We always love ourselves a good girl boss, but one who is under 30, working with local artisans and also fashionable to boot…well that’s hard to pass up! Navya Kaur is a one-woman show, bringing handmade, small batch products straight from the hands of artisans in India, and around the globe. After family visits to India growing up, Navya decided to bring the work of the amazing artists there back to the US. And thus, Kaahani, and a slew of super cute accessories, was born.
What led you to start your own company?
Two things. First, this relentless desire to marry fashion with social initiative. There are so many people in this world who practice beautiful crafts that are unique to their locale, and they are underrepresented in the Western marketplace where there is so much opportunity for growth. I had this internal struggle between wanting to live in the glamorous world of fashion but also wanting to create an intentional career that fosters a better world for mankind. And at the time, I didn’t feel like I could have both. It felt like fashion and meaningful work were mutually exclusive, which for the record, is not the case.
Second, traveling to India almost annually. I would leave feeling so inspired by the beautiful jewelry and textiles I would see in the marketplaces. So much time and effort goes into creating these goods, and they are all one of kind and handcrafted. It seemed so natural to provide a platform here in the U.S. to highlight and exhibit these artisan crafts, which for many of these people, is their livelihood. The mix of creativity and commerce is so exciting to me, I’m never bored.
Tell us the story behind the name!
Kaahani directly translates to “story” in Punjabi, my mother tongue. As I said, what inspired me to start this company was the incredible work that these craftsmen do, which is many times handed down from generation to generation within families. I want to showcase their artwork and educate people on the importance of artisan work and how deep the roots of these crafts are. I wanted to use a word from the Punjabi language, because so much of what fuels my drive is seeing people from my community in India work so hard to create beautiful things. Not only is Kaahani a representation of them, but of my own roots as well.
How do you source and work with the local artisans?
I am so fortunate enough to have a great support system in India when I visit. My cousin who is also in the same line of work was able to guide me to various markets and artisan hubs in the city of New Delhi, which is where I source from. I spend a lot of time talking to various artisan groups to determine what their capabilities and crafts are, before we continue on with sourcing and production.
How do you concept your line and keep updating the offerings?
It’s been really fun to do market research because I am not only taking into account the trends here in the States, but I also have to consider what is feasible in India in regards to color, prints, and production. It’s important that Kaahani provides appealing product to our clients that fits in with Western style, but also counter that with ensuring that we do justice to the Indian crafts and represent them well. I am a very visual person, so creating mood boards and scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest is usually when I’m most inspired. I think from a brand perspective, it’s important for us to consider the big trends of the season, but also make sure we don’t look like everyone else in the market.
How do you work your blog and social media into your branding?
So much of the business is about representing who we are- whether that’s our mission, look, values, or image. We really try to represent our Kaahani girl in multiple ways- whether she’s buying from us because she loves the artisan focus, or she just wants some fabulous earrings. A lot of our social media is a happy balance between talking about these crafts and the meaningful work behind the scenes, but also representing a girl who is fun, quirky, and doesn’t take life too seriously for herself.
What is the best part of this job?
Traveling to India. I am my happiest and best self when I get to go to these textile markets, meet craftsmen, and collaborate with people who believe in this mission as much as I do. It really reminds me again why I do what I do, and it is so so fulfilling.
And the toughest?
From a very literal perspective, photography. I’m a very visual person so I am very picky about the look and feel of our brand as a whole. You can’t be a fashion brand without really strong photography, and that has been such a learning curve for me because I don’t have any prior knowledge of how to properly use a camera. I’m learning… slowly!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
This one made me smile because I feel like I’m still the one seeking advice on a daily basis. So maybe that’s my advice. Find a circle of really authentic, ambitious people to share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns with. So much of your lifestyle and mindset is defined by the people you surround yourself with, and you want to make sure that they are pushing you forward and not holding you back. Build relationships consciously.