I thought I would take this opportunity to document my second trip to India, and take you on a journey to see how Balulu is made, and where my inspiration comes from. On this blog I'm going to document to you the people I've met that have helped me and my business and the places I've gone for visions and purchases.
Pushkar was a real highlight for me on my last trip to India, with amazing bazaars and shops - as well as the beautiful lake and surroundings. After a long bus ride from Dehli, it was the perfect place to get our bearings and settle down for a couple of days. The Rajasthani fabrics you see around worn by the men and women are truly stunning, with beautiful embellishments.
A warm welcome from a friendly face :)
The main tourist strips have good shops for your more general tourist goodies and some unusual pieces too, but where you find the real treasures is the alleys behind filled with more local shops and local people.
I found myself in an amazing fabric shop as a monsoon rain came pouring over the streets of pushkar, and I couldn't resist what I saw. Inside the shop was an elderly man (the owner) and his son and Grandson. The elder didn't speak any English, however with his sons help we could understand each other. The fabric that caught my eye was an amazing shimmering flower linen. I'd never seen anything like it before. It's bright colours and chaotic background shouted out Balulu, and I knew I couldn't leave the shop without buying some.
In the end we came to a deal and I bought 5 meters of two different styles. It was slightly more than I wanted to pay so was hesitant to buy to much, as I was aware I might be able to find more with my tailor for cheaper. Despite this it was a memorable transaction, and his empty money draw was soon filled up with rupees. The shop had been there for 79 years (the elder must have taken it over from his father) and you could tell it was very much a family run business.
I am a big believer in supporting small family run independent businesses, and it was really nice to see how happy this purchase made them - and me! It's always worth going slightly off the beaten tourist track in a place like here, just because it can often be full of hidden gems, and with more local prices too!
This will be the first year Balulu has it's own stall at festivals this year, and it is super exciting! I was on the hunt for decor and props to decorate the inside - I want the stall to offer an explosion of colour, fun and Indian influence!
Indian people sure know how to throw a party, and taking inspiration from what I have seen - the colours, dancing, distorted music being played too loudly from a boombox, it's exactly the sort of excitement, chaos and charm I want my stall to offer.
On our last day in Pushkar I was very lucky to find a shop and man called Baba. I was attracted to all the amazing hangings he had outside of his shop, and when I started talking to him I knew instantly he would be a good person to work with. Baba hand makes the most amazing Rajasthani trinkets, hanging and decorations. I wanted to buy everything in his shop! It gave me a vision of how I would like my stall to look, and gave me some amazing ideas for jewellery and themes for my stall.
It was a really exciting to meet someone as talented and easy to talk to as Baba. I told him all about my business idea, and he was very keen to help me. It always amazes me the people you meet in india, and how a simple exchange can become a life long friendship. I am very excited for what is to come from this!
After 3 nights in Pushkar we got the government bus all the way to Bundi. Last time I was in Bundi my boyfriend and I stayed for two weeks because we loved it so much, and we made amazing connection with people that I wanted to come back and see on this trip.
Bundi has to be one of my favourite places in india. it's calm, full of charm and lots of wonderful characters. Above is my Indian sister, moonie, who is the owner of Energy Cafe (definitely recommend if you go). Last time I was here, we spent most of our time at this cafe and it is such a treat to be back. Bundi feels like my home in India, my boyfriend and I have even got our faces plastered on a sign outside our friends cafe!
The boyf modelling Balulu last year in Bundi.
These were some of the first designs I ever got made here in Bundi.
So you imagine just how excited I was to come back here and go back to the fabric store I bought these from! It was still there, same guy, and lots of different bedsheet styles. Sadly they didn't have the above designs but had plenty of others I couldn't resist purchasing.
My first bed sheet purchases to be made into limited edition pieces!
Not only did I come across multiple bed sheet shops selling these crazy and unusual prints, I also found amazing trims, embroidery and embellishments being sold at the market. The first guy I went to was extremely helpful and straight away started pulling out all the different types, and asking me if I liked them. Last year I bought trims of a similar style, but they were made from slightly wider and thicker fabrics. For the new collection, I would like to continue having the trim on most pieces, but was attracted to the more subtle yet elegant designs. In the end I went for a thin sequin trim which was on top of a bright coloured fabric. I loved the juxtaposition of the gold sequins and bright colours.
Combine the two, some super skilled tailoring and design work...and voila! You have Balulu.
I also came across this treasure chest of fabrics hidden away in a back alley. The guys working were super friendly and helpful, again pulling all sorts of fabrics out to show me and try to entice me in. I loved them all! And they were such a good price. There was the most the amazing selection of fabrics and trims I have ever come across, I got inspiration and ideas straight away for the new collection. Here's a little glimpse into the magic I came across today...
This year Balulu is going to be switching to a lot more natural and raw fabrics for it's main collection. It is my quest on this trip to find out where the fabrics I'm using for the main collection are sourced and how they are made. I am going to see the production line from beginning to end.
