Designer Profile: Anjali Purohit - Founder of Variously, Detroit
Hi Anjali! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Based in Michigan, I am an accessory designer who loves to explore diverse cultural connections through minimal design elements. If I was not a designer, I would definitely be doing something with food.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Growing up, I was a complete bookworm and was always attracted towards creative industries. Born and raised in city of Ahmedabad in India, I moved to Delhi to pursue Accessory Design from National Institute of Fashion Technology & Masters in Showroom Design from Nuova Academia Di Belle Arti, Milano, Italy.
I have worked in roles of design, product development, production, sourcing, branding & art direction for fashion and home accessory collections retailed at Next UK, Pottery Barn, several high end luxury labels & design studios. I have also been involved hands-on on several artisan based design projects which gave me direct experience on developing collections from scratch, getting exposure to day to day challenges and possibilities of such projects and scaling it to a production level. Hand crafted techniques have a rich legacy that directly impacts the economic & cultural heritage of artisan clusters which is extremely unique and inspire me as a designer.
Having worked in design and product development previously, when was the moment you knew you wanted to start your own business?
It is the cumulative impact of several various projects that enabled the thought of starting my own business specially focusing it on handcrafted techniques that have a strong cultural connect and explore use of natural materials. That’s probably why I chose the name Variously for my label as I believe collaboration thrives deep in my work ethos as a designer.
What led you to start Variously? What drew you to textiles?
Fast fashion is forcing people to adopt cookie cutter consumption at low price that changes every 3 - 5 weeks, the cost of which both people at the other end of the supply chain and the environment is paying. There has to be a mindful way of channeling the amazing legacy of craftsmanship that connects people to unique culture based stories. Being born and raised in India, I have always been drawn to visual culture which is what I look for organically in things that inspire me. India has one of the most extensive history with textiles and it was a natural transition for me to develop more in this domain as I have also worked in several textile based projects before with artisans.
Focusing on sustainability and ethical production, how do you decide which artisan communities to work with?
I spend a lot of time researching and developing one on one relations with each and every artisan community I collaborate with. It is very important to understand each other’s methods of working, compliance, standards, certifications involved, level of ethical working standards, wages provided and make it a two way process creatively as well.
I also look for inclusivity to local communities for example, number of yarn spinners, dyers, farmers as well who can be impacted by choosing a particular yarn or dye type. This also helps me choose one technique over another and set our priorities as a sustainable label. It’s all a work in progress and very time intensive as we are a small company with a large heart.
What does your creation process look like?
My creative process is mostly intuitive and inspired by my personal collection of books on textiles, architecture and graphic design which I have collected over past 10+yrs.
Music, movies, food and travel experiences also largely influence my creative process and I hope to keep it as organic as possible.
Could you tell us about your Eileen Fisher artist residency?
Eileen Fisher artist residency was an incredibly important opportunity to validate and showcase my work in sustainable design and exhibit a capsule collection of textiles at Eileen Fisher store in Troy, Somerset Collection in Michigan. I got invaluable experience of sharing about my process to their customers and get feedback on my work as well. I also got to showcase my short documentary Resa Thread to an enthusiastic audience which enabled local brand engagement for Variously as well.
It's mentioned that your short documentary screened at that Fashion Film Festival in Milan. What's the documentary and what went into its creation?
The short documentary Resa Thread explores the beauty in the process of handloom which shows the level of craftsmanship and work that goes into making of one piece of textile. It is shown musically and creates further transparency in the process of hand weaving. I feel it is important to bring a visual connect to our process to our set of socially conscious consumers. We hope to keep creating this level of honest visual content going forward .
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Knowing that a single piece of work can create impact economically and culturally to so many people that are involved in its supply chain, that is what drives me and keeps the passion going strong each day. Scalability of an idea, to make it production complaint is the bottom line for me as a design/entrepreneur.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
Logistics and time management is the main challenge. Creating awareness about sustainability that is genuine is very important as the market is flooded with surplus & buzz products all the time. As an entrepreneur one has to wear several hats each day so creating a priority is very important and to be as organized as possible. Also accepting failures & learning from the same has been very vital personally.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
Absolutely agree that women supporting women can make great things happen. There are no two ways about this as in todays day and age as we need constant support to overcome challenges, explore opportunities and also learn from each other. Fortunately I have tremendous support system from women within my family from all fronts.
Also, I have gained incredible support from women business owners in Michigan and independent creative professionals. I am always inspired by their level of commitment and clarity of thought.
What women bring you inspiration?
Women in my family inspire me for their level of composure, grace and grit to face any and every situation.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
As a designer I feel it’s important to identify things that inspire and connect with you personally, and currently I feel anything to do with wellness is enduring. Books, food, music that brings wellness is my current go to resource.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I am working on my research for upcoming collections something to do with 18th century textiles. I would love to explore rugs as I have got lot of requests from stores with whom I collaborate.
What are some of your favorite places in Detroit?
Eastern Market, Detroit River Front