In Conversation with Anjali Purohit
Founder & Creative Director
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am an Accessory Designer by profession and the founder and creative director of the brand Variously. It’s a sustainable brand based out of Michigan, Detroit area. Born and raised in India, I launched Variously about 3 years ago in 2016. Before that, I worked in the design industry extensively, with fashion brands, advertising agencies, on a lot of craft-based projects as well. Between India, Italy, and the United States.
Which past experiences would you say have shaped your work, design sensibilities, & aesthetic?
I think travelling has played a very big role. I wouldn’t just say travelling for pleasure, but I have lived in my places. I am from Ahmedabad in India, and then I moved to New Delhi to pursue my studies at NIFT which was a very interesting cultural shift for me. Delhi is a big melting pot of different cultures so that was a good experience. Then travelling within India for college studies and then for work. I lived in Mumbai as well. Then I Moved to Italy for my masters. I had friends from all over the country, and considering how diverse India is, that really helped me get awareness at the right age. I understood that people can be different in many ways but there is just a lot of beauty in that. I think those experiences have really helped me. Even living in Detroit, it is very multi-faceted and we have people from very diverse backgrounds, which I feel is very inspiring.
What is your personal philosophy in life?
I think it changes as you grow. Every phase and situation in life influences and moulds you and your thinking. But I think for now it is to live in the present and to make most of what you have. From the point of view of an entrepreneur, it is to take one day at a time. You only have as much time on your hands but there are several things that you have to accomplish, especially because you are like a one man army. You can only optimise with what you have and do your best.
How would you define your personal style?
I think it is mostly comfort driven. I am a very practical person when it comes to what I wear. I mostly don’t shop too much, but when I do I like to buy things that will grow old with me. I have a lot of things that I wear year after year that I really love. And I feel your style and what connects with you changes as you grow old. So I think right now I love natural fibres and a lot of colour.
What inspires your work?
Keeping things simple and effortless is what works for me in terms of my design sensibility. When I plan too much it doesn’t work out for me. So sometimes just a piece of music that I am listening to, or if I am reading an amazing blog or article online, or the food that I’m eating, places I visit, or a conversation like the one we’re having right now. There can be a lot of small moments in my everyday life that inspire me. They help me look at my work with a lot more critique. It helps me realise that I need to evolve in many elements, like maybe in terms of craftsmanship or the design process.
What is your vision for your craft?
I want to make my work extremely collaborative in nature. Currently, I’m the only designer involved in the designing process but there is a lot of input that comes in from the artisan partners that I work with. So I would not say that it is a typical way of sending out a Tech Pack with order specifications and they will make it, it doesn’t work that way. They give a lot of input in terms of what might look better and I really appreciate that aspect about it. So in the future, I hope to work more with artists, both locally here in Detroit or from any other part of the world to make the design process really collaborative by involving more artisan partners globally.
Who are your favourite artists and designers?
The British designer Phoebe Philo is one of the most inspiring designers I have ever come across because of her timeless quality and how intuitive her design sensibility is for women. In my very early years, I loved Rajesh Pratap Singh in India. He influenced me in the way he looked at fabric and texture. It just resonated with me. The amazing creative vision behind Manish Arora’s brand in India was also really inspiring.
Besides mainstream fashion designers, people from other mediums of design like architecture have also served as a source of inspiration for me. Like Alvar Aalto from Findand, or B V Doshi from Ahmedabad, I think just had a very organic connection with me. I think all my life experiences helped me get inspired.
Your favourite travel destination & why?
Predominantly anywhere I can be with my family and enjoy good food is a good destination for me. We recently went to Key West and had a great time there exploring the local food.
Your favourite book, film, activity - that motivate & inspire you.
There is a beautiful textile book called The Fabric of Life that I really like. It basically covers the textiles between Central Asia and the Middle East which I’m reading on and off right now. Also the simple short stories by Rabindranath Tagore, like The Kabuliwallah, or The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. So all these stories that I had read when I was really young have stayed with me. I think the simpler reads are what connect with me better.
I am a complete movie buff. Recently I saw The First Man, and that was amazing. Also, I loved Gully Boy, it was very inspiring.
Tell us something about your brand.
Variously is an independent extension of everything that has infused me as a designer and a creative person. Before Variously I have worked on several collections for a lot of other designers and brands. During that time I came across many situations when there was wastage of resources and a lot of overpriced and underpaid products. These experiences taught me about the need for doing things differently. I worked with many artisan families in India, and that really stayed with me in terms of the value that such a product creates. But at the same time, I saw that the market is very limited for these products, primarily because there is a lack of innovation. The techniques are amazing and carry a lot of history with them, but when it comes to a contemporary market the consumer tastes and lifestyles are changing which means the applications also need to evolve with time. I love to be connected between the two worlds. So Variously was my way of creating capsule based collections, for the modern and contemporary lifestyles, but from the roots of heritage.
What value are you trying to create through your work?
I am trying to use natural organic textiles and dyes as much as I can. One of the most important values would be to connect with these artisanal clusters. I see these textile pieces as a connection to these artisans because a lot of these techniques are fading with time. And with the incoming of fast fashion that we have all been consumers to at one point or the other, these techniques are just getting lost because there is such a dearth of demand for them. The artisans don’t have people to train, and a lot of them have to compromise on the quality of work and material used. All these issues ring an alarm and make me realise the need to stick to this supply chain and to constantly innovate with them. Otherwise, in the next few years, we might lose these techniques. These are third-fourth generation artisans, this is all they know. We need to create a valuable platform for designs that are classic and timeless because they cannot do season based collections as it takes a lot of time to create such products.