Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Origins - Pyar & Co.

We entered the quick, chaotic pace of Kanpur, India’s daily traffic heading towards my first market. I was thrilled to immerse myself in the shopping experience of open markets, where there would surely be artisan crafted goods. My mind and eyes were charged and ready to work at a rapid speed, to take in as many details as humanly possible in the hopes that I would find anything unknown—you know what I’m referring to, those items that you have never seen before, that no one in your life has seen before. Details that implore you not only to stop in your tracks, but to reach out and touch everything. I couldn’t speak. I wanted to allow my senses to gather all those initial feelings and record every detail. I felt that finding that one thing was so important, whatever it would end up being. When I spotted it, the object had very clearly been designed for a little girl. Maybe that’s what drew me in, as this girl had big dreams that were yet to be discovered. I was beginning to draw the path to how my dreams would come true, from the market of Kanpur.

We had only been married a few months, and during this time I had been given a number of opportunities to be adorned in numerous, amazing saris, with each expressing a different piece of my personality. For my Mehndi ceremony, which is an event held for all the women of the wedding to have henna designs artistically drawn on the hands, arms, and feet of the guests, I wore an orange and pink sari. It was decorated with the most simple, yet lovely, embroidered poppy flowers sewn throughout.

We shared plenty of dancing in celebration of my upcoming marriage, including a choreographed Bollywood dance at the Sangeet. For this I wore a fiery red sari, which was especially appropriate when we received a standing ovation! The sari flowed through the air as if it had been lit on fire as each turn was completed; every arm movement raised higher in the air than the other, and every rhythmic bounce of my feet added to the illusion. But, on my wedding day it was the moment I was dressed in my Lengha, that was the moment that I knew—I must share this feeling of perfection, beauty and overall exuberance with others.

Walking the free-formed aisles in the market of Kanpur, there weren’t any bright, florescent lights shining on items to draw the eye. Instead, the dense January fog mixed with the grey, dust covered ground, encouraging us to walk slowly and with a purpose, allowing our senses to work. I felt overloaded, but there was no hurry. Each vendor was certain they were selling exactly what I needed, what I wanted, or what no other person could offer and for a good price. I walked the entire length of the market, not buying anything, just taking in the exhibition. As we came to a T-intersection of the market, a cow was standing above a smoldering fire to stay warm. It was here that I noticed this fuchsia kurti with round gold beads and circular mirrors that embellished the small piece. The dress was a size 6, which got me thinking—this is the age that a young girl begins dreaming of what she will be and who she will become when she is older.

Inside of the 3-foot by 4-foot booth, the two men and I agreed on a good price, and I placed the kurti in a bag and knew it meant something to me. Leaving the market that day with a single item, I found myself more than content—not about the purchase, but with my experience. I left thinking about the kindness and unbending belief in every item they had to offer, their desire to sell their daily wares so that they could provide for their family, returning home after a long day at the market. None of the booths conformed to American standards of shopping—they lacked pumping music, shining lights, bottles of water. They weren’t fancy, yet it was the purest, most enjoyable experience of seeing people working hard to earn a living and believing in what they had to offer. I did not leave empty handed. Instead, I left with my mind racing, my curiosity peaked, and a newfound drive to find a way to say thank you for introducing a new vision of what could be. I fell in love, and Pyar began.

Months passed since our trip to India. The brightly colored kurti hung in our spare closet—not to be forgotten, yet its purpose was not determined. During this time, I sketched a little, and dreamt a lot, asking myself what if and could I? One Saturday morning, I was walking through a Chicago farmer’s market, and the color of the flowers seemed to pop! The allure and feel of this market heightened my senses, reminding me of the market of India. It was here that I finally gained enough courage to say my dream out loud to one of my closest friends—to bring the designs and colors of saris into homes, to be experienced every day. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, but I was ready to leave the security of corporate America, and everything I had worked for, to pursue this dream. My friend looked at me with wide eyes and said, “That sounds amazing! I know you will do it!”

One year later, and Pyar&Co is alive! We have created more than 50 unique hand-crafted pillows, and we are expanding our collection into curtain panels and upholstery and beyond! Our designs include woven silks, velvets, linens, jacquards, and beads, all of which are sourced from the Markets of Calcutta. We have also taken saris that once adorned party-going, dancing women of India, and given new life to these pieces. Now they can be enjoyed every day as unique home accessories! I have taken that love for wearing my saris and lengha and have found a way to share with others. And, that little kurti, made a return trip to India, as it served as inspiration and a point of reference for the Pyar&Co pillow named Ber!

Today, Pyar&Co is preparing to exhibit our wares at our first market, the New York International Gift Fair, August 19-22. Things around here are moving as fast as the traffic of Kanpur and Delhi combined. As planners, we have mapped out every angle, yet we know there will be many surprises along the way! We are both excited and nervous here at Pyar&Co, but we look forward to the challenges and rewards of the future.

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