Hemis, an unexplored town in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir left an indelible impression on Prashansa Shahani. So much that when the 28 year old started her own store in Banjara Hills, she named it after her own personal Shangri-La. “It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been to. It has an art festival and all the culture and colour one can hope to see. So, the name of our store takes inspiration from one of the most beautiful places on earth.” she reveals.
Started along with Varun Gupta and Karthik Aysola, the store is the first one in India to manufacture couture and lifestyle products from legalized industrial hemp. The trio have been working in making fabric from industrial hemp for a couple of years and now have decided to enter the retail space through Hemis. The 1200 sqft store has a range of products from chic clothing for both the sexes, to shoes and juttis from hemp fabric and vegan leather to accessories, wellness and nutrition products, stationery and a minimalistic décor range.
With almost five years of research, the entrepreneurs were well versed with the moods and the magic of industrial hemp. Varun reels off its benefits: “It’s eight times stronger than cotton, gets softer with usage, uses less water and is made without any insecticide or pesticide. Its breathable, anti-bacterial and ideal for a tropical country like ours..” Prashansa explains that hemp blends well with materials as diverse as bamboo, silk and organic cotton. “Hemp is naturally good for the skin as its rich in moisture.”
- A Eco-Collective curated for those conscious about environment, the one-day pop-up has 8 to 10 eco-friendly labels like Swaas, Studio 123, Love Handles & Co and Tree House amongst others from Bengaluru and Cuttack, apart from city-based ones, participating. Labels pertaining to skincare, wellness, stationary, food, apparel and accessories to home furnishings will be present at the event on February 9, 11 am to 7 pm @ Hemis, Road Number 12, Banjara Hills
Versatility all around
The array of products showcased at the store is testimony to the facts Varun shares. From clothes in solid colours which are sleekly tailored to body lotions and balms apart from lifestyle products like laptop sleeves, scarves and bags show the versatility of the fabric. The notebooks made from hundred percent hemp paper make for ideal gifts while the wellness range with hemp hearts are ideal source of vegan protein. The range start from ₹100.
Prashansa adds, “When it comes to its use as a fabric, we’ve blended it to unique results. We’ve developed ikat fabric and hand-made kalamkari options as well.”
The challenges enroute the opening of the store have been many. Varun smiles and recalls, “A lot of trial and error went in. Also, zeroing in on the right people took time.” Another challenge is the high pricing (their shirts for men start at ₹2500) which they gradually hope to bring down.
They have partnered with September Shoes to create an exclusive line of footwear showcasing hemp and vegan fabric, and with social ventures like Safa to create accessories. Their future plans include expanding their range of wellness products, a clothing range for children and a range of saris.
Is Hyderabad ready to wear hemp on the sleeve? “More than ready,” they smile and add, “There is a lot of curiosity. And the initial response has been exciting.”