DESTIG Magazine - JAMINI DESIGNS - an intriguing journey between two worlds where reality takes on a poetic elegance.
Jamini, a Hindi word meaning the colour purple, is a lifestyle brand that took root in India and took flight in Paris.
By Lydia Thurlow
Blending patterns and textures from different eras and places she curates unique ranges of handcrafted lifestyle pieces. At the heart of Jamini’s philosophy lies a profound belief in the value of drawing on the past to live creatively in the modern world. Jamini is a window into Indian culture and its skilled artisans, opening up a dialogue between Indian savoir-faire and French joie-de-vivre. Beyond its colourful harmony, its deeper beauty lies in its celebration of the people at the centre: the men and women passionate about their land and their crafts.
Usha glides effortlessly between these two worlds, with deep understanding and affection for each. With the inventiveness of an alchemist, she identifies and isolates, orchestrates and composes, distils and transforms. Jamini is much more than a lifestyle brand; it is an evolving, intriguing journey where reality takes on a poetic elegance.
Jamini finds inspiration in the heart of Assam, with its fabrics, techniques and culture. It was here that Usha grew up, surrounded by tea bushes and immense forests under the administrative authority of her grandfather, home to rhinos, elephants and tigers. This region is not only extremely rich in natural resources - tea, wood, fuel and coal; it also has a thriving textile industry. Although despite being rich in natural beauty, due to its geographical location it has lagged behind in economic development and suffered various political instabilities. Assam’s mélange of people and tribes is one of the principal reasons for the proliferation of diverse weaving techniques that the region is so famous for. This is why it is such an immense source of inspiration and experimentation for Jamini.
Usha decided to leave this wonderful land to shape her future, one that she imagined to be more exciting than her adventure-filled childhood. At the age of 16 she headed towards Delhi and followed an exemplary path: attending the best school, university and business school in India, the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. After completing her business degree, Usha expanded her horizon towards Hong Kong and worked in a marketing position for an American firm. A change of meridian came soon after she met someone who became the father of her children and moved to Paris, the city of love. With a love of beauty and the knowledge of where to look for it, she joined L’Oréal for a few years. But the birth of her first child made her realise she needed to create a bridge with India. A chance discussion with a close friend made her realize that she could apply her sense of aesthetic and work as a freelance-sourcing agent for some of the top French brands for textile ideas from India.
A few seasons later, Jamini was born as a natural extension of Usha’s passion to showcase the elegant beauty of textile traditions and the skills of expert artisans from her country. More than just an aesthetic adventure, it is a committed endeavour to confront human and ecological challenges, which we face in a world with rapidly shrinking boundaries and resources.
“With the inventiveness of an alchemist, she identifies and isolates, orchestrates and composes, distils and transforms.”
The handloom weaving industry has been intimately linked with the culture of Assamese people since the 17th century. Almost every home has a spinning wheel and a hand operated loom, and women weave their own fabrics, which enables them to earn some sort of economic freedom. Each tribe has their own code for weaving motifs of humans, animals or purely graphic patterns. Jamini works with different weaving clusters focusing primarily on Eri silk or a pure quality of cotton.
Eri silk is also known as peace silk because only after the silkworm had become a butterfly, and flies away unharmed, is the cocoon harvested and spun into silk. It takes its name from the Assamese word ‘era’ which means castor: the plant the silkworm feeds off. Its production is not only sustainable and eco-friendly; it also empowers small, marginal farmers in Assam. This region’s weaving industry produces an incredible 95% of the world’s Eri silk.
Block printing (Dabu) is a printing technique using hand-carved wooden blocks. It’s a method often associated with Rajasthan, but is now quite commonly used across different parts of India. It’s this technique that Jamini for printing tableware, computer cases and tote bags.
Usha’s father was a person determined to protect the environment and offer a source of income for the women in the villages surrounding the forests. So he started up a business called ElRhino that makes paper from elephant and rhino waste without ruining the precious forests of Assam. It’s this paper that Jamini uses for its beautiful notebooks. The family has also created a trust that helps protect the forests from poachers and deforestation – environmental issues that are not commonly discussed.
Alongside the range of fashion and home accessories is a new collection of wicker baskets. Made from a plant called Water Hyacinth, an aquatic plant that originally comes from South-East Asia, it became popular at the beginning of the 21st century because of its beautiful lilac-coloured flowers. It grows at a phenomenal speed, and has consequentially become a serious problem in Assam, floating in large masses that quickly block sunlight and starve other plants and fish of oxygen. Two years ago, the Assamese government introduced a project designed to turn this invasive plant into a fibre with promising, ecological advantages. By creating a new range of hand-woven baskets with this fibre, Usha is proud to contribute to this eco-friendly project, which benefits the villages of the region. Behind every method and material used by Jamini, there is a strong determination to preserve beautiful, centuries’ old tradition, in full respect of their human and natural environments, while harmoniously integrating them with a contemporary aesthetic.
Credits - Jamini Designs & Lydia Thurlow