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Similar to most industries, in the design space, too, we often find men outnumbering the number of women as practitioners of their craft. However, this Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’d like shine a light on the women who’ve made their mark in design with their unparalleled contribution to the segment. And, while the list optimistically grows day by day, we’ve created a starting point to know more about the designers, artists and contributors to the Indian design arena, who are inspiring us with their exceptional and pathbreaking work.

Jesmina Zeliang

Founder, Heirloom Naga

Know her for…being the force behind Heirloom Naga—a textile and weaving centre in Dimapur, Nagaland—which has created a platform for crafts from Northeast India on the global cultural map, earning the  JSW Prize for Contemporary Craftsmanship in 2019. Merging native skills with contemporary styling, Zeliang has empowered indigenous artisans, brought about a means for reviving ancestral traditional skills and created an awareness for the beauty and value in handmade crafts.

Chanya says… “We love Jesmina’s culture advocacy & her pioneering efforts to boost native craft skills with contemporary appeal.”

Gunjan Gupta
Founder & Creative Director, IKKIS
Know her for…
turning ordinary objects into works of art. Contemporary in form, yet inherently Indian at its core, every piece in Gupta’s home décor collection effortlessly melds traditional techniques with modern aesthetics. Incorporating indigenous materials, skills, and narratives into sculptural objects that are symbolic of contemporary India, IKKIS focuses on reinterpreting mainstream objects to be utilitarian, functional and collectible.

Chanya says… “We love Gunjan’s approach to heritage craftsmanship for 21st-century living and her contributions to a new India-proud aesthetic.”

Nalini Malani
Contemporary artist

Know her for…being influenced by her experiences as a refugee of the Partition of India, where she places inherited iconographies and cherished cultural stereotypes under pressure. With an unwaveringly urban and internationalist point of view, Malani is unsparing in her condemnation of a cynical nationalism that exploits the beliefs of the masses. Hers is an art of excess, going beyond the boundaries of legitimized narrative, exceeding the conventional and initiating dialogue.

Chanya says… “We love Nalini’s generous contribution to digital user communities—her Notebook Series of iPad animations offer a peek into her artist notebooks & are free to download for use.”

Ally Matthan
Co-founder of the #100SareePact

Know her for…noticing the numerous stories about weaves and textiles from across the country that began pouring in when she created the #100SareePact movement, which made her realise it needed a more concrete platform. With a love for sarees and traditional weaves, she began The Registry of Sarees in 2016 (with two friends) to form a community that connects weavers to customers through regular events and pop ups to shine a spotlight on indigenous weaving techniques, designs and textiles.

Chanya says… “We love how Ally inspires creative self-expression through art. Thank you for unconditionally sharing the love & knowledge for magical, elusive indigo!”

Yukti V. Agarwal
Student of textiles and completive studies, and co-founder of Handmaking Hope
Know her for…being a part-time artist as a current student at Rhode Island School of Design, while also founding Handmaking Hope with her grandmother in 2016 while she was still a student at school. The all-girls school raises funds for girls who were denied education and seen merely as objects of patriarchy. Through their philosophy of sustainability, the NGO aims to make every woman independent by sustaining their livelihood through handmade crafts.
Chanya says… “We love Yukti’s passion for helping people reconnect with the intuitive art in their soul & with the universal craft-culture heritage which is for all of us to share.”