“TUNI – Making art & weaves meet, in your home”

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Tell us your journey from being a student of Textile Designing to a successful entrepreneur today?

Textiles have always fascinated me as my grandmother was a wonderful maker of home linen. Watching her sew as a hobby every summer is where my interest in the subject comes from. I then went on to pursue textile design for my under graduation. The formal education in the subject has helped me a lot with what I do today. It’s like they say ‘you have to know the rules to break them’. The journey on paper seemed like a fairly simple plan. I had decided to study abroad for a year after NIFT and then come back to start my own venture. As a plan I am sure it is what a lot of young graduates decide on. Most of my learning came from what went into making that plan come true. It is simple to say I will start something on my own but only twice as hard (if not more) to find the pieces that will help you do so. I think my journey has only just begun, I am still working on what success is for TUNI and I.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

What role has NIFT and London School of Fashion played in your growth as a designer? How important is international exposure in the field of designing?

As for NIFT, I do think the formal education helped. I still refer to my textile chemistry and QC notes time and again. I don’t think the books on that will ever be out-dated or irrelevant. As for international exposure, it helped me in gaining a wider perspective on design concepts. I am not in a position to comment on its importance in the field of design in general, but I definitely think it’s an added advantage. For me the study at London has helped me not only learn more about design techniques and processes but also helped me enhance skills such as marketing, communication, etc. Currently, I am also pursuing a short course at IIM, Ahmedabad. I don’t think the learning can ever end, be it in the design or the business side of the kind of work I am in.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Tell us more about your venture TUNI Interiors.

TUNI started with my love for all things handmade and handcrafted. Having seen my grandmother patiently make home linen for us over the years helped me gain insight into a few processes and the love and patience required to really craft that one beautiful product. TUNI – Textiles, you and I, was conceptualized in 2013 and we began work soon after in Jan 2014. The aim was, is and always will be to make art and weaves meet in your home, and the design fundamental behind each and every product is exactly this. I work with hand painted and hand woven textiles. Within the hand painted collections, there is always immense excitement as no two pieces are ever identical. We work very hard to make sure we have just the right soft furnishing for your home and you.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

What process do you follow, right from planning to execution, while designing for a client and which aspect of it do you enjoy the most?

When designing a custom collection, first and foremost I gather information about what colors and cities they like. I draw a lot from the travels they enjoy the most. I am aware of the current home trends but I do not shy away from using a particular colour simply because it reminds the client of their favourite city or place. The initial meetings and a tour of their current / previous home gives me a lot of insight into the tastes of the client. Then I design products and concepts that find a balance between TUNI’s design philosophy and the client’s preferences. I do enjoy hearing about the clients inspiration and travels and their idea of an ideal home. It gives me so many stories we can weave into their home, the whole process is very unique.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Which has been your most memorable project and why? 
My first home project was my favourite. This is partly because it was the first time I saw my proposed concepts come to life. Design concepts as well the design process itself. The textiles for each room were carefully planned, yet maintaining sync with the overall home. Watching the designs on the pages of your book go into someone’s home is an incredible feeling.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

What are the challenges you face in this profession as a woman entrepreneur and also as a designer?

I have fortunately not faced challenges that arise from the fact that I am a ‘woman entrepreneur’. The family is extremely supportive of my venture as well!
As a designer, yes! Saying no to projects that do not match TUNI’s design philosophy or methods is one of my biggest challenges. I have made a choice to grow TUNI as a brand driven by the philosophy to make art and weaves meet. It sounds like a simple statement, but choosing the right projects, placement, process and communication to match that philosophy becomes very critical. I feel, one has to make a conscious choice of what one will offer under your brand and sometimes it’s ok to let go of a project or two if it does not align your philosophy of work, and in my case the design processes or inspiration. As a designer, saying NO is quite challenging.

Your collection is diverse and beautiful. Who or what keeps you motivated to create such amazing designs?

The motivation comes from the passion for various art forms and the concept of making it come to your home as a functional product. There is so much more to explore within art & textiles, the ‘more’ is what drives me to outdo every previous collection ever made. So, yes TUNI will be only be better each time and you will see this in times to come. Watch out for our new revamped website and collections!

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

How has your work evolved since the day you launched your own firm?

Honestly, the first year was trial and error. I spent that year gaining customer feedback on various concepts and products. In the next, I experimented with my own design fundamentals and philosophy. Somewhere towards the end of the second year I penned down “TUNI – Making art & weaves meet, in your home”. Today, I am very clear as to what I see as TUNI and what is ‘not TUNI’. Here on the challenge is to continue making unique collections and communicate this design philosophy internally, within the team first and then to the rest of the world. Today, I am also confident to say no to a project, collaboration or store that is ‘not TUNI’. That process of elimination is what has helped me evolve as a designer and an entrepreneur in the niche that TUNI exists in.

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Pic Courtesy : Mrinmayee Dhobale

Other than creativity, what tools or technical skills should a designer be equipped with?

You will very soon realise, your creativity is only a part of the whole business. Do not ever making the mistake of thinking it is enough to run a business. Depending on the creative field chosen, the list of technical skills and tools will vary. However, the development of your soft skills, especially communication, body language, ability to voice your thoughts coherently, etc. is something you shouldn’t ignore.

Any words of wisdom for the aspiring textile designers?

You’ll never know all that you need to, to run a successful enterprise. Different perspectives on your ideas from people with varied academic and professional backgrounds, and even age groups are the one thing I would urge new entrepreneurs to seek. The things I learnt simply from sharing my ideas with my family, professors, colleagues, classmates and friends went a long way in shaping TUNI. Don’t be afraid to share!

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