Dear Aalayam Family!
Thank you for your overwhelming responses to the Varnanggall brand showcase and Aalayam Giveaway. We are touched, humbled and pleased at the show of support from our Aalayam family and supporters, of this vivid celebration of an artist and her brand! Lavanyaa extends her warm regards and deep gratitude – your enthusiastic participation through this collaborative platform has taken both Varnanggall and Aalayam to the next level of audience engagement !
There are moments of reckoning when you know that what you do with your time, is making an impact…a positive difference in people’s lives, and we believe that through Varnanggall and Aalayam, we indeed are..if just scratching the surface. So Thank You! Once again for validating that realization!
Today, as promised we bring to you the exclusive interview with Lavanyaa, the exponent of creative expression, the force behind Varnanggall. Lavanyaa speaks lovingly about her passions, her dreams (plus her favorite foods and outfits!) and of course, about her inspiration behind creating and sustaining the brand that is steadily making its way into people’s hearts, minds and homes!
The entire interview is peppered with candid and colorful shots from Lavanyaa and Guru’s snug and intimate home in the UK. If your home speaks to who you really are, I sincerely believe, that Lavanyaa’s home speaks volumes! It is an apt reflection of her fun, quirky and eclectic persona. It blends the warm and mellow, superbly with the exotic and bohemian! Just like Varnanggall…
So sit back and get ready to meet and perceive Lavanyaa!
Supriya (S): Lavanyaa, congratulations. Varnanggall is 1 year old!! We all love the vibrant and verdant punctuation Varnanggall makes in our lives. And we want to pick your brain to know more about it! First of all, why the name Varnanggall?? How does it speak to the essence of the brand?
Lavanyaa(L): Thank You Supriya J! Varnanggall is blessed to have people like you who add so much sparkle to its sheer existence. Varnanggall is a tamil word for “Colours”. It’s about an artist’s dream and vision to paint the world with her colours, feel the cheerfulness and find contentment through it!
S: Where do you derive your daily inspiration for designing individual pieces? Is it your travels? The creative recesses of your mind? Or does it just come from the heart?
L: Classical art has always been an integral part of my life ever since childhood, whenever I think of colours I think of Bharathnatyam and the South Indian Temples. I get inspired by the mandapams, the pillars, the gopurams and the amount of intricately carved stones on them which depict deities, dancers, flowers and geometrical shapes. Thanks to my extensive travels to some of the most distinctive and promising temples of South India, that are rich in the legacy of carvings and culture...Hampi, Tanjore, Belur Halebidu, Chidambaram, Badami Aihole.... They surely have fetched me great inputs to work on my creations. I also research through a legion of books and my recent discovery was about Indian ancient civilizations and the South Indian Royal Kingdoms. End of the day I do use my creative mind and heart to compile all these and mould them into a Varnanggall creation.
S: How do you speak to your demographic (buyers and aspiring buyers) ? How do you translate their needs into a Varnanggall style statement?
L: The ever emerging technology is definitely a boon for online fashion retailers like me – it helps me leverage the social media as a marketing channel and collaborate with my customers via emails, phone calls, skype etc!. It’s all about understanding the client’s needs, being transparent, honest and being informal, and once you are on it it’s really an easy affair. It’s a great feeling to enhance every woman’s latent beauty and demureness and that’s why I always aim at creating something that blends into their personality and fashion sensibilities. I also insist on maintaining the forte of Varnanggall, so that the creation does carry the essence of the brand and is in complete sync with it.
In the due process I find myself lucky enough to have built a network of gorgeous people who have become an integral part of my Varnanggall journey.
S: Where do you source your material from? Can you talk to us a little bit about your creative assembly process (design through to delivery)?
L: I’m still learning through the textile business and each day I end up exploring new things that aid my creative process and create avenues for further business development. Though I initially ventured into the local markets of Bangalore city it lacked the authenticity! And that’s when I started travelling to discover new places to work closely with the Cooperative Societies, Weavers, Artists to fetch the authentic and for real gorgeous fabrics. Once I have my fabrics stacked up, the next step is the design/sketch or sometimes I just go by my gut feeling by having all the fabrics right in front of my eyes. So by now there is a structure to the creation I’m looking at, the next step is to work alongside with my seamstress on the specifications and patterns. Once the creation has gotten into the desired shape, the next big phase is the Quality Assurance, where errors if any are rectified, and then shipped to destination of the customer.
S: What are you most excited about Varnannggal plans for 2014 and beyond?
L: We are reaching the fag end of the year and it’s time to celebrate the holiday season, it’s been a very challenging and thriving year for Varnanggall. Couple of interesting avenues and plans in the pipeline:
v Varnanggall is going to build an exclusive website to allow more demographic buyers access Varnanggall from any country in the world irrespective of their existence on social media.
v Varnanggall is going to introduce a line of Western wear.
v Varnanggall is going to conduct Transformational Art and Design workshops to the artists that it’s currently working with – a workshop to educate and explore the opportunities to blend the traditional art with modern art.
v In order to build the labour, Varnanggall is working towards setting up an all women community in the rural areas of South India.
v Varnanggall is working with some of the big brands on their massive orders.
v Varnanggall is going to participate in some of the notable art exhibition(s) soon
S: What have been the highlights and lowlights of the last one year!?
