I met Kishan at a market. It wasn't just his sumptuous silks that lured me into his stall, there was a familiar knowing I wandered in with and it took a few minutes before I understood the connection. He was the maker of the gorgeous dresses sold by my friends over at Vixens & Gypsies. As soon as I made the connection, we hit it off and spent the next few minutes adoring our mutual friend, until I couldnt take it anymore and shopped. I was in the market with another friend of mine, and we were browsing but I was on the lookout for what I didn't know I wanted. I'm always on the lookout for that.
I did have some designs I needed fabric for and, after spending a few minutes in Kishan's stall I decided to have some samples made to see if it would work out. And, of course, I wanted to find out more about Kishan and his business.
Kishan and his father have had their apparel business for more than 20 years. Selling mostly to tourists in South India. They use vintage silks hand dyed by family members in Gujurat and then piece them together to make simple kaftans and hippie dresses. While they're beautiful, his designs weren't quite what I wanted for Love Nomadic, and the quality of the stitching of the pieces he sells in the market is 'questionable' - when I bought this up his response was 'we do stitching quickly for our market pieces, cheap for tourists. Export quality is different" he assured me.
After our initial meeting, we agreed to meet at his house to pick the silks for the first round of sampling.
When I asked him for his address he sent me a text with the response:
near Ganesh temple. tower 1, Parra.
I've been in India long enough to know that this is a reasonable address to give a taxi driver. They're not actually going to know where it is but they'll get you close enough so that they can ask a local. Know one really knows the exact route to anywhere in India. They employ local knowledge and, along the way, often run into someone who knows someone they know and, lo and behold, a 45 min journey can take near 2 hours.
My 45 minute journey to Kishan's house did take nearly 2 hours, but not because we got lost. The taxi I was driving in got a flat tire 2km away from our destination. When he pulled over to the side of the road, he looked out his driver side window and simply said tire flat, we walk and that's precisely what we did. We walked together down the dusty back streets until he approached a group of men standing around motorbikes, whom I thought were his friends. He seemed to embrace them with a knowing. But again, this is the way all Indians embrace each other. He didn't know them but within minutes he was pulling some rupees out of his wallet, handing the money to a man leaning against a motorbike and then gestured for me to get on the back.
He just paid one of them to take me the rest of the way.
Kishan met me at the Ganesh temple with his scooter and I jumped on the back of that. He was quick to apologize for all the people at his house; his in laws (both parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece) had arrived from Gujurat by train that morning. Kishan lived in a one bedroom apartment with his wife, father & sister. At the time of my arrival his sister was also conducting a tutoring session with 5 students. It was a lively household; to say the least.
He ushered me into the bedroom where all the fabrics were piled high and his father-in-law lay snoring on the bed, clad in a wife beater shirt and dress pants. This is India.
Kishan later told me that his business was doing very well many years ago. His family; brother, sister, father and mother lived in a big home and they were very happy. Then his mother was diagnosed with cancer and eventually passed away 8 years ago. It was a huge toll on the family how ended up having to sell everything, including the family home to pay back all the loans they had gotten for his mother's treatment. They've been slowly building their business back up since then, including growing their export business. Along with my self, there are only a handful of international customers who use them for export trade.
They silks that he has are truly exquisite. They use vintage sari silk and re-purpose it by hand dying the 5 yard pieces and then turning these pieces into gorgeous designs. Some of fabrics are 100% silk, some have silk chiffon. No two pieces are ever the same, making all the pieces made for Love Nomadic truly artistic and one of a kind.
We'll be doing a lot of work with Kishan and his family and developing more designs using his beautiful silks (and cottons)