On the handloom trail: how entrepreneur Seema Agarwal travels on work and for pleasure to enhance her business and enrich her life
Seema Agarwal, Co-founder of Artisan Saga, talks about the beauty of handlooms, why they are the real deal, and lets us take a peek into her life as a traveller and an interior landscaper
As summer sunshine fills our part of the globe, nothing is quite as cool and restful as the feel of handloom cottons against the skin. But there is no need to pound the pavements in search of the perfect fabrics and the best designs anymore. Entrepreneurs like Seema Agarwal, of Artisan Saga, bring beautifully curated, handpicked handlooms from across the country to our doorstep, and all we need to do is update our wardrobes with these exquisite weaves and vibrant compositions.
For the love of handlooms
Seema believes in entrepreneurship with a difference. She has travelled across the country with her Co-founder and husband Kaushik, trying to source the purest fabrics.
“We are trying to revive traditional designs, purely handwoven and in pure fabrics,” she says.
“We travel to remote areas of the country and source our sarees directly from the weaver. We do not offer any power-loom sarees or any mixed fabrics to our customers. Our silks and cottons are absolutely pure.”
As a passionate advocate of handlooms, Seema explains why it is important to preserve our weaves.
Handlooms are our heritage,” she says. “It is important to preserve them. There are just so many different weaves and such complex techniques that go into handlooms that it really is a marvel! Handcrafted fabrics have so much more character; they have their own identity.”
When she began her road journey with Kaushik in search of handlooms, she did not start off with the intention of being partial to the fabrics, but after seeing what goes into making handloom textiles, she has become a complete loyalist.
“When you wear a handloom, it is like the difference between owing a painting or a print. Once you have experienced it, you only want what is authentic.”
Bitten by the travel bug
When Seema is not travelling on work, she likes to set off on vacations with her family. “I love going to the mountains, wildlife sanctuaries, and culturally rich cities. Travelling is wonderfully relaxing. It recharges me and gives me a different perspective of life."
"I always come back more positive and energised as I learn about different people, their stories, and their experiences.”
Srinagar holds top spot among her favourite places. “I have been going there often since my childhood and I have a lot of memories and friends there,” she says. “Also, a houseboat stay in Srinagar is such a unique experience. I also love Puducherry and Jaipur.”
As for international travel, their trips to the Lake District in North West England and San Francisco in the US have been very special.
One of the memories of her travels that she can never forget was when she was travelling to Simla by train and was caught in a snow blizzard at Dhanaulti. “I had to take a bus from Kalka and that year, Simla experienced one of the worst snowfalls in 20 years,” she recalls. “All the routes were blocked and there was no transportation available. Many people died and I could have been one of them but I managed to reach my family in those impossible circumstances. I can only say that it was due to my courage, endurance, and determination that I reached them.”
The world of art and design
Seema also enjoys decorating spaces, which she does now and then. “I’ve studied and practised designing earlier, which is why it’s still very close to my heart,” she says. “The most important element while designing a space is to be true to yourself. As a designer I like to understand the needs of my client and translate their desires in the most aesthetic and practical manner possible.”
Another favourite hobby is painting. “During my school and college days I used to paint and sketch a lot but I did not pursue it,” she says.
“I love art and my house is full of it, from all our travels. As a child, my family used to go to Udaipur often and I was always fascinated with the miniature art there. That was why I wanted this art to be incorporated into my sarees. Today, despite the fact that there are many hand-painted sarees in the country, ours is a class apart. They are done by miniature artists and very intricately done.”
Entrepreneurship is not easy
“Entrepreneurship can be far more demanding and taxing on your time but at the end of the day you are your own master,” says Seema, as she speaks about her love for entrepreneurship. “I often work till late hours in the night. It’s pretty stressful sometimes, but worth it.”
Seema says their business of curation of handlooms is fairly recent. As for their USP, Seema says the real secret to their exclusivity lies in the fact that no two sarees in their repertoire are the same.
“We neither buy in bulk nor do we source from only one weaver. We visit many weavers and handpick our sarees and fabrics from many different ones to curate something unique. Of course, it takes so much more effort from our side but we enjoy travelling and we also love interacting with local weavers and their families, visiting their homes, and eating the local food.”
Today Artisan Saga is a collaborative partner with online portals like Parisera and Avishya, besides their website. They also take part in reputed exhibitions like the ones held by Craft Council, Dastkar, and Pause for a Cause, to name a few. “Most of our clients are handloom lovers and admirer of authentic, traditional unique sarees from all over India.”
Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is to believe in the power of focus.
“Make decisions by focusing on your goals and never lose sight of them. Learn to trust people and yet be wise. And it’s important to remember that it’s always good team work that produces good results. Always, think for a moment and take a step back before taking any decision.”
And in the future…
“We want our brand to be known for its genuine and authentic handlooms. We also want to move towards designing more sarees and curating less,” she says.
As for following her passion for travel, the couple is planning a trip to South India soon and, one day, a trip to Poland, too.
If the words of writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron who once said,"Writing is what I do... it is like breathing to me..." defined the goals of Ephron's life, it would be Asha's mantra too, as she lives to create word pictures of the people she meets. She believes that the best stories "must move the heart and feed the mind". When she is not working, she loves reading novels and listening to music.