A social business focused on creating sustainable livelihood through sustainable fashion and lifestyle, Heeya means heart in Sanskrit, Bengali and Assamese. “All Heeya products are the labours of love, which is why we say they are heart-crafted,” states Jonali Saikia Khasnabish – Founder & Managing Director at Heeya Crafts. Heeya seeks to provide wider options to the growing urban sensibilities for eco-friendly products. It also seeks to bridge the gap between the skilled artisans and the markets, especially where the exposure has been minimal.
Your Fashion Story caught up with Jonali about the intricacies that Heeya is actually a fruit of.
YFS: What kind of art is prevalent in your sarees?
Jonali: We planned on focusing on showcasing the best of North-east textiles through contemporary products especially the textile art that is prevalent across this side of the country.
YFS: Where did you learn to design? How did you start this journey with Heeya?
Jonali: I don’t consider myself a designer. These designs on the products & garments are 2 things – one is fashion designing for which I hire a freelance designers to do it. The second part is the textile art. I didn’t want to redesign it so have just used different interpretation using different colour and threads. These are done by me, giving contemporary designs to the weaver to cater to the urban market. Textiles are recognized through sarees. My effort is to showcase the textiles through sarees, create sarees by the weaving that is done by locals. I just help them to improvise and give a contemporary touch to it. Hence, connecting groups to get together to create goods for the market.
Jonali: It was founded in October 2009. Even though being a management professional, I always had an interest in textile crafts and its market potential. I had a fair idea about the North-eastern textile but was surprised to not find any market for it outside North-east. There wasn’t a big market, they were only found in few exhibitions. Not marketed as textile, some yarns were only exported. So it was my interests were – firstly to make people aware of the textiles weaved here. Secondly, to capitalize the potential of women weavers here. In north east, every woman weaves as it is a tradition. Even a queen would weave her own clothes. There were raw materials available, so I decided to project the same to the world, market it, and give a platform to these women weavers. As I spend more time here, I began to appreciate their potential, I also wanted to try something new and make a difference in a social way, for women, give them a new channel for the community. I am also an active worker for social development of North-east community as a whole and women empowerment.
YFS: You left a stable career to start Heeya. What were the major risks you faced?
Jonali: Firstly, there is always the financial risk. No longer having a stable income, it is a prime risk. Secondly, there is a new risk on investing money which is doubtful as to if it will work out or not. Lastly, the transition from a well-structured lifestyle to one where you don’t know what your next step should be. One just needs to keep faith and not be afraid but believe in oneself.
YFS: How many product categories do you currently have?
Jonali: Currently, we have sarees, garments & cushions and are looking in to opening 3 new categories of apparels, shawls, dupattas etc.
Jonali: I introduce them as Heeya women. A Heeya woman is inspiring, believes in herself, goes beyond ways, and authentic. I don’t choose models just like that. They are the real brand ambassadors of Heeya. Not professional models. Each of these women is well-accomplished and well-balanced in their own ways. They are crusader of Heeya’s social cause and message their appreciation and sometimes even model for us for women empowerment.
YFS: How can our readers buy your products?
Jonali: We usually have only limited collection, we only do exhibition and also sell through social media. So when we launch our collection on Facebook, the users who like them, messages us with the product numbers and then the transaction takes place. It could be through cash, draft or transfer
YFS: Do you have any message for budding entrepreneurs?
Jonali: Identify that particular drive. They all want to make a difference, that’s why they want to be an entrepreneur. Firstly, to make something new, find what you are passionate about. Secondly, look at the business viability, it should be sustainable and incur some kind of profits. Lastly, be very clear about what you want to achieve and work towards it. Make detailed plans, be it short or long term.
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Story credits – Ankita Bhalani