It has been just over three months since I was first acquainted with the beauty of Chandni’s business Rangi Saba Designs and I have been keeping a keen eye on her products, purely because there is a lot of nostalgia and culture that is attached to the nature of her products.
Specializing in creating bespoke accessories and striking patterns of fashionable fabric that don’t fail to capture your attention for all the right reasons, Rangi Saba Designs aims to inject a colorful and cultural adornment to your home and fashion aesthetic, with their vibrant and versatile forms of cushions, boxes, glassware, and clothing (to name a few). With each piece handcrafted with love and care, Chandni has pulled a range of influences from her cultures that span across India, Kenya, and Australia to offer her customers with statement pieces that will instantly add a pop of color and diversity to your overall look.
In anticipation of their participation at the upcoming Gathered Design Market – virtual edition on August 22 + 23, 2020, I did a social-distancing-friendly Q and A with Chandni to learn more about the ethos around Rangi Saba Designs – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Chandni?
Chandni: Hi! Jambo! Kem cho! Namaste! Jai Jinendra! Sat Shri Akal! G’day Mate! These are the different ways I greet family and friends – all words from places I continue to call home. I am a 2nd generation Kenyan by birth, of Indian origin, now living in Australia. After my parents migrated to Nairobi, Kenya from India in the 1980s, I spent 18 years living in a joint family where as kids, when we were not enjoying the wonderful outdoors of Kenya, we were actively volunteering in community service events. Every year, we would go on at least one safari and one camping trip out in the African bush. At 18, I flew across the world to Tampa, Florida for my undergraduate studies where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science. I made some lifelong memories there with friends from across the globe – some of my closest friends to date are my Uni of Tampa buds from Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Kenya, Florida, and Puerto Rico. In 2010, I moved to Sydney, Australia to pursue my post graduate studies in Dentistry. At my first residence in Sydney, I met my husband, Sumer (we recently celebrated being together for 10 years!). During my 2 years candidature at Uni of Sydney, I faced hardships that alerted me to major health problems, which could occur in the near future. To preserve my mental and physical health, I switched careers to study Masters in Computer Science. Although my venture in Australia began with a series of failures, my parents’ words that ‘every failure is a lesson’ encouraged me to not give up. I succeeded and landed my first corporate role, where I had the best colleagues and a manager who continues to be a great mentor. Sumer and I quit the busy lives in Sydney to travel for a year, and that’s when we saw ourselves fall in love with this beautiful city of Adelaide. We’ve been here in Adelaide for almost 2 years now and keep questioning why we didn’t move earlier! Adelaide has given us the time and space we needed to reconnect as a family. It also gave me the breathing space to finally start Rangi Saba Designs.
Tema: How did the concept of Rangi Saba Designs come into focus?
Chandni: I love what I do in IT, but I felt I needed a creative outlet away from the screen. After moving to Adelaide, being unemployed for about 6 months, I started thinking about the Kenyan and Indian heritage that I come from and how I could use that to create something unique. I had not seen many Kenyan and Indian inspired products in Australia. So I was really inclined to showcase the beauty and the vibrant culture of both countries. My dad is a huge supporter of local artisans and small businesses, and mum has a creative eye. When I brought the idea forward to them, they immediately supported it. With the business, I not only wanted to link it to my heritage but also to my childhood – this is where the ‘pay it forward’ mission came to being. Putting a smile on someone’s face reminded me of childhood traditions of giving with zero expectations of getting back in return. And so began the Rangi Saba Designs journey.
Tema: Is there a meaning behind the name and if so, would you like to share that with us, please?
Chandni: Rangi in Kiswahili means Colour. In Gujarati, rang means colour/paint/dye, and can also be used to describe feelings of joyousness/bliss. Saba in Kiswahili means Seven. Rangi Saba Designs is a depiction of the colours of the rainbow – you can see this in all our products.
Tema: How long have you been in business for and what has the experience / journey been like, so far?
Chandni: I started working on the concept of Rangi Saba Designs in April 2019, and officially launched in Nov 2019. The journey has been so rewarding as I’ve been able to create awareness about the Kenyan and Indian cultures and traditions. Together with bringing joy to the customers purchasing from us, I’ve been able to support local artisans by working directly with them. So far, with our ‘pay it forward’ mission, we have donated to:
- Share the Dignity Australia – via the #itsinthebag campaign run in conjunction with Bunnings; funds used to provide sanitary products to homeless women and fight for domestic violence victims
- BlazeAid – funds used to rebuild not just infrastructure but also local communities
- Native Animal Network of SA – via the silent auction at the Lobethal Bushfire Recovery Market; funds used to care for animals that have been injured by the bushfires
- Catherine House – via my birthday giveaway; funds used to create a safe haven for women experiencing homelessness
Working with artisans overseas has been a challenge when it comes to managing process and production. Most of the time, I only get to feel the final product when it arrives in Australia! The logistics behind each consignment is a whole other challenge as well. But we will continue to work with our artisans to find more effective solutions to creating gifts that give back.
