Oct 6, 2011

Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver

It's Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver and given my interest in all things "Eco", I wanted to stop by and explore what fashion trends were coming for 2012FW.  The show includes presentations from Nicole Bridger, Jeff Garner (Prophetik), Melissa Ferreira, who are pioneers in Eco Fashion, and fashion favorites such as, Jason Matlo.  Since wearable fashion trends transcend into home fashion, it's important to see what's cooking in their world.
Melissa Ferreira, Jason Matlo, Nicole Bridger, Misty Greer
I had the opportunity to attend the press conference and panel discussion held at the opening of Eco Fashion Week. There were many interesting questions posed to the panel and here are some key takeaways that can be applied to the home textiles industry and to some extent, our personal lives:
  • All the designers on the panel mentioned how they try to minimize waste involved in producing their collections.
  • Designers try to re-purpose the waste or donate to someone who can give it new life by creating other products, such a as accessories.
  • They all produce their collection locally, reducing carbon footprint 
  • It's more expensive to produce eco fashion but once a consumer makes the commitment to purchase a Designer label that is Eco and sustainable, that consumer knows that the piece will last a lifetime.  The longevity of natural fibers, such as, silk, linen, tencel, and spandex added to such fibers is much higher and in the end, we end up wearing the favorite Eco dress for many seasons, thus maximizing the return on the initial investment and causing less waste.
Nicole Bridger

All of the above points resonated with what we try to implement in the production of our Rajboori collection.  We produce only enough to reduce waste and our designs use colors that are used all through a collection, making the collection easy to mix and match and coordinate harmoniously.  The dyes we use are azo-free or vegetable, hence reducing use of chemicals in the process.

Silk, especially, Peace Silk, is more expensive to produce but at a consumer level it is an investment worth making as our quilts, coverlets, or pillows will last a lifetime, offering better return on investment to the consumer.

I hope more people come to the show and educate themselves on how to make more eco-friendly choices when it comes to fashion.

Sep 28, 2011

Mystical Machu Picchu and Colors of the Andes - Salkantay trail

The morning we began our 3 day trek on the Salkantay trail to finally arrive at Machu Picchu, started before dawn.  Our guide, Celso, came to pick us up.  We started off with  a 2hr drive to Mollepata, the starting point for the trail.  Given we had only 3 days to complete the trek, a 5 day trip was scaled down to (quite ambitiously I must add) a 3 day trek!

Once we bid farewell to our driver, Cocoliso, and met our horseman, Jose, who had already loaded up the three horses with the luggage, we started the trek.  The scenery was breathtaking, with soaring peaks of Salkantay and Umantay reaching for the cloudless, blue sky and the meandering streams flowing through the valley we walked through.  On Day 1 we had to climb up to 4600m to the summit of Salkantay pass, which was about 4km, and then trek down another 7km to reach our campground for the night.
Both of us are pretty active people and Subrata even runs marathons, so we didn't think it would be that big of a deal to accomplish this task.  Well, altitude is an element we didn't take too much into account when we set out.  Given, we didn't have much time to acclimatize before the trek, it hit us and more so, me, like a ton of bricks!  Not so steep elevations started proving to be a mammoth endeavor!  Our guide, Celso, who turned out to be quite the entertainer, started cheering up the breathless Senorita with little stories and funny antics!
Anyway, after an arduous task, we reached the summit, not without stopping in between for a fabulous lunch prepared by Jose and Marcelino, who had trekked up faster than us and prepared a delicious, hot meal!  The mountain dwellers breathe effortlessly at such high altitudes and apparently have trouble when they get down to sea level!

The views we saw during the climb up, the solitude of the mountains, the crispness in the air, and the feeling of elation after accomplishing what we had set out to, was unparalleled.  The trek ended on Day 1 at a makeshift campground which was very "natural" in all sense of the word.  Yes, no bathrooms, only amazingly beautiful natural settings!  Our tents were set up behind a shed owned by a local farmer and a warm dinner was awaiting us.  A sudden deluge greeted us that night and we feared the trail would be absolutely muddy, slippery and wet the next day, where we had to trek about 17km to La Plata campsite!  Needless to say, neither of us went to sleep in peace that night!

The rain had stopped at some point that night and we woke up to a morning that was nothing but magical!  Nestled between mountains and Peruvian rainforests, this little makeshift campsite seemed like a little gem.  The moon was glistening on the Western sky and the crimson in the Eastern sky announced the rising sun.  With a cheerful heart and very reliable hiking boots on our feet, Celso led us on the trek for Day 2, shouting "Vamos chicos, vamos la Plata!"
We hiked down rocky terrain, over streams, through lush rainforests, indigenous communities and gorgeous views of the mountains.  It was great to get a local flavor of how the people lived in those remote areas.  The horsemen were so fast on their feet, negotiating the rugged terrain and reaching their destinations on time even though they were miles away!

