At first instance I couldn’t help but notice those quirky designs and unusual colours in Shweta Dhariwal’s children’s clothing and bed linen; which grow on you as a child’s artwork. Being a design student she spends a lot of time researching and educating, and has a bent towards traditional crafts and pattern making. Recently she took a class in Kutch with the rural craftspeople, learning their details to put tribal designs into perspective at Whitewater Designs – a studio that for textile home accessories and clothing for men, women and infants. I met her at an exhibition in New Delhi, where she was showcasing for the first time her kids’ collection. She shared with me few details about her work and life,till now.
What are your childhood memories?
I remember being very excited about going to school. Unlike other children, I don’t think I cried over school, ever. We (my sisters and I) excitedly polished our shoes at night and dad dressed us in the morning, ensuring that we are presentable while my mother counted and gave us dry fruits and tiffins. Our daily routine was coming back from school in the afternoon, and playing in the building compound. Now I feel fortunate for having had a comfortable childhood, without any major worries.
What are your hobbies?
I love travelling and can’t sit still. Have to always be occupied with something productive. Hence, I plan my work around projects that take me on different cultural trips; loving the beauty in everything. Lately I have taken a liking for gardening and am trying to learn more about herbs and plants.
Tell me about your children’s clothing and linen.
I was passionate about engaging in meaningful design; to create not only beautiful products, but products that have a positive impact on people and their surroundings. Even though India is one of the largest producers of organic cotton, so little is used by Indians themselves. Mostly the ‘made in India’ luxurious products are sold abroad. We do not value our own traditional practices and heritage. All these facts and insights egged me to make these (organic cotton, hand crafts, traditional practices) my strengths. At the same time, it made sense to use chemical free materials for children as their skin is more porous and thinner than an adult’s. Organic cotton is gentler and healthier than conventional cotton. It is grown and manufactured in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, which makes it free of toxic pesticides. Only low-impact dyes, which contain no heavy metals, are used in the dyeing process. I work with women artisans who do applique, embroidery and quilting all by hand for me. By designing for children, I am not only introducing them to a better world, but also their parents, grandparents, extended families and friends. These are baby steps for the larger cause of a ‘Happy Planet’.
I make quilts, dohads, cushion covers, bolster covers, pillows and bedcovers for the child’s nursery and clothing for little girls and boys (0-6 yrs). Am also developing cane storage baskets with an organisation in North East India with personalised khadi liners from Ahmedabad. Our studio waste is used to make beautiful small toys and teethers.
What is your USP?
The strong visual language of my products make them stand apart. People generally associate organic fabrics with pastel colours, but the ones I use brightens up the space. There is a story behind each product that seeks to connect whoever is buying my products, to the child who ultimately uses it. Above all, the special care that is taken to make each product unique and special is what I hope will make a person choose a Whitewater product over others.
An idea that changed your life?
More than an idea, it was the decision to join National Institute of Design (NID) that has changed my life completely. I would have been a completely different person had I not gone to NID to study design.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to have people speak of my work as something that has made a positive impact on their life and thinking.
Whitewater Designs stocks at Ambara and Orange Bicycle in Bangalore, Amethyst in Chennai, Bliss and Tribal Route in Mumbai, Daaram and Dcube in Hyderabad, NIDUS– the design shop in NID at Ahemdabad and EitherOr in Pune. Ideally follow it on https://www.facebook.com/whitewaterdesigns to be informed about its latest and exhibitions in your city.