Chiaroscuro is a great example of a genuine , creative and successful Make in India brand and perfect for starting off our #MakeinIndia month . Thanks Smriti for the perfect choice of music
Brand’s USP lies in beautiful and ethical craftsmanship of superior quality leathers into affordable, sustainable and classic designs that are build to last.
“My inspiration was love for leather and a pure dedication to the craft in its original form. Mostly I think I worked for so many different people and organisations and brands – you agree with some practices, you disagree with many. Then there came a point where I felt like wait a minute, I want to build something based on all the ideals I truly believe in. It was the need for authenticity and connection. As an initiative, the effort is to showcase the capabilities of pure leather as a material, make lasting products, provide good quality, warranties, after sales support, produce in India, produce ethically, create a sustainable product and above all, celebrate the craft and the artisan. ” Says Smriti
We love the fact on how she markets the brand with the maker . Its not just about the pretty models , beautiful locations for product shoots . Its amazing on how each bag has face and a name put to its maker.
Beauty isn’t always about what is in or out
Sometimes it is beyond that realm
Sometimes it is the uniqueness of plain simplicity
Sometimes it is the earthiness of your being
Sometimes it is the sweat on the artisan’s brow
But, most of the times it reflects everything you want to be
Baatein for Chiaroscuro
Smriti Sain the beautiful creative founder of Chiaroscuro was born in Mumbai and brought up partly in Mumbai and partly in Pune. She then moved to Delhi for fashion school at NIFT. ” I lived in Italy for a couple of years before returning to India because of my romantic love for the country and hopeless inability to call any other place apart from Delhi HOME. Life before Chiaroscuro is a moot point of sorts. Because it feels like my life before has been all about building it. Dreaming about it. Wanting it. Not knowing how to build it. Not knowing where the money would come from. Finding the right people to build it with. Nurturing it. Putting the puzzle together. Bit by bit. “
“I remember talking to a friend about Florence and she spoke about this small nondescript little cafe in some corner of the city that she loved for its humility. She said it was called Chiaroscuro. I remember a bell went off in my mind when she said the word. Mentally I told myself, yes this is will be the name. I didn’t know what Chiaroscuro would be, what would define it. But I knew the word feel right. Its like mentally choosing a name you like for your future child.
Of course Chiaroscuro is a very famous technique of play of light and dark in Renaissance art. One of my favorite artists, Caravaggio is one of the torchbearers of the technique. Its wonderful because with simple elements and just pure mastery of technique, so much emotion and drama and emphasis is created in his works. The impact stays with you for a long long time. I think this is somewhere also what I wanted to build with Chiaroscuro. I also love that the name is a bit rough in sound. Its not flowery.” Smriti
” The bags started because of a certain disillusion with the kind of products and brands available to me as an Indian shopper. There came a point when I just didn’t feel like buying anything anymore. Everything out there just felt either too cheap in quality/make, unoriginal and uninspired in design, soul-less in character and meaning. I think I was missing authenticity. Fast fashion brands and high street labels with quick knock offs of the runway styles were not the kind of places I subscribed to.
Sometimes I would find something subtle and nice. But then once you started using it, it would just die out on you so quickly! Or the materials just felt plastic. I think I was craving a real connection with the products I bought. A sense of authentic value that the money I spent got me.
Furthermore, I think there also comes a time in life when you stop and think about your purchasing patterns. You may have ample money at your disposal, but you don’t want to splurge continually. You don’t subscribe to use and throw. You start to think about who made this, how was the person treated, where did he work; what is this made of, where is this material sourced from, how is it made? How and where can I put this to use, how long will this last me. There is thoughtfulness all around. For the maker. For the process. For the materials. For the initiative. For the buyer. That is Chiaroscuro.