L: There haven’t been any lowlights as such, but there were challenges that were taken more positively to move forward in my journey. I clearly witnessed sense of endless possibilities and how people embraced Varnanggall which in turn brought into the existence of life time customers and like-minded souls!
Working with the unsung heroes of Kalamkari, Lambani, Ilkal and the weavers of Andhra Pradesh surely takes the limelight this year. There is sense of solitude without these precious people; now they have become a part of my family and so have they accepted me into theirs! J
S: Has Varnannggal changed your everyday style - at home and at play?
L: It definitely has and the biggest thing I get in the bargain is the time for myself – it’s given me a meaningful composure and depth to what I do every day and to weed out all the negative energy that can easily surround you in this industry.
S: We know that you are an engineer by trade, and worked in the field of IT Consulting. How have you reconciled the two - profession and passion? Given that they are so far removed from each other?
L: From the period of being a kid I was very passionate about Indian art - bright colours, patterns and shapes, but in the due course like most of the others I did get subjected to various academic pressures and life styles where I had to gradually park aside the real passion and interests in me. Before I let it slip between the cracks it was time for me to act on! Well it took me 25 long years to recapitulate the real craving and the capping satisfaction in my life, and that’s when I found my true calling – “Varnanggall” to put my overriding obsession and energy into viable products and spread this visual art to a bigger community.
I think the toughest decision for me was to quit my IBM job. Beyond a point it was just impossible for me balance my primary job and Varnanggall. Due to the time constraints, I and my seamstress had to spend sleepless nights over the weekends. I did give it a year to study my market alongside the IBM job and eventually quit IBM. You know, think about getting a handful of money in an air conditioned environment to a situation where you don’t know if you are going to make any money at all and furthermore keep hunting for fabrics in areas which you have never been to even in your wildest dreams! The savings that I accumulated in the last year of my IBM job were the angelic investors, as it was a start-up I invested just enough money (neither underfunded nor overfunded) to turn realistic ideas into products and run a scalable business model.
I still hold my engineering degree/certificate/experiences and could go back to the IT profession anytime, but my passion for art has definitely superseded it. I feel end of the day it’s all about taking that leap of faith to reach your goal. Thanks to my experiences/exposures at IBM for teaching me how to be on my own feet and inducing the professional character.
S: Between your travels, exhibitions and managing a vibrant brand, how do you maintain a work-life balance ? Most of us here at Aalayam are juggling our passions with hamster wheel of everyday life, so we’d love to hear from you!
L: Thanks to a gorgeous support system called as “ Family”! My husband, in laws , parents and sister who have always been supportive in every venture and step of Varnanggall. They are my primary motivation to function every day and nurture me through their profound love. Having said that, I do make an effort to spend qualitative time whenever I get to in spite of unevenness in my schedules OR even better I have them accompany me in my travels so that they get to explore and witness what I do J
You know it’s all about finding exciting and creative ways to spend that extra bit with your family!
S: What does being a self made entrepreneur mean to you ? What challenges should the novice creative entrepreneur anticipate?
L: A self made entrepreneur is someone who turns his/her passion into a business, someone who invests in himself/herself and creates a competitive advantage, dreams big, has vision, stays focused on the goals/objectives, someone who can dirty his/her hands and someone who can see things beyond their nose and stay grounded.
You need to have good amount of determination, persistence and a winning attitude until your venture finds its feet. You definitely have to be strong , follow your heart and be surrounded by loads and loads of positive energy, some people will love to pull you down and show disrespect to what you do because you are extremely talented, but hey!, do not worry, there are good people too who will admire your work and support every move of you J
..and lastly your business has to create distinctive products that bring in the shine and metamorphosis in people, otherwise it’s pointless!
S: Among the current crop of Indian celebrities, whose fashion sense do you admire the most?
L: I strongly idolise these real women with timeless styles - Shabana Azmi, Arundhathi Nag, Nanditha Das, Shobha De, Shobhana and Konakana Sen
S: ....and finally, let’s have some fun! We would like our readers to know who Lavanyaa really is, so here goes!
a) You would love a ticket to - Prague, Czech Republic
b) Your favorite holiday destination is – Sorrento, Italy
c) Your idea of date night is - I love to be pampered J J, so obviously flowers, champagne, gifts, cook together our favourite meal and unwind in our couch with a bunch of throws and pillows around J
d) Your favorite comfort food is – Chinese in all my good and bad times J
e) If given a chance to change one thing about the world you would – I would have one race, one colour, one religion, one language and one ethnicity!
f) If you could choose one power you would choose – I would choose the power to close the Pandora box!
g) You wish you had invented the – “flying carpet” that is cost effective and travels at 100 miles/sec (fairy tale right?) J To avoid considerable amount of air fare to travel from London to Bangalore!!
h) Your favorite color - Blue
i) Your favorite place in the whole world – Banks of Cauvery. She is just so gorgeous; I find solace and peace watching her ripple!
j) And your favorite outfit to wear to that place! – Kurtha, choodi pyjama and kolhapuri chappal
Thank you Lavanyaa..You have let us into your home...you have shared your heartfelt desires, passions and dreams with us. You have given us your gorgeous brain-child Varnanggall. You have truly inspired us. More power to you!
And to me, you have been a friend, a confidante and an immeasurable source of strength. Thank you....
Stay tuned to find out if you are the lucky winner of the awesome contest we are hosting in collaboration with Lavanyaa,
The Colorful Aalayam Giveaway!!
Coming up in the next post!!