Day 2 ended after a hard 17km trek, at La Plata campsite, which had proper facilities!  Our tent had already been set up and rest was all we could think of, not before a quick drive to Santa Teresa's hot springs to soothe our tortured muscles! 

Day 3 started early but not like the ones before as only Subrata and Celso would go for a half day trek to meet Marcelino and me at Hydroelectric station, from where we would catch the train for Aguas Calientes.  The plan was to take the 30min bus ride to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes very early on Day 4.  Since we didn't have much time on our hands, we decided we didn't need to actually hike up to see Machu Picchu, especially, after what we endured on the Salkantay trail!

After being treated to a surprise birthday cake at 6:30 a.m., prepared for the Senorita by our amazing chef, Marcelino, I decided this was going to be a fun birthday after all!  Subrata and Celso headed out and after a while Marcelino and I packed up and boarded a van with about 15 other tourists, guides, locals and even one braveheart on the roof!  This precariously loaded ensemble of people and luggage started making its way up and down the mountainous roads of Peru.  At one point, when giving way to an oncoming truck, our driver, who looked like he could be 16 years old, backed up so fast, that we almost went off the cliff!  My heart pounding hard and hoping not to die on my birthday, I prayed that we all reached our destination safely. The roads of Peruvian mountains need much work and some recent flooding of the Urubamba river had caused much destruction, which is still being reconstructed.
We reached Aguas Calientes after a wonderful train journey through rainforests, mountains, and the Urubamba riverside.  A more tourist-centered town probably could not be found!  We rested to wake up at 4:30a.m. to stand in line to be the first ones to catch the bus to see Machu Picchu when the first rays of the sun would sweep through these remote and mystical ruins.

Sep 16, 2011

Mystical Machu Picchu and colors of the Andes - Cusco

This past August, my husband, Subrata and I decided to go on an adventure in South America and it would also be a sourcing trip for Rajboori as I am increasingly seeking out global inspirations and sources to enrich our offerings.  Our key destinations were Machu Picchu, Patagonia and Atacama desert, with cities like Valpariaso, Cusco and Buenos Aires thrown into the mix to offer some cosmopolitan, historical and cultural flavor and reprise from wilderness living. 

After a day's journey from Vancouver, we reached Lima in the late evening.  The airport was our "hotel" that night as we had a flight to the high altitude historical city of Cusco in the early hours of the morning.  A few espresso shots at the Starbucks in Lima airport kept us awake that night.We reached Cusco in the early hours of the morning as the city was just waking up.  The cool, crisp mountain air greeted us. Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were offered coca leaves, either to be chewed like the locals did or consumed as tea. I opted for coca-tea and Subrata went straight for the chewing option, hoping to drive off any remote chances of getting altitude sickness.  Our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay trail would begin from the next day.

Plaza in Cusco city center
Cusco is a beautiful city nestled in the Andean mountains, built primarily in Spanish architecture as most of the original Inca architecture had been destroyed during the Spanish invasion and occupation.  The alleys of Cusco were filled with sometimes enticing and sometimes strong smells of various indigenous food being cooked, out of which fried pork seemed to be prevalent and a favorite among most locals and some tourists. Cuy or guinea pig was a delicacy offered in most restaurants.
Royal Alpaca shawls
Now, I had to check out the amazing textile products I had been noticing since we had landed.  The alpaca looked exquisite and a few upscale boutiques had the most beautiful and luxurious collection of shawls, scarves, and sweaters made from royal alpaca and vicuna wool.  But I wanted to find something that was more Peruvian or Andean inspired and certainly more artisanal.  So, off we went to visit the textile center in Cusco. This center is run by Nilda, who does inspirational work with the local artisans and they offer home textiles and some apparel in the center for purchase.  There's also a very informative museum that illustrates how the art of weaving Andean textiles takes place and what ingredients/techniques are used to make these colorful items.

I was amazed to see the similarity of design patterns, style of weaving and the type of looms used by these artisan women and the ones that I have seen in North Eastern India!  Did exchange of ideas and skills take place between the tribal artisan women of Peru and NE India at some point in history?  If so, wouldn't it be great if we could revive that cultural exchange through design?  With these thoughts churning in my mind, I went to bed, only to get up at an ungodly hour to leave for the Salkantay trek to ultimately reach our destination, the mystical Machu Picchu.
Salkantay peak - playing hide and seek

Aug 10, 2011

Heading out for points South, meaning the Southern Hemisphere!

