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IN CONVERSATION WITH HARISH MIRPURI

JASMEEN DUGAL  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Today, I unwrapped a beautifully packaged handcrafted, handpainted leather bag from luxury label, 'Aranyani'. Once I had slung it reverently over my shoulder, and did a gleeful piroutee in front of my mirror, I realized it was the perfect statement bag — sleek, artistic and limited edition. The leather was exceptionally smooth and its magnificent construction meant this piece of wearable art transcended eras and styles. I simply cannot wear it to the next soiree!! So when I was given the opportunity to interview founder Harish Mirpuri, I snapped it up.

 

'Aranyani' is acclaimed for hand-crafted hand-painted, limited edition leather bags. What is the inspiration of this inherently Indian name and the vision behind the nature-inspired themes, I ask? ''We are very proud of being Indians and looked for a very Indian name for the brand. Hence, the search in the Rig Vedas, which is the core of our culture. Aranyani is from the Rig Vedas which means 'queen of the Forest'. Legend has it that she is the result of a deep desire from Lord Shiva and mother Parvati for a daughter. They went to the Kalpa Vruksha and were presented with a beautiful baby in a basket full of petals, with golden hair crowned by flowers. This gave so much joy to the Gods they named her 'Aranyani''' he explained. ''This is why we felt the appropriateness of this name. One, it has a beautiful story and secondly, it is about an experience. Nature is second to none for all of us. We cannot forget the age old saying 'We do not inherit this earth from our ancestors but are borrowing it from our children'. We wanted to portray the splendour of nature through our works of art because we believe that if we can connect humankind to nature then each person will surely do their bit to sustain nature in all its glory and to live as a part of the entire ecosystem.''

 

Mirpuri undertook training in Milan, did global research on luxury leather products and underwent months of trials. He also works with leading shoe and bag creation trainer and developer, Arsutoria. With so much research and training that has gone into its creation, what really inspired him to launch 'Aranyani', I prodded? ''India is often showcased as a 'Slumdog Millionaire' country and there are too many negative news of our country. But Bharatiya civilisation has been the longest surviving civilisation. Too few of us have represented the richness of the country. Sai Baba, my God and my Guru, instructed me ''whatever you do, make India proud'' and this resonates in my mind every single day. I also believe in the skills, craftsmanship and capability of our country. If I can give them International exposure, we will be capable of achieving the best. 'Aranyani' is our Bharat's showcase of the fine skills of the people of our country.''

 

''The launch initially brought about a sense of awe and disbelief on the limited edition range we offer. It was difficult for people to believe that there is just one or two bags in each city since no other brand really offers such limited editions, in the world. Moreover, we commission artists from our land to hand paint our bags. These artists come to us with a basic knowledge and we train them with top artists and International technologists for six months, which develops their skill set and empowers them'' he explains and then adds, ''We look for a region that inspires stories of nature. For example, for the upcoming collection 'Finding Your Roots' we chose Coorg because people there are nature worshippers. We learnt the history of the place and created a storyboard; we took photographs and placed them before our design team and artists; we ideated on themes that we could build around it. We wanted to depict how the Lost Princess of Coorg, Princess Victoria Gowramma, would feel if she came to her own land and divided the narrative into three themes: beautiful flora and fauna; the places, people and traditions; and beauty of the region during monsoon. Then we work on the artworks and figure which artwork goes into what bags. We then work on music for our stores that will go with the story, work on photo-shoots , placement of orders by the stores and third party customers, and then production and delivery. The entire process spans a complete year.''

 

Impressed, I ask him if he would define the bags as 'wearable art'? ‘'Yes of course! Ours is a wearable and long lasting art. We want our bags to pass down from mother to daughter.'' And does he have a favorite bag? ''I love the commander. I got bored of the Samsonite bags I use to carry. And I wanted a bag that could take weight and be easy to carry. I also did not want black or brown. I love colors. So, I combined black with a brick-like color and the monal pheasant birds artwork. These birds are the national birds of Nepal and is seen as you travel from Nepal to Ladakh!'' Speaking of retail, what are the omni-channel initiatives you have undertaken to promote the brand, I asked, shifting the dialogue from design to retail. ''We are looking at providing the bags online. If one of our stores is not carrying a particular bag a customer desires, he or she can block it online, make the payment and get it delivered within a week. We are concentrating on the Delhi market right now and after that will be Mumbai. In the US, we will continue to push towards growth through tie ups with third party stores. We are also looking at opportunities in Bali and Singapore.''

 

As we wrap up the insightful dialogue, I couldn't help asking him if he could choose anybody, who would he collaborate with? ''I would love to collaborate with Indian designers since I love their passion and style. Each designer has his or her distinctive style. This is very exciting and it would be lovely to create bags for the wonderful Indian wedding brides!!''
 

Aranyani
Harish Mirpuri, Founder, Aranyani
 
Aranyani
Aranyani
 
Aranyani
Aranyani
 
23-AUGUST-2018
 
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