This month, luxury department store Holt Renfrew provides a snapshot of Rajasthan handicrafts and Delhi designers with their pop-up shop, “Uncrate India.” Alexandra Weston, Director of Brand Strategy, talks to Jugni Style about her trip to India with Waris Ahluwalia, and the story behind this special collection.
Last November, Alexandra Weston visited India with Waris Ahluwalia from House of Waris, where they trekked across Rajasthan and through Delhi markets to find beautiful pieces representing the handicraft work of the region.
Their unique finds are being featured at Holt Renfrew across Canada from April 1 to May 31, 2014, as part of the H Project’s “Uncrate India,” collection, in collaboration with House of Waris. This is the first time Holt Renfrew has worked with House of Waris, and we’re excited to see the fine jewellery, carpets and scarves designed by Waris Ahluwalia in Canada.
Alexandra Weston discussed her experiences travelling, shopping and curating the special “Uncrate India” collection with us, and shared her favourite pieces from her trip.
Were you familiar with India’s textiles, crafts and jewelry before heading there?
Yes. I was incredibly inspired by the crafts, textiles and jewellery from India before we went on the trip. I had a good understanding of the workmanship that existed especially with gems and textiles. Vogue India created an incredible video project where international designers including Missoni were challenged to create a dress in India, using all Indian fashion techniques. This project was the last straw in helping me make my decision to go to India for this project. It was amazing what these designers did. Very on target for the luxury market.
Explain the curation process. Did you have an idea of what you were looking for before heading to India, or did the experiences in India guide what made it into the H Project collection?
It was a little mix of both. We had been in detailed discussions with Waris and his senior designer before the trip regarding which products and artisans we were going to see, this was really more for the House of Waris pieces. The other products we picked up as the trip progressed, visiting studios, markets and meeting with designers.
Is there a special piece in this collection that’s closest to your heart?
I have truly fallen in love with almost all the pieces we are bringing in. Having met the people behind the brands, been to the workshops, and participated in the making of these items it is hard to pick just one. I know I will be certainly buying a House of Waris scarf and bracelet from the capsule collection Waris is making for Holt Renfrew. These pieces will be forever special items in my wardrobe.
What Indian brands are part of Uncrate India?
We are bringing in approximately 16 different Indian brands including: Rashmi Varma, Pankja Nidhi, Pia Pauro, Almirah, Manish Arora, Hot Pink, Anantaya, Sarita Handa, Nappa Dori, Outhouse, 11:11, 1701, Joli and of course, House of Waris.
Can we expect to see more Indian designer brands integrated into Holt Renfrew’s general offerings?
This is a great opportunity to see what Indian designers our customers respond to, it would be great to continue carrying some of these incredible designers.
You rode an elephant! What was the craziest experience you had during your trip to India?
Yes, we rode elephants, camels and horses! The trip was filled with unexpected moments.
What is your favourite item that you purchased for yourself on the trip and where did you get it?
I bought three little stacking rings from Gem Palace in Jaipur. They are special to me because that day we were able to spend the afternoon with Siddharth, owner of Gem Palace, a long-time friend of Waris’ and the son of the late Munnu, who had been court jeweller to the Mughal emperors. He showed us some of his father’s most precious and rare pieces that were en route to an exhibit at the Kremlin. He later invited us to his farm house for a home-cooked meal and drinks by the bonfire listening to Bollywood music. I felt like I was a local along with my new-found friends – there is no better feeling as a traveller. A product is made special by the story it represents, these rings are a reminder of this story and the other moments that existed like this throughout the trip.
Uncrate India is available at Holt Renfrew locations in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto until May 31, 2014.
Photography: Holt Renfrew and Christopher Wray-McCann