Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dreams in my pocket - Anaka Narayanan

I learnt to sew recently. Signed up for a 2-month crash course and stitched a whole lot of clothes – skirts, tops, kurtas, lil’ girl frocks, kaftans, totes, and cushion covers. I never imagined that working the sewing machine would be so much fun, especially because I was always terrified of this strange machine, which I associated with women of another generation.

Ah! Our moms’ generation and the skills they had. Almost vintage now. I wonder how many young women in urban India stitch, embroider and knit? While, the crafting movement is quite hot in other countries, I guess here, it’s still associated with mothers and grandmothers. Most women today would rather post messages on Facebook in their free time…

Anyway, since I was craving for the above-mentioned vintage and traditional skills, I decided to go the whole mile, and learnt to embroider and knit from my mother. In fact, we’re planning to launch a small business with our own line of hand embroidered home furnishings. We’re still working at it like busy little Santa’s elves.

And while we’re talking about businesses built around something one loves to do, I must mention Anaka Narayanan, a self-taught fashion designer and store owner.  She runs Brass Tacks, an amazing boutique in Chennai and creates fantabulous clothes – all in handloom and with the smartest cuts and designs that I’ve ever seen.

Today she joins us in the Dreams in my pocket section. Hope you enjoy this interview.

I am….  

the owner and designer of a clothing brand, Brass Tacks. I grew up surrounded by beautiful handwoven textiles, but never thought I’d end up making a career for myself working with fabric. I studied economics, thinking I’d work on development projects, but while working for an economic analysis firm in New  York I started appreciating fashion (it was all around me). What stood out for me was the simplicity of the tailored silhouettes. Brass Tacks was conceived when I was in New York, and goal was to translate natural and handwoven fabrics into well-cut, tailored silhouettes.

My bread-butter-n-jam… 

I put together 4 collections a year and they are retailed at my store. I design each collection, working closely with my production team. I get to decide what fabrics to use and I have complete creative control over the theme and styling of each collection. It’s an amazing feeling to have that kind of ownership over your work, and to see your own creations generate business.

What inspires and invigorates me…

Unfortunately I don’t find enough time to go for my kalaripayattu classes, but it’s something that always leaves me feeling strong and high on positive energy. I love the movements in the class, but also being in a class where other people are pushing themselves to get better is really motivating (as opposed to jogging or swimming by myself).

I’m also very inspired by people who run their own businesses but who have such a great sense of humour that they never let challenges get the better of themselves.

I enjoy…

My morning cup of tea- and making it is as much a part of the enjoyment as the drinking! Unless I’m working on something that requires total concentration or reading, I always have music playing at home and in my office.

The clothes I design….

The clothes I design are very simple to look at, but there are a lot of unexpected surprises and hidden details that go into making it special and unique. A lot of time is spent on getting the right fit/shape, and we offer a wide range of sizes in the hope that most women will find something that works for them.

The designs are feminine, but not overly girly. They are not fussy and they are meant for strong-willed women who are confident and have an eye for detail. I supposed because my personal aesthetic is very simple, I never design clothes that could possibly be overbearing on the wearer’s personality.  

What counts…
Being happy. Although that’s easier said than done, because different things all add up to making one happy or unhappy. Still, it’s the only thing worth striving for.

The important lessons of my life…

Being compassionate. I know I’ve learned this but I don’t always practice it (what can I say, I’m work in progress).

Let me share…

I don’t know if I’m in a position to be giving advice to other entrepreneurs, but a friend of mine recently said something to me that made a lot of sense. You always read about how important it is for an entrepreneur to be hardworking, passionate and persistent. I’d like to add one more thing to that list: enjoy the everyday process.


To view Anaka's website and collections, cruise over.. 

 Image Credit: Anaka Narayanan

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