Meet the creative expats who have made Jaipur their home - Elle India

Meet the creative expats who have made Jaipur their home

They tell us what brought them to The Pink City

BY Sunil Sethi | March 13th, 2019

Art, love, or plain serendipity may have brought them to the Pink City, but now these talented expats have made the Rajasthani capital their creative heart and home. 

Caroline Weller, Fashion designer

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Anglo-American designer Caroline Weller has flourished in Jaipur for 10 years with her photographer husband Neil Davenport and school going son—and the time has breezed by faster than the cool air wafting through Hawa Mahal. Her ready-to-wear label Banjanan (Banjanan.com), a play on the word ‘banjara’, is a collection of inventive, light-hearted prints and embroideries inspired by vivid desert colours, and retails at Saks, Bloomingdales and Barneys. As a fashion undergraduate at University of Brighton, she applied to Anokhi in Jaipur for an internship, and the six months changed her life. After years of slow burn on Manhattan’s Fashion Avenue at J.Crew, Calvin Klein, and as senior vice-president at Armani, she took a “second leap of faith” to set up workshops in Jaipur. “Your designs for top fashion brands end up being manufactured in Italy or China. Here, they’re made before your eyes,” says Weller, whose spirited style is splashed across her home with Audubon birds taking flight in Pink City murals.

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Photographs: Prarthna Singh

Hair and make-up: Kritika Gill

All clothing and accessories, Weller’s own

 

Thierry Journo, Designer and artist

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Tunis-born, Paris-raised Thierry Journo’s little house in Jaipur—think Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon meets English cottage garden—is suffused with romantic visions of Versailles and the grandeur of 17th and 18th century France. His art book-laden shelves bear testament to his deep fascination and knowledge of sumptuous decorative styles, from the Bourbon dynasty and the Egyptian mode that Napoleon made fashionable, to Orientalist art and chinoiserie.After working as an illustrator for John Galliano at Givenchy, and at fashion magazines, he was introduced to Jaipur by his jeweller friend Marie-Hélène de Taillac. In 2003, they opened Hot Pink, a popular fashion store retailing Indian designers. Journo never left, starting his brand Idli with a boutique and studio at Narain Niwas Palace. His distinctive European-inspired prints and classic clothing now extend to jewellery, lacquer furniture, lighting and porcelain, and he regularly holds pop-up shows in New York, Paris and Tokyo. “I found Indian lighting strong,” he says, explaining his interest in designing handcrafted paper lamps made from recycled paper and banana fibre that he is known for. “Jaipur’s creative possibilities are limitless. It’s an all-in- one city.”

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Photographs : Karam Puri

All clothing and accessories, Journo’s own

Andrée Pouliot, Designer and artist

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In an unexpected explosion of chemistry and creative energy, Canada and Kerala collided in Jaipur one day in 1984. “It was like a lightning bolt,” says Andrée Pouliot of meeting her husband Radhakrishnan Nair in a garments factory. From that union emerged the home furnishings, apparel and accessories brand Soma (Somashop.com), known for its vivid prints married to value-for- money quality. Pouliot scoured Jaipur’s gallis for fabrics and printers for her mother’s successful string of boutiques in Canada; Nair was a production manager. What started as a cottage industry with “one sewing machine, one tailor and one errand boy on a bicycle” is a growth story that borders on the heroic: Soma today has half a dozen outlets across the country (Jaipur, Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad), flourishing online sales, and employs several hundred across its production units.

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Pouliot and Nair’s parallel life work has been the painstaking restoration of Ninder Mahal—more a fort, less a haveli—on Jaipur’s outskirts. “It was a mound of collapsed rubble when we found it.” Superbly resurrected, it is now their home and retreat. Even after all these years, Pouliot, fluent in Hindi and exacting about design and durability standards, says, “Every skill I need is here. I don’t need to go anywhere but Jaipur.”

Photographs: Karam Puri

Styling: Akshita Singh

Hair and make-up: Looks Salon, Jaipur

On Andrée : Cotton top, 11.11 at Jaipur Modern. Cotton jacket, Yavi. Cotton skirt, embroidered shoes, bangles, necklace; all Pouliot’s own. 18K gold, silver tourmaline and amethyst earrings,18K gold, silver and garnet ring, 18K gold, silver and amethyst ring,  18K gold and silver ring, 18K gold, silver and citrine cab ring, all Tholia’s Kuber

Claire Deroo, Jewellery designer

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Silk shirt, cotton pants; Bodice. All accessories, Deroo’s own

 I’m a Jaipur baby,” declares 25-year-old French bijoutier Claire Deroo, elegantly posing in couture garments on the bouganvillea-drenched terraces of Narain Niwas Palace. This sylph-like blonde has been a regular visitor since the age of five on holidays spent with her aunt, the international jeweller Marie-Hélène de Taillac, whose long-standing association with the Kasliwal family of Gem Palace has grown into an exclusive brand with retail outlets in New York, Tokyo, Osaka and a stylish flagship on Rue de Tournon in Paris. “I was sent to design school in Paris but hated it,” says Deroo, who took a gap year to travel in India, and never ended up leaving. “Jaipur is home to me much more than Paris.” She badgered her family to let her live and work in Jaipur, and has worked as assistant to Taillac for the last five years. Deroo is involved in the exacting process of selecting and grading gems, and overseeing production. Whether picking through an array of iridescent semi-precious stones originating from Africa, Brazil or Sri Lanka—or proudly showing off her apartment, she says Jaipur makes her feel intensely creative. “I’m obsessed with colour and craftsmanship and where else in the world can you find it in spades?”

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All clothing and accessories, Deroo‘s own

Photographs: Prarthna Singh

Styling: Akshita Singh

Hair and make-up: Kritika Gill

Alexis Barrell, Fashion Designer

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Making the leap from the sun-kissed flatlands of South Africa to Jaipur, is the 33-year-old former architecture graduate from Cape Town and self-confessed nomad Alexis Barrell. Sitting on her Pink City balcony, green eyes flashing, she defines her “winding story” as one of “sudden switches”. The first was a shift to fashion design from planning buildings; the second, changes of address—New York, Athens and London—that burnished her CV with experience in couture, textile upholstery and contemporary clothing.

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An early interest in yoga, and a love of weaves and textures brought her to India. And so was born her fashion label Karu (Karu.world), cofounded with her friend, New York-based Fiona Mackay, which is named after a Cape Town region. It mainly retails online. “Our style is simple, timeless and handcrafted with natural fibres. We source fabrics from everywhere, but Jaipur is incomparable for skills like dyeing and hand block printing.” Her latest discovery is an organic farm near the city that supplies fresh vegetables and eggs. Perfect, she adds, for a work-life balance.

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Photographs: Karam Puri

Hair and make-up: Looks Salon, Jaipur

All clothing and accessories, Barrell’s own

PHOTOGRAPHS : PRARTHNA SINGH AND KARAM PURI

SITTINGS EDITOR : AKSHITA SINGH