Friday, October 28, 2011

Handmade drawings

A bit of a flashback: after Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge wrote about our work in July 2008, things at our small home-office in Kerala got pretty hectic, as I mentioned in my previous post. It was in this crazy moment that I felt like we needed a unique way to thank those first few shoppers who placed orders with us.

I started sketching some handmade thank-you cards to add to the first shipments that left our office.
It was so much fun making them that it quickly turned into an obsession: before long we had sent out over a hundred cards! Basically it turned into a side-project where I tried to find as many ways to illustrate the words "Thank You"; above and below are a few:


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Meeting The World: Online

The first test of our branding strategy came about on the morning of August 2008, when Indu casually logged in to look at our email. Our e-commerce site had launched a few weeks ago and so far, the site had floated along in relative internet obscurity. All of a sudden that morning, the inbox was almost at maximum capacity with orders from new clients, pouring in by the minute! In a few days we cleared our first stock of fabrics and soon our site boasted the banner: Sold Out! How this this happen?

Designing the identity

As we started discussing the idea of setting up Kara Weaves, back in 2005 and 2006, we often went back to the reasons why this fabric was little known outside Kerala. It had nothing to do with the quality of the weave or the softness of the texture or the strength and durability, all of which it had. It came down to how people perceived the fabric: as dowdy, old-fashioned, dysfunctional, with lackluster colors and patterns. 
One of the basic premises of graphic design is to work with altering a sense of perception in the viewer/consumer. I was using this theory ad infinitum as I worked for a high-end branding agency in New Delhi, making it work its magic for clients in real estate, fashion, restaurants, storefronts and more. As we pondered this question in handloom, I decided that was precisely what we needed: some smart branding.

Starting a Start-Up

Folks often ask us about how we started Kara Weaves; so here's the whole story:
Indu, myself (Chitra), Sreedevi and Revathy
We are a small hand-loom weaving project run primarily by Indu Menon and myself, Chitra. Our co-enthusiasts/ co-partners are B. Sreedevi (a hand-loom expert and dearest supporter) and Revathy Menon (a noted Indian film actress and director who is one of our most enthusiastic motivators). We did not intentionally start it as a women-only organization; the fact that we are is purely co-incidental. :) 

A constant source of encouragement for our work comes from Lakshmi Menon, who steps in as a catalyst for our brainstorming sessions, travel to the weaving centers, photo shoot, product design and our invaluable sounding board. Celine George, the Delhi-based HR professional is also someone we connect with, when developing new ideas and strategists. A.R Sathish, an entrepreneur and business professional in Kochi, was also instrumental in providing us advice when we initially started our partnership firm with a lot of insight on managing our finances and paperwork. Our spouses (Indu's and mine) have also, over the years, provided a lot of feedback and objective criticism to help our brand develop and are an integral part of our core advisory group.
One of the weavers at our local handloom weaving co-operative in Kanjiramattom
But current stories aside, how did our brand really come about to be?


Welcome to our blog! We hope this is a place for you to discover a bit about the people who run Kara Weaves with some behind-the-scenes stories. This is also a place we write about the things we love. The picture above is from the fields behind our little office in Kerala, a space we look towards for inspiration!
My name is Chitra and I am one-half of the main team at Kara Weaves. In this blog, I will be writing about how we started, the fun adventures we've had over the years at Kara and the things we are working on currently. Happy reading!
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