The House of Waris: Waris Ahluwalia
How would you define your roots?
How would you define your roots?
I was born in Amritsar. My father was a professor at Guru Nanak Dev University and my mother opened a school called Waris Public School. I took my first steps at the Golden Temple. My memory is fuzzy, but is ingrained in my soul.
How instrumental was your background in shaping your choices in the future?
I grew up in a family of successful academicians—professors, Heads of Departments, psychologists, chemists, and a lot of doctors. Art isn’t something I was exposed to at a young age. It was in my late teens that I began to get drawn to the arts. Even then, I didn't know or even imagine that I would be in the creative field; not until I was in my late 20s when I finally decided to take the leap.
How did you find your calling?
I was in my 20s when I started exploring all ideas and avenues, from publishing to films. Jewellery designing is not a path I chose. I always say jewellery found me. The universe speaks to us all—we just have to learn to listen. I have spent the last six years searching the world for the best craftsmen. My journey started in Rome where I founded my first workshop. Then I travelled to India, where I discovered a family that has been working in jewellery for centuries. It was magical! I moved further to Bangkok for the most delicate setters and then somehow found my way home to New York to work with hand engravers. I work with gold that holds history, diamonds that see the future and rubies that long for love. There's a story in each stone.
What is the philosophy behind the House of Waris?
I consider myself a storyteller first. That's why I'm here. The execution of that story sometimes happens in words, films, jewellery and now, even, scarves. From this September, a few special stores will carry our first collection of scarves. Like the jewellery, the cashmere is handloomed, the silk is hand batiked and the silk cotton is block printed by hand. Again, it's about the craftsmen and the technique. These designs are contemporary, yet timeless, and made by using techniques that are centuries old. These creations speak to the House of Waris’ woman: bold, independent and fearless. She is someone who respects tradition, but isn’t restrained by it.
Tell us more about your book.
If I can bring some beauty, hope and joy to the world around me, I would have served my purpose. The book To India With Love was in response to the attack on Mumbai in 2008. It sold well everywhere, which is fantastic because all the proceeds go to the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust that’s aiding victims and families who suffered during the attacks. And besides money, we also wanted to raise people’s morale. We wanted the milkman to read in his local paper that there were people on the other side of the world sending their love and care. Many of my friends have had profound experiences in India and shared their stories in the book. The book has sold out and has just gone into its third reprint!
Where is home for you?
I feel absolutely at home whereever I have good friends—New York, Los Angeles and Paris, to name a few. The heart is restless and must wander. I'm on a journey to find beauty in all corners of the world. It was Stendhal who said: ‘Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.’ I journey towards happiness.
What are your inspirations?
My inspiration has always been love and history. But I never claim to understand either of these. It’s my search for a better understanding. I like working with objects of beauty that become an intimate part of someone's life. I work with elements that have high value before I even touch them. Born from the earth and back to the earth!
What according to you is bespoke?
I approach my personal choices the same way I approach my work. I find the best craftsmen and learn about them and their work. I know the cobbler who makes my shoes. I know the tailor who makes my suits and shirts. I know the people that make my jeans. It's consumerism that's just a little more considered. I can't fight mass consumption and creation, but I can support an alternative way that can sit alongside those goods. I have tailors that make my clothes all over the world, from Savile Row to New York. In fact, one of my favourite tailors is in Jaipur, Raja from East West Designers. This approach is not just for clothes, but is a way of life for me. I buy my food from local farmers who love what they do. In the end, the idea is to stay true to your heart and what you believe in. It sounds simple, yet it's one of the most challenging things to do.
How would you define luxury?
Attaching the word luxury with something doesn't make it so. I create objects that must stand the test of time, regardless of the brand or me. The object is one of beauty, regardless of story. From the jewellery to the hand-drawn linen bound look books to the handmade wooden boxes; they're each an act of devotion by its creator. There is and must be truth in the work.