I’m really enjoying my new interview series, so I really hope that you are too. It’s great that the more I explore the world of interiors with a global/adventure focus, the more fascinating people and brands I meet and discover. I love that I get to share all of that and hopefully introduce you to a rich selection of globally inspired brands, stores and people that you might not otherwise have come across! Today, I am bringing you the very lovely Nandita Narayan, Founder and Director of DesignRaaga – a truly globally inspired interiors brand from our very own UK shores. I know that you’re going to love DesignRaaga as much as I do – its a company with a big heart and a real focus on the artisans and makers behind the products, which as you know, is a real winner for me!
Founder and Director of DesignRaaga.com, Nandita Narayan
I came across DesignRaaga a little while ago and was instantly taken with the items for sale from around the world, and the underlying ethos behind the brand which has a strong social focus. I was therefore extremely happy when Nandita agreed to be interviewed and for DesignRaaga to be featured on the blog. So, with that in mind, enough of my waffling – and on to the all important Q&A!
How would you describe your home accessories store, DesignRaaga?
DesignRaaga is all about the story, history and craftsmanship behind beautifully handcrafted pieces. Our ethical homewares are handmade by artisans (most of whom are women) from small ethical producer groups, mainly from developing countries.
“At DesignRaaga, we aim to tell stories that bring beauty, melody & harmony; which is what the sanskrit word ‘Raaga’ means.” – Nandita Narayan, DesignRaaga
What is the inspiration behind the store?
I believe there is something inherently special about a beautifully handcrafted piece, that makes it bigger than the product itself. It is the story, history and craftsmanship behind each of these carefully handmade pieces that has inspired me to start DesignRaaga.
When I moved to this country a few years back, I was on the hunt for unique, one-of-a-kind, pieces that would not only find a place in my new home, but also make a room in my heart. That’s when the idea for DesignRaaga came to me.
How do you choose what to sell?
I look for products that are handmade and fairtrade, using traditional art forms that lend themselves beautifully to contemporary interior settings.
These block print cushions are some of Nandita’s favourite items in the store at the moment.
From where around the world do you source your stock?
Our current collection has pieces from India, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Belgium & France.
This sunflower patchwork quilt is another item that Nandita has highlighted as a particular favourite. I can see why – bright, bold and cheerful (and I obviously LOVE the tiger print cushion that features in this shot too – even though its meant for kids…..). The quilts are made by artisans based in the foothills of the Himalayas, and the cushions in Rajasthan, India!
What advice would you give anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Stop thinking. Just do it. Starting is the hardest part I would say. And don’t worry about the outcome. Just try and enjoy the ride. No matter how hard it may be.
As Les Brown, one of my favourite motivational speakers, says “You can’t get out of life alive—so you might as well enjoy the ride!”
Read more about my startup lessons and journey in my soon to be launched blog for aspiring entrepreneurs www.thepaisleylane.com [PS: I’ve checked and Nandita’s new blog is now up and running!]
These block print quilts are some of DesignRaaga’s bestsellers. Not surprising either – they’re gorgeous!
It’s easy to see why these block print quilts are flying off the shelves at DesignRaaga – the floral detailing is perfect for a Spring bedroom update
What is going to be your next interiors purchase?
I have no space at home. But I have some space on the walls. So I reckon it would be some form of wall art. 🙂
Other favourites, and indeed bestsellers, include these stunning Mexican ceramic planters made by artisans from a family run business in Hidalgo, Mexico using traditional techniques. These come in a range of colours, sizes and designs, and are really rather lovely indeed!
Where is your go-to place for style inspiration?
There are so many fabulous brands that I closely follow – The Future Kept (http://thefuturekept.com/) , A Rum Fellow (http://www.arumfellow.com/) & The Citizenry (http://the-citizenry.com/) to name a few. [PS. Great minds and all that – I also love US brand The Citizenry, and you can check out my post on them right here]
How important is fairtrade and ethical shopping to you and your company?
I am proud that we have chosen to work only with ethical fair trade suppliers and other social enterprises. This means that my margins are lower than if the products were mass produced in factories because the artisan is not only paid fairly as per the legal wage rules of the country but also paid for his/her creative skills. On a weekly basis I get mails from prospective suppliers, proposing to offer me similar products at a fraction of the cost. But I never budge. Because that’s not what my brand stands for. And that’s not the product I would be proud of.
The block printed Indigo table linen pieces (above) are some of DesignRaaga’s bestsellers at the moment. I love the muted Indigo blue and the little beaded details. The collection is printed by hand with mud (Dabu) and dyed with indigo by artisans in Akola, Rajasthan.
What are your top three tips for anyone buying home accessories overseas?
- NEVER shop at popular tourist spots. Go off the beaten track. That’s where you will discover the real gems.
- Ask the locals for advice
- Look for unique artisan finds on Instagram and Pinterest before you travel. It’s easy to connect with maker in advance and see their pieces before making the purchase.
What are your best overseas purchases?
I am obsessed with pottery. And my home is filled with pieces big and small that I’ve collected during my travels. I love every piece because it brings with it beautiful memories.
These bright sunflower patchwork quilts add a super splash of colour to any interiors. Perfect for livening up kids rooms or otherwise neutral spaces!
What’s your favourite travel destination and why?
For business – any country that has a rich cultural heritage. I could never get enough of the gorgeous textiles that India has to offer.
What’s the one place you’d like to visit and why?
Bali – I am excited to see the making of traditional Balinese textiles.
How would you describe your own sense of interior style?
I love Scandi Boho style. The clean minimal Scandinavian style, mixed up with pops of bright, unique bohemian pieces. Here’s a pinterest board that best describes my style.
I ADORE Nandita’s pinterest board – a big yes to using a Scandinavian style base layer and then throwing in a load of bright and boho pieces to make it a truly well-travelled, personalised space. This image from the board is a great example! Image from pinterest via myscandinanvianhome.com
Who are your favourite interior bloggers at the moment and why?
Kimberly Duran (http://www.swoonworthy.co.uk/) – Love her ‘eclectic boho glam’ style. Its not the easiest to make different patterns and textures work together. She has a way of achieving it beautifully.
Abigail Ahern (http://abigailahern.com/) – Her style is also eclectic boho glam, which I love. But it’s her obsession with dark interiors that fascinates me the most. Also, her regular posts capturing her entrepreneurial journey inspire me and I regularly follow them.
What items from around the world are you currently on the look out for?
Gorgeous hand-knotted/hand-woven rugs. They can add so much warmth and texture and completely change the look of a space.
Nandita is on the hunt for a hand woven rug to add a bright colour pop to a space. Great minds and all that as this is exactly what I am after too! Image credit: Pinterest via SFGirlbybay
There you have it folks – a wonderful insight into the concept and ethos behind DesignRaaga, a values-driven UK brand with a strong focus on beautiful, hand-crafted products from artisans around the world. Do check out DesignRaaga.com to see the full range of products on offer – there’s free delivery to the UK mainland after all, and you know that when you buy you’re supporting good causes as well as giving your home some unique global style….!
Happy travels, and shopping