Have you ever fantasized about packing up your family and moving to an exotic location? Meet Caroline Weller designer to gorgeous travel line Banjanan (carried at some of our favorite stores like Barney’s and India Hicks). She’s based in Jaipur, but travels often and everywhere. We caught up with her to get the low down on how she built her brand.
Tell us about your background in fashion?
After growing up in England, I moved to New York in the 90’s to work for J.Crew and Calvin Klein as a fashion designer. I loved NY, and that’s where I made my career, met my partner and had our son. After 15 years of working in the fashion industry, I was SVP of women’s design at Armani Exchange.
What are your passions?
As long as I can remember my two passions in life have been fashion and travel. Any opportunity and I’d disappear off with a backpack, a sketchbook and a fist full of traveller’s checks (ah the old days!)
How did you find your way to India?
I had an offer out of the blue to move to India and be creative director of a new lifestyle brand being launched there. After a few weeks of soul searching – give up the job? The nanny? The apartment? Our friends? We decided to bite the bullet…. And off we flew with our 18 month old for a new chapter of our lives. To cut a long story short, the job didn’t work out, the global meltdown happened, and we were stranded in India.
…. And off we flew with our 18 month old for a new chapter of our lives.
What did you do then?
We moved to Jaipur, which I had first visited 20 years before. It’s a magical city full of palaces, maharajas, elephants, colorful saris and some of the best jewels and craftsmen in the world. I set about exploring the bazaars and stumbled across a vintage textile store, where I saw hand made fabrics and embroideries that just blew me away creatively.
I realized that I was living in a community with remarkable, unique and ancient craft skills. I’ve always enjoyed working as a team – my teams have been like a family to me, so it seemed a natural step to start working with the craftsmen around me.
Is this when you started Banjanan? What inspired you?
My lifestyle had changed so dramatically, our family found ourselves moving between our different bases in NY, India and Europe. I wanted to create a lifestyle clothing brand that reflected the joy and color I experienced every day, and that I could wear where ever I was in the world. I called the brand Banjanan, which is derived from the Hindi word ‘Banjaran’ which means gypsy, wanderer, or roamer.
Appropriately the first Banjanan collection was designed and made on a ping pong table converted into a pattern cutting table, in an old farmhouse in Sardinia. We worked in the morning, swam in the afternoon and drank in the evening. It seemed like a good place to start.
What are your tips for mamas wanting to start their own lines?
Pick something that you are really passionate about and just feels right. Listen to advice but don’t take it if it doesn’t feel right – better to follow your gut!
Listen to advice but don’t take it if it doesn’t feel right – better to follow your gut!
What would you say has helped you the most in becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Well my whole career has been in fashion, its all I’ve ever done so that definitely helped. Most of all the support of my family. They are 100% behind me and always buck me up with love and encouragement when I hit a roadblock.
What did you wish you knew before starting your business that you know now?
Networking with friends and friends of friends is worth more than anything money can buy! Friends really do believe in you and want to help and that kind of “mutual helping hand” can be invaluable.
Want to learn more about Caroline or connect with her? Check out Banjanan here.