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Beyond the barriers of being brown – The New Indian Express

Sunaina Somu Divakar’s Wild Little Society champions the message of representation and body positivity with their unique, sustainable dolls 
Published: 09th December 2021 06:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th December 2021 06:43 AM   |  A+A-
Sunaina Somu Divakar
CHENNAI: My ammamma (maternal grandmother) was dark-skinned. But she was ahead of her times, and so, had no qualms about it. My grandfather was born and raised in Africa, and he was fair-complexioned. When he came down to India, he was considered a potential groom, and all the women in the town were dressed up to impress him; except my grandmother (who also happened to be his first cousin), because of her skin tone. But he chose to marry her and that surprised everyone. My mother faced a similar problem when many prospective grooms turned her down because she wore a slightly darker complexion,” shares city-based Sunaina Somu Divakar, as one of the prime reasons behind starting her venture Wild Little Society. The week-old online toy brand is a culmination of many such life-changing experiences that she witnessed in various stages of life.
Skin-deep stories

With the sustainable brown dolls the brand offers, Sunaina emphasises the importance of representation and body positivity among children. Growing up, the whole idea of colour-based discrimination didn’t sit well with her but she doesn’t want the same for the generations to come. “We belong to the land of browns and I still don’t understand what’s the problem with being one. I worked as a flight attendant with Singapore Airlines for six years and was based out of Singapore. I found that Singaporeans, Malay girls, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese… all of them had trouble with accepting their complexion. In those times, the amount of advertising that went into fairness products was crazy. Long story short, when I was pregnant, someone asked me what if the baby turned out to be dark like his grandmother. The immediate response in my mind was ‘So what? It doesn’t matter.’ I could go on about many such instances, which prompted me to conceptualise this whole idea,” shares the mother of a two-year-old. 
Meet the girls
At present, the brand offers four dolls — Zaza, Anya, Luna, and Maya. Zaza loves birds and adores peacocks. She enjoys thinking on her feet and loves public speaking. She wants to use her voice to make a difference in the world and aspires to become an influencer. Anya likes flowers; lotuses are her favourite. She enjoys reading and writing and aspires to become an author. Luna has a fascination for animals, especially tigers. Her favourite pastime is to draw and get creative. She aspires to become an artist. Maya is crazy about food, and mangoes are her favourite. She aspires to become a chef and hopes to take everyone on a journey with her food.
Breaking down the subtle references behind each personality, Sunaina shares, “Each kid’s favourite is the national bird, flower, animal, and fruit. The professions they aspire to pursue are offbeat. This is to motivate them to excel in their creative and life skills. I want kids to dream wild. Besides this, playing with dolls also improves language development, creativity, and imagination, develops fine motor and self-help skills, early compassion in young children, and develops a sense of care and respect for others,” points out Sunaina.
Details that matter
The dolls are handmade by an all-women team. Each one measures 33.5 cm in height and 11 cm in width. The hair is made of wool; the body is made using organic linen cotton, and the dresses and accessories are removable and interchangeable. The stuffing is made of 100 per cent recycled polyester fibre, sourced from single-use plastic bottles. The arm attachments are made using coconut shell buttons. “I was browsing through the doll collection of a few toy brands. Many had brown, plastic dolls but not fabric ones. Ours is one-of-a-kind that way and even our packaging is zero waste. With every doll purchased, you get a doll passport, colouring page, doodle backpack, certificate of friendship. The dolls make for a versatile playmate, birthday gift, baby shower gift, unique return gift, and nursery room décor,” suggests Sunaina.
Her catalogue offers an impressive collection of models available under each of these four dolls. The dolls come in two shades of brown — the lighter hue is called ‘medium’ and the darker one is called ‘deep’. To maintain uniformity, all dolls have the same body shape and big, bright eyes. Some have short curly hair and some come with long wavy hair that can be styled. 
Factoring in diversity, the clothes and accessories are designed with a fine balance of modern and traditional outlook. “I did my schooling and college in Coimbatore. Those days, there weren’t many options to experiment. You’ll find my dolls in jumpsuits, skirts, jeans, pattu pavadai…wearing complementing sling bags and footwear. It’s a reflection of my taste in clothing. The fabrics used right now belong to my mother-in-law’s wardrobe. Soon, dresses and accessories will be made available for kids to mix-and-match and dress up their dolls,” she assures.
Taking tiny steps
Sunaina’s dolls have found takers across the shores, too — four requests from Dubai, three from the US, two orders from the UK, and one from Australia. “People abroad love the skin tone and people here like the design element. Some customers here find it pricey but for clients abroad it’s much cheaper than what’s available to them. Currently, I have around 100 pieces. We will be producing more to cater to the demand. Kids can get to choose a doll of their liking from the catalogue and it will be custom-made. It doesn’t require maintenance. A damp cloth and soap water can work wonders if the dust settles. It could be your companion even for a lifetime,” she explains.
With more beauty and skincare brands leaning towards the body and skin-positivity movement, Sunaina believes that there’s similar scope for improvement in the toy segment. She’s planning to keep her collection inclusive by introducing hijab as accessories for her dolls. Reiterating the core values of Wild Little Society, she says, “These dolls hope to bring out a sense of comfort and trust in you. It’s for all age groups and there’s no gender barrier. Now’s the time to be wild and free. Do not worry about getting dark because of spending time in the sun. Embrace and love your skin tone, no matter what people say. All you need is happiness and it comes from within. You can always be brown, bold and beautiful.”
The dolls are priced at Rs 2,999 (including GST). Courier charges vary based on the destination.
For details, mail [email protected] or visit @wildlittlesociety on Instagram
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