On my quest I will be going to Varanasi (in a couple of days) to see my tailor where I get my clothes made up, and I will be going to Bihar with him to go and see where the fabrics are weaved and how they are made. I will get to see every little process that goes into making it, and make sure there are no nasties! I will document this journey so keep an eye out for more to come on this, and the beautiful natural materials that are going to be created and made into clothes for you lovely lot!
I make sure to go and visit my tailor as much as possible (at least once a year) and we keep in contact via whatsapp nearly everyday. We don't just talk business, he tells me about festivals are happening, pictures of his daughters engagement party - not only is he my tailor but now he is also a very good friend. I has a great understanding for want I want from my business, and we both share beliefs in being ethical as possible and using non-harmful means of production. He is a great believer in using natural and organic fabrics, so again this is something that really brought us together. They are so talented with what they do, and I feel very lucky to have this partnership. It also gives me an excuse to go back to the motherland regularly!
Varanasi, the birthplace of Balulu.
My very talented tailor making the checkmate jumpsuit.
After two long days of travel by train and bus, I am back in Varanasi.
This amazing place founded by Lord Shiva is the holiest city for Hindus and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
I had the most wonderful meeting with my tailor this morning making some very exciting plans for Balulu. And I got invited to his daughters wedding!
Feeling very lucky to be back where it all started, and to have plenty of time with my tailor putting together all the pieces of the new collection.
One man with big blanket missions!
Day one of starting serious work!
I went and met my tailor in the morning and over a cup of chai we discussed how our days had been and what we were going to be working on over the next couple of weeks. It was pleasure to get to chat face to face as so often it's on whatsapp and what you are expressing is never the same or as meaningful over the phone as it is in person.
We discussed numbers, timing, fabrics and quantities...and much more! In the one place you can't get a beer, now is the time I am craving one more than ever. Numbers has never been my strong point, and when it comes down to very fiddly ones I often feel I can get quite weighed down with the pressure to get it right. Being a one person business is an amazing thing and I would never wish for anything else, but when it comes to doing all the creative and administrative work I always like to get a second opinion on the things I'm not so sure about. My brother has come with me on this trip as he saw it as an opportunity to see India for the first time. He has been an amazing support and second opinion when I have needed one! And not to mention a super pro photographer for Balulu :)
After a long catch up and talk through everything, my tailor took my brother and I to the most amazing fabric shop to have a look at fabrics. I have also very excitingly been commissioned to design the first ever Balulu wedding dress this year, so here we were also looking for fabrics for that. This shop was well known for it's pure, natural and quality materials. The shop had endless reels of fabric and it was an amazing experience to get to see all these amazing fabrics under one roof. As we were offered chai, fabrics were pulled out in front of me and I got look through and feel all the ones I liked. It was a Balulu dream! I then took notes of my favourites, and spent the rest of the afternoon with my head in a book of numbers!
Yesterday we had the amazing experience of meeting the hand loom weaver who weaves many of the natural fabrics we use for our designs.
My brother and I were invited back to his home to have a look at all his linens, raw silks and cottons. Getting to see these fabrics up close, and comparing them to others gave us a real feel for natural and what we would like to use for the new collection...including no nasties!
This year there will be an emphasis on craftsmanship and using quality fabrics, creating longevity for your lounging, festival and high street clothes.
We are hard at work designing the new collection, and everyday we are working on improving our social and environmental impact.
Balulu has been shopping for fabrics for the new collection! Before I got sick, my tailor and I did some extreme bedsheet shopping, and so far I have purchased 80 fabulous double bedsheets soon to be made into fabulous clothes! We were taken to the local shop, where the finest bedsheets in Varanasi are stocked. Each and every one of the bedsheets we use has been handpicked by moi, bringing you the most crazy, cool and colourful designs that make people go WOW!!
Why blend in with the crowds? It's time to make a statement and that is what Balulu is here for. This year's collection will be using the highest quality 100% cotton, and are double thickness so have extra longevity and durability. Each bedsheet design only runs in small batches, making your design even more unique! We work very hard to bring you the best of colour and comfort with our prints and cuts, offering the perfect play clothes this summer.
Above is a picture of my wonderful tailors cutting out sample pieces for the new collection. It's been such a great experience hanging out with these guys and working closely to produce the perfect pieces. It's been super hard work with a lot of number crunching and finalising the perfect fabrics and designs, but everyday we are getting closer to the end result.
Our biggest aim for this year is to make a collection that is genderless and inclusive for all shapes and sizes. Most of the garments are designed with an oversized style to fit one size, but we are also bringing out a selection of other sizes in case that doesn't work for you!
We want everyone to be able to play in our clothes, and if you ever have a request to get something made in a specific size we are happy to do custom orders too. Just pop us a message and we can make the magic happen.