The “Introducing” is a series of interviews or stories of independent design-led brands that you have probably not heard of yet. It’s an introduction to the brand story so you can learn more about them. Here, in her own words, founder Harjit Sohotey-Khan talks about her artisanal fashion brand “Jewelled Buddha”.
Jewelled Buddha is an artisan fashion brand that empowers women with slow style that is ethically handmade in India. Style made to empower is very much our mission. I believe fashion should be an equal exchange of empowering both the consumer and the maker with unique style that draws on age-old craft techniques and heritage designs.
Jewelled Buddha to me is off-the-beaten path of fast fashion. It’s very much symbolic of the journey that I had. It’s going back to the basics of my Indian roots and reconnecting with the heritage handmade crafts that my mother spoke of. The saris she so lovingly embroidered by hand and the handwoven Asian clothes I was bought up wearing.
Recently, my father, who was a headmaster in Lugazi, Uganda, pulled out a book that he’d been gifted over 50 years ago by a work colleague who he created some art for. It’s a beautiful book full of around 5000 Indian designs and motifs. I saw it as a child but forgot all about it until my dad gave it to me. It’s really inspired me to create something new and use the designs from it. Moments like these make me feel like I’ve gone full circle and all my early life experiences point me in the direction of Jewelled Buddha.
THE STORY BEHIND OUR ARTISANAL FASHION COLLECTIONS
There is definitely a touch of wanderlust in our collections. It comes from my inspiration for Jewelled Buddha, which was travelling around Asia for a year. It was a journey of rediscovering myself, and unknowingly, as I didn’t know it then, but re-evaluating my relationship with fast fashion. The experience of backpacking taught be so much. Apart from having so many amazing adventures, I learnt to only wear what I had in my backpack. In a way it was liberating.
Stepping out of the comfort zone of consumerism freed me from the illusion that buying stuff made me happy. In fact, what made me truly happy was exploring the world and the diverse cultures I came across. I also saw so many small artisan communities on my travels and this was the catalyst that got me thinking of starting a business when I returned. Something I never thought I could do or was capable of.
Our designs are entirely handmade by marginalised or disadvantaged artisans. Gently disrupting fast fashion one stitch at a time, these women earn a sustainable income that empowers their financial situations enough to invest and impact their future positively to escape the poverty trap.
Our aesthetic is very much focussed on relaxed silhouettes, indulgent textiles and handcrafted artisanal fashion designs. Our diverse customers love the artisanal fashion design details, textiles and colours of our collections. I think they especially speak to those who have travelled to India and experienced the rich culture and complex artistry around Indian inspired fashion. Saying that, it’s more than inspired, it’s authentic. There’s no dilution or short cuts in the techniques of how the clothing is made.
When it comes to reconnecting with their clothes, for our customers it’s a journey of discovery. Staying on the path of sustainable, artisanal fashion can be a difficult journey as we have to unlearn many behaviours that have been created just for our convenience. But small steps and changes in behaviour as well as educating yourself about the uncomfortable truths around fast fashion can all help.
I feel artisanal fashion, which by its very nature is labour intensive and slow, really enables that connection with who made your clothes and how. Empowing our customers to reconnect with their values, so they feel confident and beautiful in clothes that touch that part of their soul style is our aim.
I guess this was the concept around the latest mini photo shoot I recently did, in collaboration with Marina and Luke Forgeron from Forgeron Productions. It was shot in Bali on a beach which of course was great for showcasing our summer linen kaftan dresses, recycled sari silk kimono robes and cotton ikat kimonos. I wanted to show off the versatility, vibrancy and movement of the fabrics as well as the luxury in the design details.
There’s much beauty in the handloomed pure linen of our linen kaftans that are embellished with shimmering metallic threads woven into the fabric. The sari kimono robes have always been a favourite with their reversible designs that are vibrant and versatile.
The latest range is a diversion from colour to a more neutral collection of cotton ikat kimonos. Inspired by the Japanese Mingei philosophy of simplicity and practicality, these cotton kimonos are hand-dyed and woven by Ikat master artisans. They beautifully showcase the complexity of Kasuri double Ikat patterns in a timeless style that is easy to wear and coordinates well for a year-round sustainable wardrobe.
Explore more about artisanal fashion on jewelledbuddha.com
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From innovative social retail, disruptive beauty brands to natural luxe interiors and maximalist art, this edition is a must-read for any creative.
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