Viji Reddy is a CEO with a difference. A long distance boss, her company Aalamwaar Textiles is based in Hyderabad while she lives in Florida, US. On a recent visit to the city, Minal Khona caught up with her prior to the launch of her atelier, where clients can have their home furnishings custom-made for them with unique block prints.
This is the Age of Aquarius, and concerns about the environment, the planet and all that goes with it are bound to dominate. No wonder then, that more and more people are veering towards natural fabrics, hand-woven and free of polyester and chemical dyes.
Viji Reddy, who is an artist and ceramist, realised that between the wealth of weaves and printing techniques available in India and, the changing requirements of the West, she could produce a niche product. Living in the US for the last 27 years has not in any way diminished Viji’s love for various weaves, the art of handpainted Kalamkari of Srikalahasti or the many intricate embroideries of India.
So she decided to set up Aalamwaar textiles — a company that specialises in home furnishings. Cottons, linen, khadi, silk-cotton blends, tussars and wool etc. are innovatively tweaked and dyed with traditional and contemporary motifs block printed on them. Drapes, curtains, pillow covers, blankets, bedsheets, cushion covers and baby blankets are all given her unique touch. She creates something quite unlike what one sees in home stores. More so in the US, which is her primary market.
Viji says, “Since I had studied art here in Hyderabad, in Baroda and in New York, I was always interested in creative activities. I was also aware of the rich array of Andhra weaves and 12 years ago, I decided to combine art and fabric to make innovative home linen.”
Thus started Aalamwaar Textiles — Aalamwaar being an Indo-Persian title her family had been bestowed with a few generations ago. A change in the global scenario of what people were looking for in home furnishings gave her the idea. She says, “There was a global demand for block prints from around the world. The design vocabulary that the company incorporated was expanded to include African, Turkish, Japanese and Spanish designs which were carved into blocks. I was always passionate about interior design and since I come to Hyderabad every three to four months, I decided to start my own business.”
Viji’s parents live in the city and her husband is a physician in Florida and her son and daughter are in college in the US. She visits Hyderabad for work and to spend time with her parents.
Viji’s sister Archita Reddy is also part of the business and is the COO. The workshop is in the old city where artisans keep busy dyeing, printing and stitching the various items. Aalamwaar retails in the US and Viji takes her collections to various trade and trunk shows. Not to miss the International Gift fair in New York which is one of the most prestigious events where her latest collections are displayed. Aalamwaar won the ‘Best new Product’ twice in a row for their innovative designs in Spring 2012 and Fall 2011.
Viji likes to promote women and a lot of her artisans who do the embroidery are women. She works with various NGOs to source hand-woven, natural fabrics from all over India. “The fabric is washed many times, steamed, printed and in some cases embroidered upon. Also, as part of our CSR [corporate social responsibility] we use plant-derived natural dyes and AZO-free, low environmental impact dyes.”
As a boss, Viji believes in team work. Some of her karigars have been working with her for the last decade or so. “I don’t like hierarchy and I am benevolent and careful with my staff. I respect my artisans and their space and challenge their mindset in a very subtle way if I want them to do something out of the box. The one thing I don’t compromise on is quality. I make them redo everything if something is not up to the mark. I believe that we get one chance to prove ourselves to our clients and if we want them to come back, we have to give them our best.”
Some of Viji’s clients are Thomas O’Brien who is a well known designer. Other designers who work in the Hamptons — an upmarket area in New York — are also regular clients. Stores such as Jayson Home in Chicago and Summer House and Nest Furnishing in California stock Aalamwaar’s products. Prices can range from USD 40-120 per pillow cover to USD 600 for a duvet.
Viji now plans to get into ready-to-wear and her clothing range includes tunics, camisoles, pants and stoles. Last month, Viji also launched an atelier in the city where clients can visit their showroom by appointment and peruse the collections on display. They can also place their orders for custom-made home linen.
Down time for this creative lady who likes to paint and has several of her works adorning the walls of her home includes yoga and meditation, plays and movies. “Though Hyderabad leaves me exhausted every time I visit because I work like crazy when I am here,” she concludes.
Photographs: Sharath Reddy
Aalamwaar Textiles Showroom,
Bunglow No: 9 Park View Enclave,
Road No. 2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034
Open from: 10 am to 6 pm Tel: 24744735