Tema: What products in particular would you like to highlight as being “top recommended” and “highly popular” that new customers should know about?
Chandni: Our engraved glassware is highly recommended. The detail on the engraving is just stunning! The hand-painted cushion covers and jewellery/keepsake boxes are other products to surely grab attention! We’ve had lots of customers talk about our fashionable dresses, bags, and earrings, which have both been very popular as they are something small and easy to gift.
Tema: How did you get involved with the Gathered Design Market?
Chandni: We had planned to visit Lights of Lobethal and the Gathered Design Market on that weekend of Dec 2019. As the fires kept burning and destroying so much beauty around the Adelaide Hills we were heartbroken for all the community and the small businesses who were affected by it. It was then that I decided that my ‘pay it forward’ mission for the quarter would go towards rebuilding the lives of those affected by the fires. Then I heard about the RE:Gathered Lobethal Bushfire Recovery Market, and reached out to Jenna to see if they had a spot for us to join as a stallholder to support the efforts for bushfire recovery. We were delighted to hear that our application was accepted and just like that, we became a part of the Gathered Community.
Tema: What are you anticipating from your participation with the Gathered Design Market – virtual edition?
Chandni: I participated in the first edition of the Gathered Virtual Market in April, and I felt the same sense of community that I did when I was at the RE:Gathered market in Feb! I am really excited to see the innovation that the Gathered team will be bringing together for this market. I am expecting to feel the same warm and fuzzy feels as I did back in April. Even though it’s a tough time for everyone, I am hoping for my customers to see beauty in our products, and to think of us when it comes to gifting for themselves, friends or family. I’m hoping for customers to keep me front of mind when they are in a position to make a purchase, if they can’t do that right now.
Tema: What have you found to be rewarding about being a small-scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Chandni: Chats that I’ve had with South Australians on several occasions have all pointed towards wanting to support small business where they can. The small businesses that I follow on my social media religiously are so uplifting and encouraging. There is a great sense of community and support amongst small business owners.
Tema: What have you found to be challenging about being a small-scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Chandni: I think the most challenging for me was that I am not a known brand as I am a new name to the community. In addition, time management has been a tough one.
Tema: How have you navigated through this pandemic-filled curveball that has affected everyone around us?
Chandni: Being a new business, customers want to touch and feel my product, and learn about the values behind my brand by talking to me personally. COVID has forced me to operate solely online making it slightly difficult to be heard. Since my products are created by local artisans in Kenya and India, COVID delayed delivery of my products from overseas. In fact, I believe it affected sales from the first virtual market as I could not give potential customers a timeframe for delivery with so much uncertainty around. I decided to put my creativity to play and began practicing techniques that I hadn’t done for years. As a result, I now have a range of handmade products created here in Australia by me! I continue to work with the artisans overseas to ensure that we have products ready to be boxed up for when borders opened up. It is still a challenge because the situation in Kenya and India is not good and the safety of our artisans comes first.
Tema: What do you think helps Rangi Saba Designs stand out from the rest in the industry?
Chandni: Rangi Saba Design products are handcrafted with an attention to detail that is impeccable and the use of the finest quality and ethically sourced materials is guaranteed. At Rang Saba Designs we pride ourselves in playing a part in preserving and promoting cultural and artistic traditions. What better way than to contribute to a wider society than one where a single purchase has so many touch points and affects several people directly: the buyer/receiver, the artisans who create the products, myself as a small business owner, and the Australian charity that I donate funds from the sale to.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about yourself and Rangi Saba Designs?
Chandni:We also offer a unique and beautiful way to represent yourself through commissioned pieces. If you like our concept and products but don’t find something that suits your home/style, please reach out as we can custom make whatever it is that you’re dreaming of. There’s going to be some special power hour sales during the market weekend to keep an eye out for!
Rangi Saba Designs will be participating in the upcoming virtual Gathered Design Market on August 22 + 23, 2020. There will be discounts on the market weekend so keep your eyes peeled on the Gathered Design Market’s social media platforms (Facebook + Instagram).
In the mean time, you can support Rangi Saba Designs by following them on social media and/or peeking at their website for what’s currently on offer:
All photos courtesy Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan