She has exhibited her ‘cruelty free’ organic silk with daring motifs and bold colours at Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum – London. Her scarves and fabrics are flaunted by fashion divas, models and celebs.
She created brand Aeshaane it sells cruelty free organic silk. This is the story of Neesha Amrish, she wanted to fly high and that she did.
The journey had started long back probably when as a child she spent hours dabbling with colour and crafting out her sometimes-meaningless art pieces. She grew up watching her grandmother stitching pretty dresses and loved being surrounded by fabric, laces, embroidery and quickly learnt quite a bit about fabric and colours.
Her inner journey as a designer began at that tender age, but she was determined to fly the high skies and chose the career of a flight attendant in spite of strong resistance from her family. ''I learnt from my formative years especially from my mother that, if you believe in yourself and your Dreams, just go for it. There is no stopping you!'' Her flying career lasted for 6 years, thereafter she met the man of her dreams, married and settled on ground.
Since textiles and colour was my first love, after marriage I did a formal course in design for two years. My mother in-law helped me buy my first sewing machine, my first block, my first table and let me double the garage as my workstation. She was my accountant, my mentor and my guide. She has truly been the wind beneath my wings.
How did the idea of Aeshaane take birth?
I visited a Sericulture farm and what I saw, stayed with me! Live silk worms were thrown into boiling water for making silk. It was a gruesome sight! Cocoons are killed by steaming or dropping them into boiling water when they are ten days old and before they metamorphose into a moth. The silk is believed to be the finest at this stage.
Thus began my tryst with Organic silk. I wanted to create ‘Cruelty free’ silk. Advocating vegetarianism, myself, it was a liberating experience to own and wear my first piece of ‘Guilt- free’ fabric!
After countless hours of research, I discovered that there was a remote village in the North East of India where this process was possible.
I travelled there, stayed in a slum without any basic amenities for three months, with my mother in law lending her endless support and that’s where the Guilt free silk fabric was created as naturally as possible.
The silkworms are left to feed on trees and reared outdoors, the yarn is produced in an untouched natural environment.
There is a waiting period and no one is in a hurry to bury them live! The moths emerge after 8-10 days naturally, piercing the cocoon at one end. “The adult moths have a short life span of four days. During this time, they mate and die naturally. The pierced cocoons are then spun into organic yarn. The fibre is not continuous and is coarse but cruelty-free! This cannot be compared to machine made fabric. Mines truly is wild silk. I learnt that going organic was a process not a status!
The journey has been incredible- handcrafting wearable beauty that remains sustainable!
As the mother of a little girl, I believed that protecting the earth is as important as cherishing our girls. It’s been the biggest challenge till date since I had to sink all my life savings into something that only I believed in!
Tell us about the name Aeshaane
I wanted to name my daughter Aeshaane- the name of Goddess Druga, Goddess of Power however, the store came along before her so I named it Aeshaane my first love
What is Aeshaane?
Once I had the fabric I wanted to play with colours since that’s something that came ever so naturally to me. Mixing colours was my forte. My dyer would go crazy when I would tell him to give me ‘just a shade darker, just one shade lighter or something in-between! Because for me that was ‘Making or Breaking a piece’. That was the real magic! I did not have money to buy blocks, so my first block was carved out of a potato in the kitchen.
Bold and big came naturally to me being a Punjabi. This was often not met with much appreciation. People found the prints too loud and bold. Some said the colours were too stark. But somehow, I stuck to my guts and stayed true to my style and then the perceptions started changing slowly almost one client at a time! That’s why it’s taken me 6 long years!
I loved geometrical motifs, and wanted to break stereotypes with block prints being synonymous with Paisleys and fine print. So, I started creating huge motifs and little did I know that these are going to be housed in big world famous “Museum” later on!
I remember being rejected by buyers because I had just a few worker artisans, it was difficult to explain they were not cheap substitutes for machines; each of them, unique like the piece they create with timeless imperfections intermingled with these “Threads of thought”!
I did not have money to buy a table or hire a printer! I started with a paltry sum of USD 50 and now I have 20 rural families who joined hands with me to live life with a real purpose – creating cruelty free silk!
Anything unique about Aeshaane you want to highlight.
Finally, these ‘Thread of thought’ went global from London to Tokyo to bond with a niche audience who appreciate finesse and quality! Currently being showcased at the world’s most prestigious Museum of Design and Art, ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum’, London, these weaves were sold out in less than a week of its display!
The hurdles you faced along the way.
Marketing and reaching out to the right target audience who could relate to the product. Not all like natural,rough fabric with imperfections.
Dealing with labour is challenging
And finally ridiculed for it being “too simple” and “not fitting in”.
What was the biggest source of help and support?
The force to keep me going came from within- of course my husband and mom in-law were there for encouragement and support as well.
How important was the funding issue when you started?
Initially I started with a small funding of USD 300 and then one thing led to another. I kept putting it back into my work and bought my first block, first table, first Paris ticket and I was blessed as there were lots of firsts in my life! I and am still putting it back.
The biggest achievement so far and a heart-breaking moment in this journey.
Exhibiting with world famous designers like Jimmy choo in the World’s best Museum was nothing short of a dream come true for me!
Heart-breaking moment – The west appreciated me and my craft more than my Indian fellowmen!
Some of your clients…
Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum,London, La Cachemaille – Paris, Koolfly – Greece, Elisa Rivera – Spain, Ark, Istanbul,Asian Eye, U.S.A, D.E.F- Japan to name a few
Anything that you would have done differently, given a chance.
I am happy with the way things have shaped up and I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I enjoyed my journey and still have miles to go!
Your plans going forward.
To exhibit in the museums of New York and sell in some of the best stores across the globe!
Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?
Well, maybe someone to invest and believe in the Brand – open stores in Paris, New York and London!
This season Aeshaane celebrates woman who dares to dream, doesn’t shy away from being herself and is free-spirited! It’s inspired from Transgenders and their lives- and how some break free of the societal taboos and make a place for themselves. www.aeshaane.com
Written byShayonti Chatterji
Founder of Our Frontcover. With a career spanning over 25 years, in management and business development, believes in dreaming and living the dream. Believes in the power of stories.