It appears that working on design concepts, interacting with our amazing buyers, and fulfilling orders has kept me so busy that the only time I'm writing this blog is when I'm getting ready to go on a trip!  So, should I turn this into a travel blog with design inspiration infused with it?? Travel is one of our passions, so my work ultimately reflects inspiration from our travels and I want our designs to be more and more global as I unite different worlds through my designs!

So, this time we depart for South America!  Business or pleasure you ask?  When has the life of an entrepreneur ever been about pleasure?   If I'm going to places like Peru, Chile and Argentina, shouldn't I be looking at the textiles of those regions and the cultural influences from centuries past? Of course!  I'm really looking forward to meeting new artisans and learning about their work, choice of textiles, and what inspires them.  In between, we'll fit in some treks to the mysterious Machu Picchu and Patagonia while we take in the culture and beauty of Valparaiso, Lima and Buenos Aires.

Stay tuned for more updates on our Facebook/Twitter/Blog in the upcoming weeks on how our South American adventure turns out!

Adios Por Ahora!

May 18, 2011

Naturally Good and Mad Hatter Party!

It has been a busy few weeks, working on some new concepts and some amazingly talented Fashion Designers who are trying to create new trends, looks, and styles, all in the realms of eco-friendly and sustainable textiles.

On another note, our Holi quilt/throw made a special appearance in a Mad Hatter party in a beautiful garden, courtesy of Standard Magazine (www.standardmag.com )!
Photo Album of Standard Magazine photoshoot

Mitun was recently interviewed by AATCC Review, a prestigious non-profit technical association that provides a lot of well researched information regarding the textile industry (www.aatcc.org).  Their current issue features Rajboori in an article called Naturally Good by Maria Thiry, which is a great compilation of information from various industry experts on natural and synthetic fibers.  Mitun shared her knowledge of silk, especially, Peace Silk, and other natural fibers in this article.

Apr 5, 2011

Escape with our Escape coverlets

Infuse your homes with a splash of juicy and tantalizing Spring colors - Aqua, China Orange or Fuchsia!  Hand-embroidered, geometric shapes, top-stitching - all available in our modern and luxurious throws/coverlets that can be used year round. With a Peace Silk top that feels more like cotton mixed with wool to the touch and a soft and sensual charmeuse back, these throws/coverlets are sure to add comfort, design and vibrancy to your home.

Mar 15, 2011

Storming Rajasthan IV - Camel Safari and Golden Fort

I woke up filled with excitement as I was going to ride a camel for the first time today and also explore the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer!  The owners of our boutique hotel, Pol Haveli, are two brothers, Anna and Manu.  They were more than happy to arrange for a customized camel safari for us since we were pressed for time and couldn’t avail of the usual sunrise or sunset safaris.  People can also spend the night on the dunes in very comfortable tents while enjoying local music and dance and a sumptuous Rajasthani meal. We decided to leave that for a future trip.
 After a fantastic breakfast of masala omelets, cheese toasts with flavourful tea and a fabulous view of the fort from the rooftop restaurant, we left for the dunes of the Thar desert in a covered jeep.   The road took us through dusty and desolate desert landscape, where we spotted an occasional camel loitering or feeding from the local vegetation.  After about a half hour drive, we reached a small Rajput village of only a few 100 inhabitants.  The houses were small and humble, built from the yellow sandstone available locally.
Our camels were ready for us and the guide instructed us to follow the method of “boarding” a camel.  I climbed up onto the back of the animal and settled in before the camel was instructed to get up.  This was a weird feeling as I had to lean back when the camel was getting up and lean forward subsequently to keep my balance.  We started our trip down the sandy path that led us to the dunes of the desert. 
I have had the pleasure of riding on an elephant many times in the wildlife sanctuaries of India but this was a unique experience in itself!  At times, I had to shift my weight to make sure I was balanced properly for fear of falling off the animal’s back.  Once on the dunes, we got off to walk through the sand a little bit and it was a great feeling!  The sand was soft under my feet and so smooth.  I felt that a little sand-slide was required to pay tribute to this beautiful element of nature and threw myself down one of the sand slopes!  Yes, it was fantastic and I highly recommend this to all!  I could only imagine how gorgeous it would be to see the dunes during sunset.

After some more camel riding and camel racing, we decide we needed to return to Jaisalmer as the Golden Fort was still to be explored.  Once at the fort, we were approached by a very endearing and persuasive guide called Hasmukh, who wouldn’t take no for an answer and for a mere Rs. 70 ($1.55), I thought it would be worth our while to humour him.  Hasmukh was quite fluent in conversational English as he dealt with foreign tourist all the time and told us that the fort was built 900 years ago and about 4000 people still resided within the boundaries of the fort.

