Jyotika Jhalani is founder of Janavi India. She speaks to Guardian 20 about her “Made in India” brand which has a global appeal.
Q. The “Made in India” brand of Janavi is the definition of excellence, perfection and sophistication. How did the brand come into existence?
A. Janavi India started in 1998 out of my son’s bedroom. After a decade-long career at the World Bank and the first few years of motherhood, I felt an urge to create. I have been a painter and was always inspired by India’s extraordinary tradition of design and craftsmanship. Janavi is an ode to India’s textile heritage and savoir-faire, and also my love for Kashmir, where I grew up.
We began by creating embroidered cashmere shawls for iconic European luxury houses. A decade later in 2008, our first flagship store opened in New Delhi, and we launched our label internationally. When I first saw the “Made in India” label on the stuff we had created for Chanel, Dior, Burberry, Armani, Loro Piana and Ferragamo, it was a thrill. Today, from them giving us their designs to execute, we give them our designs. The Janavi label is often just racks away from these iconic brands.
Q. From making a global “Made in India” brand to empowering local artisans, how have you managed it all?
A. Over two decades, we have grown from a small design initiative to a global brand. In our passion to create, we have gradually empowered a growing community of artisans and designers to take contemporary handcrafted embroidery on cashmere and create wearable pieces of art. The constant urge to express my creative sensibilities and build a community around my passions has helped build the brand. We began with five people and today we are a community of over 400, with a vertically integrated infrastructure.
Q. How tough was it to establish the brand globally?
A. I feel immense pride in saying that Janavi is a pioneering brand out of India. We were the first to get into the luxury cashmere category, one that is very competitive internationally. Going global has been challenging and rewarding…working on the brand for overseas audience, we been very focused. Today we are global and sell from US and Europe to China and Australia. We are now present in over 200 of the world’s most influential multi-brand retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods, Harvey Nichols.
Q. Tell us a little about your creative process.
A. It begins with a dream, a mood board and keeps me awake all night. Even two decades later I am still like an excited child when I have to create a new collection. I am scribbling at all odd hours of the night and then can’t wait to hit my atelier in the morning. Personally I am very driven and can’t sit still. We recently created The Janavi Paint Box, a visual palette of the world we live in. Inspired by my travel experiences, The Janavi Paint Box is a collection of hand painted illustrations of 12 different cities, that thrill me with their different cultures. I translate this into colour palettes. Each illustration brings a certain nostalgia which is then translated into dreamy designs. It is emotional and evocative and an integral part of my creative process.
Q. What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs who dream to make it big as you have with your label?
A. Luxury is a tough business and needs commitment like no other. As a founder, my approach has always been of sustained involvement throughout every aspect of product creation and design, operations and marketing to ensure alignment of delivery on brand. Our values are very strong, and each piece has to deliver on our promise. We are very focused on building quality products, and not only focused on quantities. Luxury is about perfection. We can try harder and harder but we will never be perfect. But the obsession must be there.
I also believe creating a happy and healthy work environment goes a long way towards delivering excellence and creativity. I make it a point to convey my gratitude to my workers, head office team and store teams on a regular basis. Humility takes you far.