We had the good fortune of connecting with Gurjit Bansel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Gurjit, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Growing up as a minority I was always acutely aware that it was very rare to see people that looked like me on mainstream TV or in advertising campaigns. As an adult it bugged me that not much had changed, in fact wearing a turban had more stigma attached to it than ever before. I quickly realized that I had two options; start campaigning to the major fashion brands or start my own and be in control of the imagery used in advertising. I chose the latter. As a Sikh I was raised to always address inequality head-on and personally I felt this route suited me best. I am a photographer, so this allowed me to combine my passion for photography and use the images on a format that was new to me: clothing. When analyzing branding and imagery used in advertising I quickly came to the realization that certain minority groups were used when advertising sports clothing but largely excluded from formal wear, some ethnic groups are not recognized at all. I wanted to bring under-represented minorities to the fore and started reaching out to other creatives who could benefit from the exposure. From this point onwards I decided to stay committed to raising the profile of minorities, use the brand to address inequalities in the world and have an ethical supply chain. The thinking has always been to stay true to these principles and not chase the money – too many people in this industry are transactional. The reward for me is building long term relationships with as many creatives as possible so that we have a platform to raise and support each other; if one of us succeeds we all succeed. I believe this builds intrinsic value into the brand, if you chase the money you end up chasing trends at come and go on a weekly basis! To anyone reading this who is on the fence about starting their own business – do it. There will always be risks of failure in anything you do in life but the ability to completely shape your impact on the world is unparalleled.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Our designs are all shot by myself. I love working with the model beforehand to talk through concepts and really work with them so that we both get emotion coming through in every shot. Most of our models are not professional, for many we were the first company they shot with! For me, the fact that they trust me to shoot them means that I can trust them representing my brand – we mustn’t forget that being in a studio can be very daunting at first. Many of our models are creatives seeking exposure in new markets so the concepts try to tie in our vision and their creative focus. I believe what sets us apart is the commitment to the art; its never about the money – its about the message. The message of the particular campaign or the message that we are building a network of ethnic creatives is a powerful one and one that I hope inspires others. The campaign I am most proud of has become a permanent line for us now, it is the INNOCENT campaign. This campaign was a response to the injustices that has increased around the world. Over the past few years a large number of innocent people have been killed for their beliefs, the color of their skin or at the hands of people that fear them. For the first time in my life I saw a drastic rise in hate across the world and I wanted to capture this in a single word. I chose INNOCENT as most people caught up in these hate crimes were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were innocent. The challenge was engaging the streetwear audience with such campaigns – people happily spend hundreds of dollars on large brands that only engage with minorities as part of a CSR exercise or when the marketing department needs to plug a hole in their demographics. Having a serious message is seen as ‘unsexy’ to overcome this I aim to produce designs that are visually stimulating but create conversation when people ask what the slogan or design means, Every time we post about these provocative topics we get less engagement on social media but it is central to our business that we use the platform to raise awareness about injustices.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

When I need to re-energize I always book Townhouse E at The Setai, Miami Beach. The space allows me to unwind, refocus and enjoy some incredible views. I love Asian food so the in-house restaurant, Jaya is one of my favorite spots for a nice place to have great food and catch up with friends. I still love walking through Española Way at night; there’s so much energy and great food its a must when visiting -there aren’t many places left in the world like this! I’m an explorer so I’d highly recommend throwing the rule book out of the window and walking through as many areas as possible. You get a better sense of the wide variety of cultures the city has ingrained into its soul; the Cuban element is unique. For anyone who hasn’t been here before – if you are walking past Puerto Sagua on Collins make sure to grab a Cuban sandwich and espresso!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to shoutout to my parents who dedicated their lives to ensuring that myself and my sister were surrounded by love and focused on education. And to my beautiful wife who always encourages me and supports my crazy ideas!

Website: www.soi86.com

Instagram: soi86

Linkedin: Gurj Singh Digital Innovator

Twitter: soi86official

Facebook: facebook.com/soi86

Other: hello@soi86.com

Image Credits
Talvinder Bansal Manpreet Bansel Sukhwinder Bansal Gurjit Bansel

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