The King’s palace was a gorgeous piece of architecture but smaller in size compared to other palaces in Rajasthan.  The cobble stoned paths led us to a high point in the fort from where one could see the city around us that did look like a golden city made of the yellow sandstone.

I needed to pick up a few souvenirs made from the fabled yellow sandstone.  Hasmukh took me to a store called Light of The East whose owner was originally from Calcutta! He had moved to Jaisalmer after watching the Ray movie, Shonar Kella and having fallen in love with this enchanting desert city!  His store had a lovely collection of unique stones, gemstones, crystals, etc.
 After I’d had enough of the charms of the Golden Fort and it’s architecture, we began our journey towards Jaipur where we would spend the night before heading for Delhi to catch my flight back to Vancouver.

Mar 6, 2011

Storming Rajasthan III - In the Golden Fort

We left the Blue City of Jodhpur behind us and set off down the dusty desert roads for Jaisalmer, the city of the Golden Fort (Shonar Kella popularized by the movie with the same name made by Oscar winning filmmaker Satyajit Ray).  It was a 330km journey and judging by our past driving experience, we didn't expect to get there until 9 or 10pm.
Before leaving Jodhpur, our wonderful chauffeur, Nitin, made sure that Canadian (crazy) Madam didn't miss the famous Mirchi Vara and kachoris of Jodhpur.  These Mirchi Varas are delicious and not for the mild at heart! It's literally a hot pepper coated with a spicy potato and oinion mash with a breadcrumb exterior that is deep fried.  It tastes divine! We grabbed a box of sweets for the long ride and were on our way.

In search of Mirchi Vara
Lunch wasn't a "fancy restaurant" experience but around 4:00pm we stopped at a roadside "dhaba" or Indian fast food shack.  The charpoys (vinyl and aluminium multi-purpose sitting/sleeping furniture) were laid out and wooden blocks were placed strategically to form make-shift tables.  We met an adorable little boy of maybe 9 or 10, whose name was Salim.  He could recite the menu in one breath and if stopped in between, would resume from the start!

After asking him, I learnt of a very interesting arrangement in Salim's family, that came about based on economic needs and reality of their situation.  Salim doesn't go to school but earns Rs. 2000 each month by working at the Dhaba. His older brother goes to school and comes home and teaches him what he has learned.  This way, Salim supports the family and is somewhat being educated.  What an interesting arrangement, I thought!  So much reality for a 9 or 10 year old boy, who didn't stop smiling and serving the best rotis I've ever had!

The journey to Jaisalmer took us through more dry and open lands of Rajasthan.  We saw a lot of windmills that had been installed all over the desert areas.  At about 9:30p.m. we finally reached Jaisalmer.  The hotel we stayed in had an amazing view of the Golden Fort from the rooftop restaurant.  It looked dreamy and called out to me to come and explore it's narrow alleyways.
part of the King's palace - Jaisalmer Fort

Golden Fort of Jaisalmer

After a delicious dinner of kaju curry, gatta, and egg curry, sleep was next on the agenda before I embarked upon the next adventure, camel safari in the Thar Desert and exploration of the Golden Fort!

Mar 1, 2011

Storming Rajasthan II - In the Blue City, Jodhpur

The morning came in our lovely Polo Heritage hotel (http://www.poloheritage.com/) with birds chirping in the lawn and soft sounds of the hotel getting ready for the day ahead.  I didn't get a chance to explore the hotel and its grounds the night before so I took the opportunity to do so in the morning.  Jodhpur is a city of art and culture as that was evident in the smallest details around me.  The huge room with its 20ft ceilings and locally made colonial furniture and beautiful marble floors in the bathroom, all added to the charm of this beautifully appointed heritage hotel.

After a fantastic breakfast of upma and tea, we headed for Umaid Bhawan Palace, the home of the royal family of Jodhpur and a luxury hotel as well.  The view from the top of the hill was breathtaking and as we walked up the path to the museum section of the palace, I admired the grounds and the amazing architecture of the palace.  Inside, we saw some select objects that were collectibles of the royal family.  To this day, even if monarchy doesn't truly exist in India, but the royal families in Rajasthan still hold the respect of the people.  

 Once we enjoyed the royal hospitality, we decided to head to another area of historic and architectural beauty, the Mehrangarh Fort, which rises majestically from the hills around Jodhpur and offers a fabulous view of the old city of blue around it.  I loved these blue houses!  The fort itself was a gorgeous piece of architecture with so many stories to tell.

After taking in the views we headed for the desert city of Jaisalmer and the Golden Fort (Shonar Kella). some 330kms away from Jodhpur.