Karuna Laungani Of The Jodi Life On Blending Style With Sustainability

by Drishti Mistry

There are labels that make sustainable clothing and there are labels that make sustainable clothing cool, Laungani’s belongs to the latter. In addition to her ongoing stint with styling, Karuna and her partner Gauri kick-started their home-grown venture The Jodi Life (dubbed after both of them being one of their respective twin pairs) in 2015 translating their mutual love for patterns and craft into an environment-friendly label that would go on to become a firm favourite of the fashion crowd across the country and beyond. To find out what goes into building a brand that’s equal parts stylish and sustainable, we sat down with one half of the designer duo. Below, we take you behind-the-scenes…

What drew you to the craft of hand block printing?

Gauri and I both love print and colour and we wanted to create our own fabric but creating a weave wasn’t something we were keen to focus on. Patterns and colour is our forte, so hand block printing was the perfect option because while it involves motifs and colours, it’s also a traditional craft.

Your prints are one of the most versatile, how do you derive inspirations to keep them fresh?

We don’t do seasonal collections; we do stories – about three or four stories a year to be exact. Each story is inspired by our love for travel or décor or art. We’ve done a collection which was completely based on China and its art and its crafts. We’ve done another collection called Bhutan which was inspired by our trip to the country. Travel is one of our major inspirations and then of course flora and fauna. Every season we pick a theme that excites and inspires us and we work towards the theme to create the prints.

Take us through your process of hand block printing, right from the inception to the final product.

The first step is picking a theme. Then comes the mood board which includes everything that inspires us, from décor, to art to vintage design. Based on that mood board we come up with prints. Once we’re happy with what we’ve put together, we work with our block maker who carves the motifs on a wooden block. Then we try out multiple colour ways and see which ones work. Block printing is relatively technical and has limited colour options unlike digital printing where there’s plenty of room for experimentation. Further, when the blocks are carved we travel to Jaipur to sample all our prints. After sampling we come back and sit down at the design table to decide the final prints and the silhouettes that shout out to us following which the final product is created.

How do your designs for winter differ from the ones for summer?

I would say, Jodi is essentially a summer brand because India experiences warm to tepid weather throughout the year. We’re also restricted in terms of the craft we’ve chosen because when it comes to hand block printing we can only work with natural fabrics like pure cotton or silk. We haven’t done a woollen collection yet because the market is a niche one for us but it’s something that we’re definitely going to explore in the future. That said, instead of a winter collection, we do a made-to-order festive one with 100% silk. It’s our premium collection with heavier embellishments and richer textures; it’s also not at the same price point as our cotton collection.

Your brand advocates sustainability and a huge part of the movement entails making the most of a garment, can you break down the trans-seasonal dressing etiquette for our readers?

I think printed jackets are a great investment because they can elevate any outfit; they can be worn throughout the year and be worn to multiple occasions– we make a lot of those. We’ve just done a magenta silk jacket, which can be worn to cocktails, to dinner parties, it can also be layered over a jeans and a white tee for a casual weekend. The beauty of our brand is that you can mix and match our pieces to make something timeless. I also suggest making our designs your own, whether that means adding a pair of sneakers to our dress or wearing our skirt with a white tee; it’s completely up to you!

With so many sustainable brands coming into picture, how do you ensure your label stands out?

One of the greatest winning points of our brand is that we use craft to create a product – our prints are one-of-a-kind. When I see a Jodi product and I see another designer’s, I can tell Jodi apart because we have our own individualistic story and a unique signature aesthetic. We make sustainable fashion fun.

Is your closet a sustainable one too?

As much as possible, yes! I don’t mind wearing Jodi all the time but when I occasionally get bored of it, I look to a number of indie labels like Iyla and The Summer House because they’re well priced and they’re sustainably made.

Name a celebrity did you enjoy watching the most in your designs.

Definitely, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja because she has been our supporter since day one. Sonam takes our outfits and makes them her own. The last time she wore a yellow sari from our silk collection, she looked stunning with the way she styled it.

What’s the one thing about Jodi that no one knows?

Jodi started out of home and we put zero money in it. We’ve grown our brand organically which is something we’re quite proud of and haven’t really ever spoken about.

You’ve got Man Repeller’s stamp of approval, one of the seriously stylish lot of the world, on several occasions, how did that feel?

It was fun! Leandra Cohen, Crystal Anderson and Harling Ross from the team have all worn Jodi outfits in the past and we love how they brought their own elements to the outfits like Crystal wore her dress with sneakers for her mum’s graduation. Man Repeller is an inspiration for us, we love the content that they create and we got lucky that they decided to wear our outfits and post about them. It was a dream come true.

You created the Jodi Man collection last year and the Jodi Silk collection this year, what’s in the pipeline now?

Jodi was a lifestyle brand from the beginning – it’s a way of life. Its not just about clothing, its about an emotion. Our next step definitely is going to be home products called Jodi Home which we’ll be launching by early next year.

Follow @NykaaFashion on Instagram for more!

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1 comment

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