Studio Variously: Shaping The Future Of Fashion
Textile brand Studio Variously fuses Anjali Purohit's passion for traditional artisan techniques with a modern design approach. Passionate about changing the world of fashion and design for the better, Anjali tells us about ethically made textile brand Variously, and where she finds her inspiration.
We love the name “Variously” - what inspired that choice? The Variously name was a conscious choice considering the diverse set of experiences I have had as a designer and a human being both culturally and professionally before starting my independent design label. Being from India, I have worked in Delhi, Mumbai, travelled to several interior villages there, later moved to Milan, Italy to pursue my further studies in design and got the opportunity to exhibit in Germany and collaborate with international design studios before moving to the US. This has had a deep impact on my way of thinking and being and has an impact on my choices as a designer and entrepreneur.
Tell us about your decision to focus exclusively on hand-crafted, artisanal techniques. The market is flooded with products that are cookie cutter, look alike and are mass produced to offer a standardized experience. When it comes to textiles, I feel there is an opportunity to create by combining human-centric characteristics in the way the textile is conceived from idea to product stage. Hand-crafted techniques that are set in cultural roots, inherently have a story to tell and connect to. It involves people who have been handed down these unique skills and techniques that are not replicable and require a lot of expertise and understanding of materials and aesthetics.
What impact has this had on your business? Choosing to stick with only hand-crafted techniques was a conscious decision, which also comes with limitations and risks. As each piece is made completely by hand, it involves more time, more cost and more quality checks at every step. Choosing only designs that can be made in small batches is important to ensure the economic viability of the idea. I have personally travelled to all my artisan locations in India and Nepal. The amount of time, energy, money that is invested during these trips is all personal, with my family also accompanying me. Though on-site visits help in authenticating the process and people involved, it’s also important to keep a check on their health and personal safety during such extensive travel trips.
How has your business helped to support the local artisans? Through my experiences I have learnt how important it is to enable economic stability to the artisan’s family involved, especially the women. Women are involved at various stages in our textiles like spinning yarn, dyeing, quality check, warping and handweaving. As a woman owned business and a working mother myself, I know how important this can be for your well-being and overall quality of life.
How do you balance your design aesthetic with these traditional techniques? I have spent over 15 years working with artisan-based techniques for contemporary collections in fashion and lifestyle products. But I have also been drawn to classic modern aesthetics that explore the less is more concept, which is why it continues to inspire my choices as a designer. It breathes an innovative outlook into ancient techniques that are rooted in time and have cultural significance.
Finally, tell us about the future of Variously. Diversity in thinking and pursuing collaboration is extremely important to me. I believe that the future of design is in harmoniously created products, the result of many alike creative and visionary minds coming together. Variously reflects all this.
Anjali is a woman on a mission to create change in the fashion and textiles industry, with a hands-on approach to educating people on fair trade and sustainability. We learn more.
Anjali, we’re really inspired by your commitment to bring about change in fashion and design. We’ve heard it all started back in Gujarat? In January 2001 my home state of Gujarat in India was impacted by a massive earthquake. I was pursuing my design education at National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi at that time. UNDP (United Nations Development Project) collaborated with our design school to rehabilitate artisans in Kutch area severely impacted by the earthquake and this involved placing us design students in the villages for 2 to 3 months. This was a first-hand experience that came in early for me, where I learnt about different sets of challenges and opportunities in artisan-based products. For that project, I was involved with pottery and worked with a wonderful set of potters and their families. It was an extremely memorable experience which later also stayed with me and helped me reshape my focus on creating an artisan-based supply chain for Variously.
With Variously, you ensured your business meets the UN’s Sustainable Design Goals. Was that challenging? The current market for fashion or lifestyle products is heavily deal and price-centric. Sustainable artisan-made textiles come with a certain price point, and that too for a reason. As a small business, to ensure we meet the UN’s Sustainable Design Goals is challenging as everything is again cost, time and quality driven. It’s not just about quality in the products you make but also quality of the people who are involved in the production process. To pay ethical living wages, to ensure use of safe materials, for example no use of toxic dyes or chemicals and hazardous materials during the manufacturing process and using authentic certified natural yarns and eco-friendly dyes is key to meeting these design goals.
So it impacts every aspect of your production process? Yes, we also use locally cultivated rain fed 100% organic cotton in some of our handloom throws. Small local farms are involved in this and they collaborate with the artisans for supply and hand spinning of cotton yarn. Similarly, for another set of scarves we are using Eco Swiss Dyes, which are specially engineered to ensure eco-friendly ways of dyeing, by being free of toxic chemicals, using a lesser percentage of water during production. These are small but sure ways of incorporating sustainability in our process, which I feel is the future of design and fashion as well.