TrendySingh is a new start up company for printed dastaars (turbans, which means to stand up for the oppressed and fight injustice for our soul brothers and sisters around the world) in Calgary, founded on February 2017. It was started with the aim to create a social enterprise and infuse art into practical and daily wear. Our team is made up of Jenn Nguyen, Janet Nguyen, Anoop Brar, Mandeep Sran, Sandeep Sran, Jasmeet Nijjer and Kris Hans.
What TrendySingh unique, is that it is the first printed dastaar company in Calgary, catering to a niche market. It is also a social enterprise that is contributing to the Sikh values of seva (selfless service) and hard work while promoting cross-cultural collaborations. All profits from the material for dastaars sold goes to non-profit organizations around the world to help fight injustice, help in war-stricken countries, natural disaster recovery, women’s rights and children’s education. They go to non-profit Sikh organizations such as Khalsa Aid, Sikh Relief and Nanak Naam.
It took the death of a friend to help bring new meaning to Jenn Nguyen’s life. ”The path of God comes in many ways,” says the 32-year-old Vietnamese-Canadian. But the path for Nguyen was not always that clear. After her friend died, Nguyen was searching for answers about life, death and healing. That’s when a friend took her to the Sikh temple in northeast Calgary, where she was quickly embraced.
”I like that Sikhism is a way of life like many other religions and that it speaks a universal language for love and compassion for everyone,” Nguyen says. ”It’s opened up my thinking that there are so many similarities between all faiths than what we perceive. I think that having the courage to look different in today’s society and standing up for one’s beliefs even when you face constant discrimination, teaches us all that inner strength can overcome many of life’s adversities.”
One hurdle Nguyen faced when starting TrendySingh was the uncertainty of how the community would respond. Some people told her it wouldn’t work, or it wasn’t part of the culture. But, Nguyen and her design team, Anoop Brar (media) and Kris Hans (marketing) are not trying to create that type of message or dividing label. Instead they hope to build bridges between people.
”I don’t look at it as being difficult because we should be encouraged to have a dialogue with many paths of faith,” she says. ”Only then can we create bridges with others and truly be respectful to each other. I think for all the great things a dastaar symbolically stands for, it should be celebrated just as many other sacred symbols across many religions. A part of us wanted to show my appreciation for the values that another spiritual path shows, but also I wanted to be able to design for Singhs and Kaurs.
At TrendySingh our interest for Sikhi and dastaars also came from working with Sikh youth from about ten years ago. We heard their stories about the racism they had faced while trying to develop their own self and what it meant to wear a turban. There was a lot of conflict in how they should look and how to integrate Western values as well. Anoop Brar, Mandeep Sran, Sandeep Sran and I had always worked on projects that helped instil Sikh values to better the youth. When the opportunity came to combine different arts, religious jewellery/dastaar pins, textiles and different cultures we thought we could use the symbol of the dastaar to help raise money for international non-profit organizations that believe in the same values.
We just wanted to show our appreciation for all those who take on the duty of looking and acting different, to carry on a message that there is a place and purpose for everyone. In some instances, people working in prisons, airports, courthouses and places with high security cannot wear a kirpan (a small sword worn by Sikh’s). Our jewellery designer, Janet Nguyen designed hand made khanda’s (an emblem of Sikhism) and kirpan pins, in keeping with the 5 K’s custom.”
The inspiration for TrendySingh’s design started with the values they wanted the prints to represent and then subsequently exploring inspirations from paintings, architecture, historical books and antiques before melding them into art designs and showing them to a printer based in India. All the material is hand printed, which provides jobs for people and bypasses large manufacturers.
”I hope my faith leads to true inner peace and happiness. I feel if one’s inner core is in tune then we can all spread love and joy to everyone. It helps gives us more clarity to focus on the real treasures in life.”