With a résumé boasting a CFDA Fashion Incubator grant, cameos in Wes Anderson flicks and a posse of paparazzi-bait, Waris Ahluwalia is a veritable man-about-town. The unassuming style icon plays raconteur through handcrafted jewelry and scarves out of his eponymous House of Waris line.
Your accessories are designed around an old world charm…what are you inspired by?
The inspiration for my work, all of it, is always love and history. As a disclaimer, I’d like to add that I don’t understand either of them. My work is a journey to get to a place where it all makes sense.
Most of your production is done by hand…is that all done here in NY, or do you work with artisans in India as well?
Our main workshop is in India. However, we also have a workshop in Bangkok and in Rome. Sometimes I even have work made here in NY. There are talented craftsmen everywhere. I’ve made it my task to find them.
Can you tell us about the scarf collection, do you design lighter weight scarves for spring?
We work with cashmere that is hand-loomed, silk and a silk cotton blend. The silk and the silk cotton blend are perfect for spring and summer and the cashmere is ideal for a spring evening. However, for this next collection we will have a lighter weight cashmere.
Will you expand your print designs into ready-to-wear?
At this stage I can’t imagine doing ready-to-wear. My fascination is with both the process- the artisan, the material, the craft- and with the adornment. The jewelry and scarves allow me to adorn the world.
Do you have hope of opening a stand-alone shop in the future?
We have many hopes and plans, but to borrow from Robert Burn’s poem:
“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
Oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”
Tell us a bit about your collection of Esquivel shoes–is George a personal friend?
It’s great when you can believe in both the person and the product. George makes a great shoe and is a great guy. We share similar values–he’s just one step ahead– I’m still working on the family. I’ve got quite a ways to go.
In the world I live in, you’re connected to the things you buy, the things you wear, the things you eat. Every time you spend a dollar you’re voting and supporting an idea and a way of life. I like to know the dreams, ethics and politics of the companies I support. We cannot pretend to be blind and ignorant to this when information is so readily available to us. Supporting craftsmanship where ever it may be is important to me.
What do you like most about them?
They’re comfortable. I like comfort. They’re classic and they’re pink. I love pink. I just hope George puts enough of that pink aside for me.
“To India with Love” is a book you worked on to support those affected by attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Has the fundraising been an ongoing project?
It has sold really well worldwide, which is fantastic as all our proceeds continue to go to the Taj Memorial Public Service Welfare Trust–a fund that aids victims and families that suffered through the attacks. The book has almost sold out and we’re hoping it goes into its third reprint soon.
What is the main focus of the book?
We’re all here for what is a spark of a moment. If we can bring some beauty, hope and joy to the world around me in our little time here we shall have served my purpose. The book is a collection of stories. Many friends have had profound experiences in India and shared their personal stories with us. Besides money, we also wanted to raise morale. We wanted the milkman to read in his local paper that there were people on the other side of the world sending their love and care.
People removed the light from a little corner of the world- we’re just trying to replace it. Balance.
What’s your favorite pastime? If you weren’t designing what would be your dream job?
I have my dream job. But if not this, then my time would be taken up with tennis, swimming and backgammon. And mid-day napping.