In Hinduism, Aranyani is the goddess of the forests. In fashion, Aranyani is the soul of India rendered in leather, metal, semiprecious stones, paint, and embroidery to create high-end handbags inspired by the country’s ancient traditions of artistry and craftsmanship. “It all started with the vision to create something to tell the story of what India is about,” says Haresh Mirpuri, the company’s founder and creative director.
During the days of the Silk Road trade, India was known for its artisanal crafts—its fabrics and embroidery, its paintings and sculptures—and the country’s maharajas were every bit as fashionable as Europe’s royals. In modern times, however, that history has largely been lost and forgotten; people looking to buy luxury goods are more likely to turn to France and Italy than to India. Mirpuri is looking to change that, to represent India’s royal history and remind consumers of India’s long tradition of luxury, now interpreted in a contemporary aesthetic.
The bags’ designs reflect Mirpuri’s deep interest in Vedic philosophy. Each piece in the Stone Drops line, for instance, is accented with semiprecious stones from the Aravalli mountains, India’s oldest mountain range, and each stone is thought to have a spiritual property: Tiger eye protects its wearer; moonstone harnesses and nullifies negative feelings and emotions; black onyx safeguards from negative elements. “The stones were not seen as jewelry,” says Mirpuri “because they were always part of nature; all the semiprecious stones have to do with some form of well-being. So while we consider these a luxury, luxury was actually a necessity in those days.” Other lines incorporate colorful painting and embroidery.
That Vedic philosophy also comes into play with the brand’s use of leather. “We are conscious that we are using a live skin,” Mirpuri says. “We respect that and we want to make it into a beautiful piece. It’s part of nature; it’s got to be beautiful.”
To ensure that the bags are, indeed, beautiful—to ensure they’re of an international luxury standard—Mirpuri, when he founded the company about three years ago, sent five of his workers (there currently are nine) to Milan to train for 16 weeks with a master craftsman who has worked with “all the best brands you can imagine in Italy.” The result is a combination of the best of traditional Indian artisanal crafts with the finest European leathercrafting skills.
But it’s how his workers have been treated since their return from Milan that Aranyani’s founder is most proud of: He pays them fairly and also pays for their children’s education. The company plants trees in its surrounding neighborhood and ensures access to clean drinking water for locals; it works with an orphanage and supports a music school.
“The Vedic philosophy of life,” says Mirpuri, “is basically about inclusive growth. We all rise together.”