Behind the Label: Joli, Proudly Made in India

After living in Delhi for years, European design team Jonas Grier and Lili de Selys channeled their unique understanding of urban India to create their own label. Launched in October 2010, Joli, Proudly Made in India was originally a handbag line with a devoted double mission of capturing the color and diversity of everyday India and of elevating the labor standards of locally produced items. As the brand has grown, Joli has expanded into apparel and scarves, but its pieces consistently remain a reflective, sophisticated snapshot of the heart of modern India, in all of its glory.

What made you move to India?

It started as a professional opportunity for each of us - Lili was working in an Export House designing and developing Home Furnishing Textiles and Jonas in a French Buying House designing and producing Garments & Accessories. A few years later, after we settled and embraced the challenges and opportunities that India's booming economy offers, we decided to start our own enterprise. The fact that we are both in love with textiles played a big part in our decision too. Indian textiles from North to South are a great sources of inspiration. The amazing craftsmanship has endless possibilities which one can use and re-use to adapt to their own designs. Constant visual stimulation comes from India's streets, markets, people, houses, villages, trucks, and clothes, to name a few, are, for us, the most inspiring and infinite resources for our design process.

Joli stands for Jonas Grier and Liane de Selys. How did you two find each other and collaborate on Joli?

The desire to work together and to create our own label started almost as a joke one evening of July 2009. The idea grew over the following year. Constantly sharing ideas of shapes, colors and aesthetics, we realized that we did have a common vision of style. The next step seemed natural - in August 2010 we designed our first collection and in October 2010, Joli was born! We then selected the workshops where we wanted our pieces to be produced and presented the first Joli Collection during two private sales in Europe in December 2010.

How does your design process work?

Our design concept goes as follows: We use existing elements borrowed from the life of a common Indian citizen, for example, Lungis, Gamshas, and Market Thailas. We then deconstruct and re-construct them, pairing the elements with other existing finds from old Delhi markets, in order to create new original products set for a modern urban life. Maybe it is because one can feel that our products take their roots in real people's life that, essentially, sets them apart.

Another important aspect is that we are very strict on quality! Our aim is to promote India's capability to produce beautiful handmade quality goods, which is where "Proudly Made In India" comes from. We also wanted, from the very genesis of Joli, to produce the least possible raw materials, aiming at more sustainable products. We, therefore, try to use what is already there. For example, we use actual lungis for linings and new bag concepts.

We believe that what really sets our products apart is our unique perspective of being long-term European residents in India, which translates to our collections. Having lived in India for some time now and assimilated to the culture (by working in the industry, working hands-on in the production process and closely with tailors and craftsmen, learning the language and walking the hectic back alleys of Delhi every day, we are able to bring together our passion and acute understanding of India's rich popular culture with our European standard of quality and aesthetics.

What is on the Joli mood board?

Picture print-outs of what we capture on the streets of Delhi from the worker's patched up tool bag to a women's silhouette wearing some crazy color combination. And of course, our gleanings from the streets and villages we visit: a piece of ribbon, embroidered swatches, collection of fabrics, Pantone chips, leather cuttings, a rusted piece of metal with an amazing shape and texture, it's endless!

We often go through our metal storage boxes, and see collected stuff we haven't used yet, pull everything out, and try to, again, use what is there before going to buy new. Everything will be used at some point in time!

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