Fashion

Treasured heirloom

Two years into the family business at Kannur, Manjusha Mohan updated her LinkedIn profile, readied her apartment in Bengaluru; all set to relocate. Then she changed her mind, and stuck on. The engineer who had worked in Bengaluru and the U.S. returned to Kannur to help her father with his textile business, G. Sons and Company. The company, besides having textile stores in Kannur and West Asia, is known for its Dennis Morton brand of shirts, especially silk shirts which retail from stores across the State, Tamil Nadu and Dubai.

Manjusha quit a well-paying, cushy job which, despite the stress, she enjoyed. Sceptical about returning after living nine years outside Kerala, she came home to a job that demanded a different set of skills. “I had no idea...I couldn’t tell fabric from fabric, cotton from synthetics. I didn’t know the ABC of weaving, but I learnt.” The learning curve was steep but, with her father's help, she learnt.

And she has taught herself well. Today besides retailing from leading textile stores in the State, Dennis Morton has an online store and is launching a new line of shirts targeted at the younger demographic. And she is the operations head of, what is possibly Kerala’s only ‘wedding mall’, G. Mall in Kannur. She is also the chairman of the women’s wing of the North Malabar Chamber of Commerce, at 34 one of the youngest.

Stepping into her father’s shoes was not easy, especially in a business where gender roles are set in stone. Most of the workers in the factory are men and taking orders from a woman didn’t sit well with them unlike the IT industry from which she came. Over time they got used to it.

Her father O. Mohanan set up the business, G’Sons Group. From a single textile store, Kalavastralaya, the business grew to include G’Sons Readymades, Anaswara Silks and Saris, Kalpaka Silks (Baharain), G’Sons Gents Gallery and G’Sons Apparels and then came Dennis Morton, which is a part of the latter company.

“You may not have thought it was an Indian brand?” she asks. She was in Kochi on business. Dennis Morton is just a name, in case you are wondering. It was catchy name which Mohanan liked and named his line of ready to wear shirts thus. Apart from regular shirts, the company came out with an innovative product - the silk shirt – when ready-to-wear silk shirts were not widely available.

“At the time there was no market for silk shirts but Dennis Morton created a niche for itself. It told men they could also wear silk,” Manjusha says. Initially it was ‘wedding shirts’ – the creams and the whites – to which were later added colours. When mundus (dhotis) were innovated, with coloured borders, the brand came out with the matching mundu-silk shirt combinations. “This led to the trend of couples being colour co-ordinated in silk.”

Today she sources fabric, approves fabric and is on the lookout for new things. “I was on the verge of quitting every day of the first two years.” But she refused to quit. Just when she thought she had settled in the business, came Gmall. The learning process started all over, only this time it was about cement mixing and plastering. She also turned interior designer with the Mall, when she ended up designing the interiors of its food court.

The oldest of two daughters, Manjusha is both son and daughter to him. “My father brought us up with the belief that there was nothing we couldn’t achieve.” She had her education in Kannur and did her engineering from LBS College of Engineering, she says with pride that she was the first from her class to be placed and that too at Infosys.

Her plans include branding Dennis Morton silk shirts as a standalone brand. Silk shirts, traditionally associated with older men, because of the comfort fit is a put off for youngsters.

With this range Manjusha steps out her comfort zone. “This is not formal wear, it’s party wear for youngsters and will be very different from the kind associated with us.” She has roped in designer Sameera Saneesh as designer who has designed shirts for Dennis Morton before and actor Rahman is the brand ambassador.

Work is hectic and she has little time to relax, she says. “My six-year-old daughter wants me to read her a story every night. And she complains if I don’t make time. But it is good…,” she signs off.


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 2:42:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fashion/manjusha-mohan-has-given-her-family-textile-business-a-new-spin-with-her-brand-of-silk-shirts/article7535038.ece

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