How we got started.
I am Aahlada Chennupati, founder of Artisan Variety. I started Artisan Variety as The Other Variety in 2019. The idea to start a retail business stemmed from my experiences growing up in India. I was born and raised in India and grew up with my grandparents in a small village in India till I was 5. Growing up in a rural village, handmade and handcraft was a part of my childhood naturally than any choice one makes. I saw my grandmother wearing handloom sarees, I played with hand-carved wooden toys, slept in handwoven blankets, and decorated the house with brass lamps.
As I grew up and moved to the city to live with my working parents, they used products that were more functional and practical. With a daughter of my own, I now understand how important it is to live a practical life that is machine washable and dishwasher-safe. But, the details that come with a handcraft are always exquisite and special. As I grew older, hand-embroidered and handwoven sarees were reserved for special occasions. When I moved to the United States, I found the minimal design in every product very practical but there was always a joy in wearing finely woven clothes. With changing trends in India, I saw a new set of designers making skirts, pants, and scarves using traditional weaving and woven fabrics. These clothes were a remarkable change in the way they looked and also how they were produced. They were clothes that were part of the slow fashion movement that was making progress in reducing waste than mass-produced fashion. The slow fashion clothes were not machine washable but they were most suited for special occasions. The slow fashion movement was also the right step into preserving the work of artisans or karigars who were struggling with changing landscape of retail. It was important to find a market fit for slow fashion clothes.
With my research, the idea for The Other Variety was born, to curate and sell clothing made from traditional fabrics. I sourced and shipped clothing from a few selected designers from India and the in’s and out’s of everyday business hit me. Clothing was a hard sell and it was also my first foray into retail. One of the earliest discoveries was sizing. For each shirt, you have to hold multiple sizes. As a plus-size woman, I also wanted to be part of the body positivity movement and hold extended sizes. This only meant a lot of inventory and a lot of upfront capital. I must admit, I still hold the inventory even today and failed at selling clothing.
My research in slow fashion introduced me to handmade home decor like terracotta pots, baskets, plant stands, centerpiece bowls, candle holders, and more. As someone who likes to act first, I quickly found sellers that sold home goods from India. I also found a variety of artisan-made home goods from other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Senegal, and Ghana, through my wholesale dealers. So, I curated a collection of home goods from different countries and was ready to start selling again. I listed the products on my website and some products started to sell. I also found a purpose to the business, to reimagine selling artisan goods and solely focus on empowering artisans. I decided to rename The Other Variety to Artisan Variety to bring more focus.
It was 2020 now and the pandemic hit. I happened to check Etsy and decided for the first time to sell on a marketplace. And it was a hit. Products started selling so well that I was taken by surprise. I now realize, that my products had to go where the customers were. I was holding all the products and was expecting customers to show up and that was my first big learning.
Sales started pouring in on Etsy, and I had the cash to put back into the business. Most artisan goods are sold with the idea of empowering artisans and improving their social and economic conditions. But what they don’t shine a light is on how beautiful the product is, and the time and craft it takes to create. I decided to reimagine these products for modern homes. I worked with a professional photographer and I am incredibly proud of how the photos turned out. The photos really showcase the beauty of our products.
It was now time to decide what Artisan Variety stood for. With the pandemic, travel slowed down and the idea of exploring a different country was a distant dream. One of our customers bought a Mortar and Pestle made in India on Etsy and wrote a gift message with their order that I loved. The message note read “ Happy Birthday, Even though you are locked down at home, this will bring the world to your kitchen.”. I read it and it stuck. We bring the world to your home.
And Artisan Variety had a mission, focus, and purpose.
Artisan Variety today finds high-quality handmade goods by artisans from over 15 countries and we are re-imagining traditional crafts for today’s modern homes. We bring the world to your home.
Check out Artisan Variety at https://www.artisanvariety.com/.