How Oro Bruk’s Monpa Clothing Responds to Climate Change

Arunachal Pradesh entrepreneur Tenzin Metoh reinterprets the Monpa tribe’s traditional attire with weather-conscious textiles, fresh colours and symbolic motifs 

Growing up in Bomdila, a hill town in Arunachal Pradesh, Tenzin Metoh remembers winter mornings meant waking up to taps jammed with ice, rooftops lined with icicles, and a yard knee-deep in snow. Naturally, Metoh and her family — belonging to the Monpa community of Arunachal Pradesh — dressed for the season: jackets and wraps of warm, thick yak wool, part of the traditional attire of the Himalayan tribe. 

But with increasing global temperatures, Metoh feels the heat too. Back home, it is still a reasonably cold winter, but the snow, according to Metoh, reaches “only her ankles.” In Itanagar, the bustling capital of Arunachal Pradesh where she is now based, summers can now get “hot and sweaty”. “The weather is changing everywhere, and it’s very unpredictable,” she says, adding with consternation, “In Bomdila, some households actually have a fridge.” 

Metoh — a former Miss Arunachal beauty pageant winner, and now a consultant to the state government’s Public Health Engineering Department, — responded to this change in a manner she knew best: sartorially. Since 2019, her apparel brand, Oro Bruk, has adapted Monpa outfits to suit the changing weather: replacing yak wool in khanjars (woollen jackets worn by men) and tengnakema (apron-like cloth women tie around their waists) with lighter textiles. “Oro Bruk is a direct outcome of global warming,” reads the brand’s concept note.  Metoh elaborates: “People realised that the climate was changing—it was hot, and impossible to wear our traditional attire anymore. But nobody was really thinking about fabric.”

This article was originally published in The Voice of Fashion in January 2024. Full article here.