.
Pradip Man Shakya’s family line of work was business; his parents owned a retail store. But, when Shakya was a child helping out his parents in the store, he would dream of becoming an artist when there were no customers to deal with. To pursue his dream, he joined Lalit Kala Campus and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts. When he opened his first garment factory in 1990, his career took a different turn and he became involved in the manufacturing industry. He opened Juju Wears in 2013. Today, the company has a total of four outlets. Enterpreunership runs through Shakya’s veins, but he is an artist at heart. With Juju Wears, it seems like he has found a heavenly combination of both his interests. He talks to Living about Juju Wears, the principles, intentions and the vision behind it.
Can you talk about the origin of Juju Wears?
In 1990, I opened Shraman Apparels, a manufacturing company that looked mainly after the western market, such as the U.S. and Europe,besides Japan. Soon after, we decided to cater to our Nepali clientele as well and opened Karuna Natural Wears in 1997, which used natural fibers like hemp, silk, linen, and bamboo to produce high quality garments. However, our customers, especially young people, would complain that while they loved our products, the prices were too high. The reason for the high prices was the cost of the materials that we used, like hemp and bamboo, which were costly themselves. We decided to provide our customers with quality products at affordable prices. When we focused on using only pure cotton, we brought the price down to half of what it cost using hemp and bamboo. In this way, Juju Wears was born. The word Juju felt like a very easy name to remember, and it also translates to ‘King’in the Newari language, so we went for it. We opened our first store on 1st June 2013.
Why does Juju focus only on T-shirts?
Nepal is a small country, but full of rich history and culture. We have so many traditions, symbols, monuments, and places that deserve recognition. The original concept of Juju was to introduce the glory of our country among the youth through the medium of prints; and printed T-shirts felt like the ideal platform for us to carry out our vision.
Do you import your T-shirts, or do you produce your own?
We produce our own T-shirts, because we were a manufacturing company to begin with. Even though it would be much easier and profitable for us to bring T-shirts from outside, we insist on producing it in our home country. This brings employment opportunities and we can also maintain the quality of our products.
What is the process of making a Juju T-shirt?
The quality of cotton that we use isn’t available in Nepal, so the first step is to import raw materials. We make sure we only buy high quality materials, and I oversee this process myself. Then, the machines in our factory cut the material, after which it is stitched, printed, and packed. The hard part is quality control, since our company is all about high quality. Most workers are uneducated and do not have extensive knowledge on the do’s and don’ts. Sometimes, they eat their lunch beside the materials and leave marks on some T-shirts, or the T-shirts are laid on the floor and they get dirty. This way we have to throw out many of our products, but we wouldn’t have it any other way because we try to produce faultless Juju T-shirts only.
Where does the inspiration for the printed designs come from?
Whatever ideas come to us creatively goes into the print. Apart from Nepali culture, we also incorporate inspiration from the western world. For example, we have printed teachings of Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln. We want Nepali youth to learn about modern ideas and heroes of the wider world, while at the same time preserving their own heritage, customs, and traditions. We create designs that are a fusion of all these things.
Do you look for what is trending, or are the inspirations original?
When people see our T-shirts, they need to want to wear them, and for them to be desirable we need to follow trends, as well. We also modernize old historical entities so that our customers won’t feel outdated. For example, we have made Swoyambhu very colorful, we have included designs of Pahalman (Pahalmans are the guards of the five-storied temple located in Bhaktapur). It isn’t practical for us to only showcase our ideas, history, and objects, we need to blend what’s trendy with our original ideas.
How and why do you offer such low prices for such high quality products?
We are able to service our customers with high quality T-shirts in an affordable price range because we manufacture our own products. When we allow other manufacturing companies to produce our products, we have to share our profit, thus adding cost to the final pricing of the T-shirts. Being the manufacturer ourselves, we exercise direct control over quality, price range, and profit. Moreover, our company doesn’t run with the motive of pricing our products exceptionally high and gaining more profit. Our main aspiration is to influence all the youth of Nepal. If people can’t afford our products, no matter how good our designs are, it is of no use.
Can we get an insight into the new designs coming in the winter collection?
During the winter season, we do not produce many varieties of products and designs and prefer to keep it simple. Basic necessities like sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets are available, and we have them in both plain and prints for the customers to choose from.
What is the motto of Juju Wears?
The ultimate goal of Juju Wears is to increase Nepali youths’ love for their country. We aim to provide high quality products at affordable prices for our customers. Through our designs, we hope to highlight the beauty of our country and all the sublime culture that it hosts.
What do you think is the prime reason behind the popularity of Juju Wears?
A lot of people ask me how I got the idea for Juju Wears. Initially, when I was designing Juju T-shirts, I didn’t do it with any target group in mind. I just thought about printing beautiful aspects of Nepal, whether people bought them or not. I incorporated inspirations from buildings, symbols, and customs that surround us, things that we grew up with, and I think people connected with that. We have designs of a local galli, motorcycle with a mountain background, Swoyambhu, and many others printed on our T-shirts. I think people buy Juju T-shirts because they feel connected to them. Every Nepali loves his/her country, but most of the time they aren’t able to express their affection and wearing a Juju T-shirt speaks a thousand words without having to utter a single word!