Text by HAIDER RIFAAT

Having been in the manufacturing and textile industry for over twenty years, starting out in Indonesia and working his way throughout Southeast Asia, Haresh Mirpuri launched a new, exquisite line of handbags under his brainchild label Aranyani. With this brand, he has created a niche for himself in the world of luxury goods.

Perhaps Haresh’s success mantra lies in the Vedic principles of Service, Awareness and Inclusion that reflect in his work ethic. The simplicity, softness, and depth of this Vedic approach have profound results for contemporary methods of human development. He and his crew proudly uphold these virtues and work as a cohesive team.

Haresh Mirpuri’s handbag designs combine traditional Indian style including embroidery and stone work with modern fashion aesthetics. We had the opportunity to interivew him and discover his love for design in his insightful talk with journalist Haider Rifaat at Flanelle Magazine.

What led to an interest in the textile business?

Our family has been in the textile industry for the past three generations. I have continued to love the business of fabrics and textures throughout my career.

Tell us about your vision for the brand Aranyani?

The vision behind Aranyani is creating a brand that represents the luxury of India that goes back to the Vedic ages, while at the same time having a positive impact on its entire environment as it grows.

What does Aranyani mean, and why did you choose such a name for your label?

Aranyani is a Sanskrit name, which means the Queen of the Forest. A woman is always the symbol of Shakti or power in the Vedas. When creating Aranyani, we envisioned a brand that will always be conscious of the environment in which it operates, and will also represent Vedic values. This is why we chose the name Aranyani. 

Why did you decide to make a business out of designing handbags as opposed to clothing?

Bags have truly become the “jewelry” of every woman. She carries her bag with pride and passion. India is a land of jewelers. We didn’t want to miss out on being a part of the new jewelry for women. This is why we decided to go into bags and not clothing. Also, bags have become a more “affordable jewelry” than gold and silver. 

How do your Indian roots and heritage translate in your craftsmanship?

India is a land of the Kiranas, the oldest form of the atelier. In Kiranas, Indians all work as a family and take care of each other. It is a group of master craftsman that perform their tasks exquisitely, out of love for their work and not simply to just earn a living. This has influenced the way we do our work in our atelier.

What kind of handbag styles are available at Aranyani for different occasions?

We have the tote for shopping and working, and the baguette, which is great for daytime and going out in the evening. We also have the top handle bags and the clutch for eveningwear. We have the mini cross body, which is perfect to grab when going for a walk or a quick shopping trip. We cover the essentials and have a bag for every woman.

There is a lot of intricacy and stonework involved in your styles. What kind of stone drops do you and your team use during the production phase?

The craftsmen use hematite, tiger-eye, brown moonstone quartz and a few others depending on the story. These are all actual semi-precious stones that we use. These designs truly represent India’s love affair with the world of jewelry. 

We have also come across some elaborate needle and beadwork in your designs. Tell us more about it.

The passion behind beautiful handmade products is seldom found in today’s luxury. India, over thousands of years, has developed a lot of intricate and fine techniques of hand embroidery. Each state or region has developed its own patterns. We incorporate this heritage and knowledge into the production of every bag. This allows us to create bags that are truly unique for each customer. This is a true representation of luxury.

Merging Indian tradition with modern fashion is a creative business move but it must be tricky to pull off?

True Indian business houses have always married the two aspects. It is like the yin and yang, the doer and the power behind the doer. Human values are the impetus behind any creative business. They bring along with it a sense of purpose and direction.  

Your brand philosophy aligns with sustainability and environmentalism but the material you predominately use to craft handbags is leather. Does this not contradict your ethos as a designer?

Leather, as a material is a waste arising from the food industry. Hence, it is best that we use and produce high quality goods that will last a long time rather than be thrown away. As a principle, we don’t deal with exotic leather where the primary reason for its usage is consumer goods. Therefore, I believe that what we are practicing is in line with sustainability and care for our environment. 

How do you utilize leftover material without wasting it?

We convert the small pieces into surprises or gifts for our customers, and use the balance in our packaging. 

Walk us through the process of making a handbag from the start until its final execution stage.

The process starts with me finding a story, of which there are many, to tell about a part of India. For the current collection, we chose to tell the story of Aravalli. This is the oldest fold mountain range in the world and dates somewhere between 600 million to 1.2 billion years.

We then identify the flowers of those mountains, which is what inspired our Kesuda collection. The stone drops’ collection is inspired by the palaces you see in the cities that have sprawled across this mountain range including Udaipur, Jaipur and others.

Our design team, led by Vittoria Wuhrer, begins to interpret the colors after visiting the locations. The architecture and colors of the palaces, along with the clothes that people wear, go into the design of our products. We then start to work on the types of embroidery with the craftsman.

We, simultaneously, have our product technologist Raphael Lombardo, identify the materials that are required to make these bags exquisite. It takes about four to six months to complete this process. We then work on colorways and leather finishes with our suppliers of the semi-precious stones and of the leather.

The materials and their standards are agreed upon. Then the craftsmen work with the industrial engineering team and the product technologist on the flow chart for the making of these bags. Each craftsman has a tech pack in their desktop system for reference.

Each craftsman is also responsible for the quality of the bag they produce and their names are imprinted in the document that the consumer gets when they scan the QR code. This method gives our craftsmen pride and recognition for the good work that they do. 

Give our readers some insight into Vedas and how important is it to you and your brainchild Aranyani?

The basic concept of Vedas is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means, “The world is one.” We always forget this, and discriminate against one another based on religion, caste, color, creed and many other differences. If we could just accept and recognize that the universal energy is in each of us, we will learn to love each other and live in peace. Sai Baba has put the message of Vedas in three simple sentences:

Love all, serve all;

Hands that serve are better than lips that pray;

When there is unity, there is purity and where there is purity, there is divinity.

Sai Baba taught us that the end of education is the cultivation of human values. This has been an integral part of our entire family and of all of our business practices.

What can we expect from your Spring/Summer 2021 collection? How do you distinguish palette colors for different seasons? 

What always drives us is our story. Spring/Summer 2021 is about fluidity. It is inspired by the energies that drive our world. All of us feel like we are at a global standstill but this virus is constantly moving even when we can’t see. So much movement, yet so much stillness. It is an incredible time to recognize how connected our world is. We will be showcasing this by collaborating with one of the world’s best nature-based artists from the western world. We will be showing many interesting ideas in our Spring/Summer 2021 collection. 

Have international celebrities worn your handbags at any prestigious events?

We have just launched our brand. I believe that every person who carries our bag is a celebrity because they recognize and acknowledge the power of our brand and the values it represents.

What expectations do you have from Aranyani and its long-term success?  

Aranyani will always stand for limited edition bags and is not built to be mass-produced. I do hope to reach full capacity over the next two years and to build a customer base that appreciates what we do not only for its beauty but also for what the brand represents. I look forward to Aranyani becoming global in the coming years.