Anokhi is a web of interconnecting stories -- stories of love, friendship and family.
The Story of John and Faith:
He was the son of a Rajput nobleman. She was the daughter of British missionaries. They met in Jaipur in 1967 by the pool of Rambagh Palace and the rest, as they say, is history. Faith was entranced by the colors and patterns of Indian textiles, and by the disappearing art of block printing which had once been a thriving part of the community in and around Jaipur. A philanthropist to the bone, John wanted to save the craft from extinction and to resurrect a sustainable livelihood for the many craftsmen who create quality hand-printed fabric.
And so Anokhi was born. In 1970 their prints first appeared in London, and Anokhi quickly gained a devoted international following.
The story of Melanie and Meryl:
In the unlikely setting of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Melanie and Meryl met at a Moms & Tots group for expat women in the city. Sipping coffee while their babies played, the two women became fast friends. Although they were restricted in their movements in a place where women can't even drive a car and men control the business world, neither of them were the type to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs. In 1984, after only knowing each other for a few months, the two friends cooked up a scheme to sell the gorgeous "Anokhi" prints that Melanie had been eyeing on her trips to India and the UK. They headed off to India together and met with Faith and John at the apartment of a mutual friend. They returned home with suitcases stuffed with Anokhi goods, which they used to throw their own version of tupperware parties at the homes of the other expat women in the area.
Melanie and Meryl in Rajasthan
Their Anokhi parties were a raging success, and by the time the two women headed back to the United States in 1987 they had generated enough profit to open up their first retail location on Newbury Street in Boston.
The Story of Gabrielle and Will:
In the fall of 1990 Melanie gifted the girl who would eventually become her future daughter-in-law with an Anokhi quilt. Gabrielle was visiting Melanie with her mother, Melanie's long time friend, just before heading off for college. When Melanie took them to her Anokhi stores Gabrielle fell instantly head over heels for the stunning prints filling each shop. The quilt quickly became her favorite possession.
The two families toured Rajasthan together during Gabrielle's junior year at college. After meeting John and Faith and seeing the Anokhi business firsthand, Gabrielle decided to do her senior thesis on Indian woodblock printing. She returned to India during her senior year to document the amazing processes used to create block prints, and then came back again after her graduation to work at Anokhi as a print designer. As it turned out, Melanie's son Will was also in India at the same time, and the two childhood friends explored the surrounding area together whenever they could. They married in 1999.
Will, Lara (Melanie's daughter), and Gabrielle in Jaipur, 1994
The Story of Rachel and Pritam:
Rachel Bracken-Singh came to Anokhi in 1993 on a ten-week placement after graduating with a degree in Fashion and Printed Textiles from Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in London. Rachel had talent, drive, and a deep interest in traditional crafts. Her ten weeks became six months and eventually turned into a permanent position at Anokhi. As Faith's protégé, Rachel worked closely with all of the craftspeople – the block carvers, printers, dyers, skilled tailors, and embroiderers – whose efforts must come together to make each remarkable piece of Anokhi clothing. She is now the Head Designer and Design Director at Anokhi, as well as the co-founder of the Anokhi Museum, an impressive and beautiful space dedicated to documenting the history and process of woodblock printing.
Rachel Bracken Singh and Faith Singh
Rachel, Meryl and Melanie
Faith, Melanie and Rachel examine piles of indigo-dyed t-shirts
Rachel married John and Faith's son Pritam, who now runs the business end of Anokhi and has taken over the many impressive charitable and innovative projects that Anokhi runs in the community in and around Jaipur.
Time marches on. Melanie and Meryl (still best friends) closed their retail stores in 2007. Melanie set up an Anokhi USA retail website, and Meryl moved on to other projects. Gabrielle (who still has that first precious quilt!) works as Anokhi USA's photographer and graphic designer. Faith retired as Rachel moved into her current role of head designer at the company, and to the sadness and dismay of us all, John Singh passed away in 2016. Like his father before him, Pritam is a visionary, always trying to think of ways to do better, to use the Anokhi business to improve the lives of the people in and around it.
These are not the only Anokhi stories. Each piece of Anokhi cloth has been stamped over and over by the hands of people with their own epic tales to tell. Each wooden block is painstakingly carved by someone with his own story, and who can tell what daydreams are stirred into each vat of indigo dye? We love each Anokhi piece for the time and loving attention that goes into every square inch. Like all of our stories that come together separately to make a united whole, each person in every stage of production at Anokhi adds their own unique touch as every bolt of white cloth slowly becomes a richly printed masterpiece. We hope that you will wonder at the beauty and history of your Anokhi items as they become part of your own story too.