Exploring new landscapes
Annah Chakola’s foray into the fashion world stems from her love of travel, exploration, and colours. Having been born into the Chakola family, which dealt with the business of apparels and furnishings for over 185 years, it is not a sheer coincidence that her core interests lies in decor, fashion accessories and fabrics. But Annah is a free spirit, a beautiful, sensitive modern ‘gypsy’ herself so to speak, who strays away from conventional routes. Her online store Boho Gypsy is a true reflection of the lady herself in every sense – vibrant, rustic yet with an element of sophistication. RITZ caught up with the designer for a chat at The Cocoa Tree, Panampilly Nagar.
What inspires your designs?
It is mainly my love for travel! It keeps me motivated. I get inspired by the colours, the culture and heritage of the places I visit, which I integrate into my designs. The greenery of Kerala, the beige and brown hues of Rajasthan, the tribal culture, the artisans – they all fascinate me. And I have tried to bring all those colours into my apparels. I love the places that have a craft culture and resonate with a colourful Indian vibe like Cambodia, Morocco and Turkey. If you take a look at my collections you can see a melange of vintage fabrics, jacquards, rustic materials all inspired by many of these cultures.
Tell us about Boho Gypsy
Boho is the short form of Bohemian, a free-spirited form of life while Gypsy means the nomadic traveller or the wanderer. Boho Gypsy is an online store that offers a line of authentic, contemporary jewellery, lifestyle accessories and home décor. I also used to sell to retail outlets in the US. Till recently I used to do a lot of trunk stores as well.
How did you realise that this was your niche?
Well, when you discover that you enjoy doing something and also can make a living out of it, you stick to it. It is great when you have a passion that also pays you well. I moved to the US to study art at the age of 16. I started designing as a hobby and later my friends encouraged me to sell my creations. I then quit my job at a non-profit organisation, travelled a whole three months to different parts of Asia. Then I decided to start Boho Gypsy.
Are you a self-made designer?
Completely. I have had no formal training in design; I am self-taught. I simply followed my instinct and aesthetic style. Moreover formal training means that you have to learn to design in gold and I am the least comfortable with gold ornaments. It amazes me that even when people have find it difficult to make ends meet, they are willing to save to spend on gold. I did some short term courses for the sake of technical knowledge.
What made you opt for an online store instead a brick and mortar one?
I come from a family of retailers so I know what it takes to run a successful store. But I am also a traveller and having a retail store ties me down to one place. An online store allows me the scope for travelling. Moreover, an online store gives access to customers all over the world. And these days you need to have an online presence to stay ahead in the market. The current market trends demand it.
How do you do bespoke designs?
The process of designing a bespoke item starts with sitting down with the person, talking to them, understanding their likes, interests and passion, their aesthetics and then exploring the colours they are drawn to. Then comes the task of finding the appropriate fabric. The materials are imported from different parts of the world like Latin America, Afghanistan, Tibet, tribal areas of Rann of Kutch and many other places. I usually prefer organic materials.
Next is the challenging task of getting the designs executed by artisans, especially when you are working remotely and you have a deadline. Our country is blessed with skilled craftsman, but they lack true aesthetics and do not give due importance to the finishing touch. For instance, they might add an extra bead or two. But that extra bead might detract from the overall design element. Anyway, I have learnt to take it with a grain of salt.
Your favourite part of designing?
I absolutely love the travel it requires, hunting for the perfect material. I have travelled to random parts of the world searching for exquisite materials. I have travelled to dark alleys with crazy flea markets, quirky stores selling odds and ends. I admit it may get scary at times; especially as I am a small built person! (laughs)
Who has inspired you?
A lot of people. My mother (Nimmi Chakola) is a courageous lady who had to take over my father’s business after his untimely demise. I have a lot of friends who have taught me to think big. As far as jewellery designing is concerned I am inspired by American fashion designer Donna Karan. She is a classic woman who has stood the test of time. Her lines have always stayed clean and she doesn’t attempt anything crazy just for trends’ sake. I am inspired by how she understands a woman’s body.
Your future projects.
I always felt like returning to my home where I belong. Deep within I am a Kochi girl. So I am opening a new space in Fort Kochi – The Drawing Room, an extension of Boho Gypsy. This is a lifestyle space for interior decor alongside a café. A place where creative people can hang out, listen to music and relish good seafood.