The Art of Being Waris
Published February 11, 2011
WARIS AHLUWALIA, PHOTO FEDERICO MARCHETTI BY ALEX MAJOLI
Waris Ahluwalia may helm the CFDA-honored fine jewelry line House of Waris and act in acclaimed films (I Am Love, The Darjeeling Limited), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have time for other projects. While the modern-day Renaissance man may be known for his exquisite taste, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Today, he launches Dirty, the first lifestyle capsule collection from his new Waris Loves You line. Composed of mugs, beach towels, panties and boxers with cheeky, affirmative texts like “YES,” “MORE,” and “NOW,” Dirty aims to show a more playful side of Ahluwalia, and will be sold exclusively on YOOX.
“The reason why we like to work with him is that he‘s all about experimentation, and we like to have people involved who think outside of the box,” explained Federico Marchetti, CEO and founder of YOOX. Last night, The Wooly hosted the intimate launch party for Dirty, with a special performance by The Citizens Band featuring Karen Elson. Before the event, we caught up with Ahluwalia to get the whole story behind his new endeavors.
KELLEY HOFFMAN: How did you begin designing jewelry?
WARIS AHLUWALIA: I made two rings for myself and when I was in Los Angeles, I walked into a store called Maxfields and they essentially bought them off my hands. Those were originally made in New York. There wasn’t craftsmanship, there was just manufacturing, and I wasn’t interested in doing that. My first workshop was in Rome, and that was the start of House of Waris. In a little magical atelier, a goldsmith, his apprentice, his stone setter—and that was where it began.
HOFFMAN: That sounds so lovely. And how did you start working with YOOX?
AHLUWALIA: After Darjeeling. My uniform had a pin, an elephant pin, so I made more of them and sold them for YOOX for an organization, and the proceeds went to serving habitats on Asia. So I worked with them previously on that.
HOFFMAN: What other projects to you have lined up?
AHLUWALIA: Waris Loves is the only one I’m allowed to speak of. But our first Fashion Week presentation is going to be at MAD. The inspiration is always love and history.
HOFFMAN: What will be new?
AHLUWALIA: We’re launching the full collection of scarves. They’re cashmere scarves, hand-loomed and embroidered, batik-printed, hand-dyed, block-printed and screenprinted.
HOFFMAN: I’m looking forward to your first Fashion Week presentation. Why are you holding it at MAD?
AHLUWALIA: To me, it was an obvious choice. I had chaired their ball last year, and I learned their message of craftsmanship and design—it is the same with Waris. Design and the urgency to preserve it—not as a museum relic, as a living experience. And for me, something that lives alongside mass-produced goods. I’m not saying get away from it. My battle is there is a marketplace for what people wear and what they eat and care about how things are made and not just that they were made, and that’s the core focus. I know where things come from, I know their families. I do that throughout my life—I know who makes my suits, and I know where my eggs come from. Everyone and everything is accounted for and has accountability.
HOFFMAN: How will you be spending Valentine’s Day?
AHLUWALIA: I am going to see Maria Cornejo. The rest I’m going to leave open. I’d like to put a message out there: I’m open to receiving flowers. I don’t eat that much chocolate anymore, but flowers I’m into. I don’t think men get enough flowers. A deeper pink or red peonies are my favorite. But I’ll take anything, really.
HOFFMAN: How did you come up with the name Dirty?
AHLUWALIA: It was so long ago. The collection was sitting in a drawer, and YOOX said, “Let’s do something, let’s do whatever you want.” And when I told them about Dirty, they loved it.
HOFFMAN: Federico, the CEO at YOOX, said he likes to work with you because you “think outside the box.” Do you agree?
AHLUWALIA: I wouldn’t know how to think inside the box because I don’t even know where it is. I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.