Each bag was born out of a carrying need. I just started with would would I like to carry if I needed a nice all encompassing tote? Emma was born. I want a nice handy everyday sling – then came Stella. I want a slightly more casual sling – we conceived Caro. I want a more elegant and slightly smaller tote for everyday work needs – enter Anabelle. Jahangir (my lead artisan) and I make the first piece of each design together. We compliment the way we work on our products, thinking about utility, aesthetics, life, comfort. Each first sample has been used extensively either by me or a dear friend. I still continue to use many of the first pieces we made of each design. They are beautiful and continue to get more beautiful with time and use. We have all been able to make small modifications to the designs over use to bring in added comfort, detailing, utility or quality. Our designs are our babies. We a constantly working on them to make them better
We continually make changes to existing designs even now specially with feedback from users. We’ve added pockets, made handles adjustable, reinforced certain high usage parts of the bag for longer life. A handbag treads the fine line between fashion and product design. So once you have a great looking bag, that’s half the work done. How it works with the human body, time, weather and use is the all critical balance. It is a continuous process.”
“As a person, I am defined by my work. Its what gives me my sense of purpose- my identity, self confidence and happiness.
I was a creative child always though opportunities to explore and develop your creativity as a child growing up in the traditional Indian educational system were few & far between. Still, over the years I took whatever I could from every experience. Art classes, craft, musical performance, plays, food, art, cinema. As a teenager and a then a twenty-something year old, its all about experimentation. Journeys. The effort to find yourself. Luckily this phase coincided with travel. I traveled a lot. For a child of an Indian middle class family, this was not so common. After graduating from NIFT, I started work on a small salary. I lived with my parents at the time so saving most of it was not hard. Every year I’d use the money to make one big trip. At that point, India felt banal. I wanted to see what was outside. So I did a number of trips. South East Asia, Middle East, North America, Australia. Once each year.”
“India felt binding. The work felt binding. The industry was keen to box me and my abilities. Frustration started to set in. And a longing/wondering for what more is out there. My parents are largely from completely mainstream “Indian” professions – my father is the brilliant IIT/IIM combo and my mum has been a core – science lover with multiple masters (she now works in Education). I chose to move to Milan for a Masters in Design. My parents were amazingly supportive even though I am not sure if they fully understood the path of a creative person. And then of course I fell in love with Europe. Italy in particular. I traveled A LOT. Was exposed to so much art, architecture, fashion, creativity just everywhere. I SOAKED it all in. Saw absolutely everything there was to see. The arts are so organised there. Accessible too. Incredible exhibitions will come to the city every other day. Artists will be performing at every corner. I transformed. I think I started looking like a local too. I was luckily enough to experience life in Europe as a student-on-a-budget and then as a working professional too. But when almost 2 years came to a close, I felt full. ” Smriti
“Happy to have had all the experiences. But now keen to return home and be an entrepreneur. That bug bit me hard. So I wound up everything and returned to Delhi. Choosing to make it my home and the birthplace of my baby – Chiaroscuro. Though I have to admit, I had no idea what I was going to build at the time, how and with whom (if anyone at all!). Its been 5 years since returned. I took my time to reacquaint with India personally as an adult and professionally as a design consultant and then as a startup entrepreneur. Reconnect with India. Rediscover the Indian-ness in me and my take on design. It a continuous process~” Smriti
Smriti’s recommendations on Accessory must haves : A pair of tan leather flats to slip on and be on the run. A nice pair of black pumps, matt leather / suede. A large all encompassing leather tote . A sweet little sling that holds nothing more than your wallet phone and keys and a pair of small pearl studs
Smriti says in whatever little success we have seen thus far, its been all about hard work, patience, perseverance and an undying belief in your mission. I don’t think this will change no matter where we reach or how many milestones we cross. Every day has been an adventure. Every day has been a challenge. I know that when I am an old woman at 90, I will look back at my life with absolute joy at all the journeys that have been embarked on, all the challenges faced, all the experiences lived.
As Sarah Bran Breathnach said “The world needs Dreamers and the world needs Doers. But above all, the world needs Dreamers who Do.” and Smriti we are glad you are one of them.
Get your own Chiaroscuro bag from their website here.
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