A chat with Karuna Laugani: Founder of Jodi Life
Canvas & Weaves were introduced to the founders of Jodi when we were curating our first pop-up in Singapore. We clicked instantly, linked by a shared approach to originality, quality and social values. We love that Karuna and Gauri are tenaciously individualistic in imparting meaning to all that they do.
Jodi brings us sustainable clothes that are more than mere garments. The message within allows them to be far greater than the sum of their parts. Today, Jodi is five years old, having starting life simply as a passion gig for Karuna and Gauri. Sustainability and a bold look have been woven into its ethos in equal measure from the get-go.
Jodi brings us a juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. Hand block printed fabrics become the defining feature for wearable, on-trend pieces like crop-tops, dresses, bandeaus, trousers, jackets and even saris. Their signature look and versatile cuts have hit the spot for buyers across the board, spanning young Gen Z’s to their grandmoms!
Namita is wearing customised version of ToBe Tie Up Tiered Dress.
What is Jodi’s signature look?
Jodi is known for its prints and bold colours, which have given our clothing a unique visual language. India is a treasure trove of crafts, many of which unfortunately do not thrive in the mainstream today. So, we threw our weight behind the 500-year old craft of hand-block printing. This craft has passed down from generation to generation in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Artisans hand-carve motifs in blocks of teak, to create a stamp that is then dipped in colour and pressed neatly and firmly onto their chosen fabric. Each block or set of blocks creates a bespoke pattern as it is painstakingly pressed on fabric over and over again.
Today, many people can identify a Jodi garment by this signature. Our starting point has been the beauty and constraints of the craft. Through the years, we have adapted our motifs such that our vision fits with techniques that are centuries old – all the while keeping them relevant to a modern audience.
How did you infuse Jodi with its unique identity?
“The only way traditional crafts will continue to thrive is if it finds consumers”
When we launched Jodi five years ago, our message developed organically, and the result was a sustainable fashion label. Jodi’s vision was born from what came naturally to us, the way we live our lives and our passion for craft.
We are passionate about buying locally and supporting craft in our own choices. Not surprisingly, the textile industry in India is the second-largest employer after agriculture. Its rich history and traditions have provided a plethora of talent in our country, which we are proud to have as Jodi’s bedrock.
Even in how Jodi is run, we produce only what we need. Reducing inventory helps the planet by cutting waste, and is a win-win for the entire fashion ecosystem. This entails a compromise as buyers often need to wait a week or two for their garment. We truly hope that as more people become conscious consumers, our vision of responsible production will receive their support and understanding.
What does your tribe of artisans mean to you?
We started very small, ploughing back all profits into Jodi. What kept us going through the discovery stage was our love of the craft that allowed our vision to germinate and grow.
There was a lot of trial and error! Working with artisans who are rooted in tradition, and bringing them a new vision, was not easy. Working remotely added complication to the mix. There were language barriers to contend with, as these pockets of talent are scattered across India’s regions.
Two years on, things came to life when we found our master printer, Shankarlal ji. This relationship is symbiotic and based on mutual respect. Today, our master printer works exclusively for Jodi, and we are delighted to have been part of his community’s growth.
It is a testimony to our relationship that his son, previously disinterested in carrying his father’s legacy, has now changed his mind. One of the many ways in which the Jodi tribe is contributing to Indian crafts!
How does Jodi bring its creative vision to life?
Jodi is a print-focused label, and our creative process starts with an inspired theme for hand block prints. Whatever sparks our imagination! For example, one collection was inspired by a visit to beautiful Bhutan. Another Jodi collection was called folk tales, drawing on the folk art of India, like Gond and Madhubani. Art, travel, paintings, and poetry are all sources of joy and inspiration, that we love to bring to life through Jodi.
From here, it is over to our printmaker who helps ensure that our vision translates to block printing before each block is carved by hand.
Next, it’s off to Jaipur for us, to play with colour, and put the brand-new blocks through their paces. Back at our office, we take a good look at the patterns and colours that we sampled and apply appropriate silhouettes that complete the design.
What causes matter to Jodi?
We have created three collections that are named “Working Girl,” “A Seat at the Table,” and “Dress Like a Girl.” These are our tribute to the many women whose voices have made a difference in recent years. They have been guiding lights to us personally, so we wanted to use our art to acknowledge this, and bring their causes into sharper focus.
What do Singapore & Canvas & Weaves mean to Jodi?
We feel blessed to interact with our international audience, to whom we bring these uniquely Indian crafts that they might not have access to. Canvas & Weaves has given Jodi a valuable platform to bring our products and message to a new audience through popups and events. At the same time, producers are lucky to gain insights and feedback from these events, that allow us to grow from strength to strength. The whole ecosystem benefits from such partnerships.