The inspiring story behind Elissa Waverly’s whimsical floral headpieces

Elissa Waverly and her beautifully designed floral headpieces mark the American-born Indian painter’s foray into the creative space. Her brand East Darjeeling pays a tribute to her roots by employing local talent and artisans while maintaining a contemporary feel. Moreover, portions of all proceeds are donated towards helping underprivileged communities around the globe. ELLE caught up with the talented artist to learn more about her label and its journey. 

ELLE: After years of studying science, what made you pursue design and art?

Elissa Waverly: Belonging to an Indian community, I wanted that traditional definition of success in math and science. It’s funny, as a child, I loved art. The only award I remember winning in school was for art.  All this while, I was chasing accomplishments in other fields, but the only time I felt successful was when I was doing something creative. I realised I was living to impress everyone around me, and in the process, forgot to consider myself. I wanted to break away from the traditional Indian mould. So going against everything I knew, I decided to work on impressing just myself. That’s when I took a chance on art.


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ELLE: What was your defining moment as an artist?

EW: While exploring the art world I had a friend who was having a tough year. So one day, to cheer her up, I surprised her with a bouquet of flowers. With the bouquet in my hand, I was inspired to turn it into a headpiece. This immediately shifted our environment from anxious to joyful and whimsical. That’s the beautiful thing about art, it has the power to transport you into a different world. A defining moment in my journey has definitely been creating East Darjeeling in New York City, which specialising in faux floral headpieces.

ELLE: We’ve seen your lovely headpieces, and they truly stand out. What’s your favourite thing about these creations?

EW: I’m drawn towards things that are handmade from the heart. For me, that is the meaning of true luxury. Today, most things are mass produced, but we work with artisans and milliners to produce each replication, so that each piece is a little different. Some may say this is inconsistent, but we like to think the error of “made by hand” as unique, and to us unique is beautiful. 


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ELLE: Take us through your creative process. What’s your inspiration and who are the headpieces aimed at?

EW: An artist friend once told me, “The world is my medium from which I source to create”. So whenever someone asks me about inspiration, I smile because it can truly come from anything if you let it.

ELLE: Lastly, what more can we expect from you in the near future, in terms of creations?

EW: What most people don’t know is that I have a parent company called LA COIA, standing for The City of Imagination and Art. I constantly ask myself: What would the world look like if it was designed by artists? Because that’s the world I want to live in. In terms of creations, East Darjeeling is the first brand, but its just the beginning, so we’ll have to wait and see.

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