Ishita Desai develops sustainably produced fashion for mindful nomads eager to express themselves, writes Stephanie Ip
What inspired you to start Aanya?
I was restless in my nine-to-five job and felt the urge to be more enterprising. Dad is a businessman and it was just a matter of time until I created something of my own. I realised that Hong Kong lacked a creative lifestyle brand that allowed women to reclaim their self- expression. That’s how Aanya was born. Aanya means unique in Sanskrit. From multicultural prints to handcrafted and upcycled accessories, each item has a story.
Have you always wanted a career in fashion?
Not really but I always wanted to build and run a business and be an entrepreneur. I studied journalism and some of the skills I learned, such as story-telling and being curious, are traits that have helped me greatly with Aanya.
Aanya takes sourcing seriously. Where do you find the fabrics?
All of our fabrics come from India. I’m fortunate to have roots in India and it’s a strong source of creativity. I spent three months travelling around India, finding the right communities, suppliers and businesses to work with. I believe we’re on track to adopt sustainable business practices that will help uplift and empower the artisans who work behind the scenes on our bags and accessories. We also work with family-run manufacturers, treat their teams as if they are family.
Can you explain how you up-cycle?
We’ve used upcycled fabrics for our handmade accessories. The weekend travel tote and handmade clutches are made from waste and discarded traditional patches that no longer had use or relevance. Our Afghani coin purse is actually made from a traditional Afghani belt and our dhurrie rug clutch is made from excess material. We also have these exquisite, handcrafted Banjara denim jackets that are made from recycled fabrics and accessories.
Describe your style.
I think it’s quite unique. I love to mix and match my clothing with different prints, colours and textures. I don’t really wear much make-up, so I go heavier with the bohemian, tribal accessories to spice up my look.
What are the three things we’ll always find in your bag?
Lip balm, a notebook or iPad and a billion Aanya accessories to change up my look.
When are you the happiest?
I love travelling. I love being in my little bubble as I explore new places, cultures and people. Just the idea of being in a foreign place gives me the courage to let go of my responsibilities and worries.
What’s your pet peeve?
Disrespectful people. Kindness and being mindful can go a long way.
What’s among your guilty pleasures?
Food. I tend to eat anything and everything my heart wants. I think I rely too much on my metabolism but I am working on moderation and balance.
Name someone cool you follow on Instagram.
Tell us another Hong Kong brand we should look out for and support.
Mer Culture. They have a unique range of swimwear that is inspired by Natasha Cotton’s travels and different cultures. She’s got an incredible handmade crochet line that is made by women in Vietnam. She also designs her own prints. I practically lived in a Zillij swimsuit on my last trip to Bali.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy reading. I get lost in books easily and it takes me away to a different world.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Kendrick Lamar, Drake: mostly Hip-Hop tracks.
Where would you like to go for a quick getaway and why?
I recently visited the Gili Islands in Indonesia and would go back in a heartbeat. I was at home amidst the beautiful beaches, nature and the welcoming people. While taking the ferry to the islands, I also experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. I love the place.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 print issue of #legend magazine.