October 2021
What is a home that has no physical bearings in mud, or steel, or brick?
What of the homes that build their foundations on things like geographical histories and invisible connections
to cities that can never be fully explained?

For Vaz Rajan, a 30-year-old craftsman and shoe designer who’s been living in Paris for a better part of the last decade, the idea of such earthly shelter finds itself more comfortable to dance between abstractions rather than offer any certainties. Having lived a largely nomadic life between continents and cities, with some ancestral mooring in Southern India, his is a story that is only just beginning.

A story where home is but a construction of his own personal universe, filled most importantly with the freedom to create without restraints. What follows are excerpts from a private conversation between him and his Sydney-based father as they build bridges between his childhood, his present and his potential future, to map out what home might come to mean across a lifetime.

Father: How are you doing?

Son (Vaz Ranjan): I'm good, I'm good. Tell me what's up now. Let's get on with this.

Father: Yes well, I've been wanting to know this. When you think of home do you think of Paris where you’ve been living for the past ten years. Or Sydney where we—your mom, sister and I—live or India, where we all come from?

Son: Um, Good question! (Laughter) I guess you know for me it really doesn't matter where you know. I don’t really think a specific place. For me, it's more of a state of mind. I don't know… because I have my thing to go home which is here (Paris) and then I have being with you guys, which I guess is an idea of home too. You know what I mean? We could be together at a certain place, could be anywhere. I guess, that would be my idea of what home is too.

F: But do you think of India as a childhood, your memory, often?

S: Ummm, it does play a certain role. I did think of it at times, but it goes go back to the idea of us being together as a family. Kids don't really like…I dont think of ‘home’ when I think of India. I think india being India…when I think of the this idea of home, it’s just one of the different homes I can think about. Wherever we've been together as a family. Because there are so many different concepts of what home could be to me.

Home is also when I'm in my own space, when I'm alone in the place I live, I feel like okay this is one idea of home too. When I'm in Italy working on stuff, that is also an idea where I feel like I'm at home. So to answer your question, all three places—India, Sydney and Paris represent some idea of home to me. I mean, it's an abstract in its own way.

F: Ok, what about your memories from your childhood that stand out to you? Which in some way connects to a home you’ve lived in?

S: Of course, like anybody, I have memories from my childhood that standout to me. As you already know, we moved around a bit. The fixated notion of home for me, it never really applied and it's strange, when I look at someone like Nikki. She has much more of a fixed idea of what home could be. but me, I don't have such. it's always been about wherever I am I guess.

F: Yeah, for you it’s been about feeling comfortable where you are, doing what you want, I guess that’s been more like home for you?

S: Yes, you're right. I guess I've always been, physically speaking, fine wherever you’ve put me. I never really had an attachment to specific place or a specific surrounding. I was okay no matter where I was. But I guess, in a certain way I did find a certain attachment to Paris… that's why I live here. It felt like home when I arrived. So I guess that explains the concept. You know I arrived here 10 years ago and I never wanted to leave. I felt really attached right away. I've told you in the past...I found a vaguely spiritual connection to this place. But it's not spiritual in the typical sense of spirituality but spiritual in the sense of feeling connected to the city in a strange way I guess.

F: that's right, you've been mentioning that even sometimes, when you walk through the streets, for the first time you had the feeling of having been there before felt that you've been there before. It’s a totally different feeling to expect in the new place

S: It's strange and it's true. All I needed to do was walk on the streets. For me, that was almost right. It helped me take my mind off things.

F: Could it be that, because it has so many people of different arts and it’s like the artistic community out there, and the milieu they live in, could it be that?

S: No, I think it's just the history. For me it was... I mean you know that I've always been…

F: Yes you've always been a student of history, ancient history...

S: And arts I suppose, and I guess that having all these post modern and ancient treasures. This concentration of it and it's just the fact that all over here that must have some sort of …um, magnet.

That's what makes me happy to be here and in a certain way, when I arrived and I saw it's unfair almost that everything is here. And I guess that kept me here and now I feel like, I mean when I seem to take it for granted sometimes, I realise what kind of a privilege it is to be…just to have the access to museums whenever I feel like it. People travel half way the world to come and see these places. And I can go whenever I want. (Laughter)

It's these little privileges that kinda keep me attracted to the place even more. I mean having hundreds of years of history at my request is quite great. I couldnt explain it in a better way. I think it's um I like it. And I guess that's what keeps me, that’s the magnetism of Paris. It's all these stories that are coming from certain books and what not. So many stories. You have the Paris of Hemingway, you have the Paris of Orwell, you have the  Paris of the ‘60s. All these books. To be here, I guess, there is this sort of energy left behind by all these people that I guess is the reason why I feel like home here.

But for me, it's no different than for example being at home in Sydney with you or there’s another place where I felt a connection where neither of us come from but it’s in India. When I went to McLeod Gunj with my friend Andrew, I enjoyed that place. Somehow the mountains you know, the far North of India, I found that place beautiful. There was nothing, there was no electricity but it was great and you know that was fantastic and I really felt like home there too so..you think this place, it’s been untouched for thousands of years, and it will pretty much be the same. There are no roads, there’s nothing. You go beyond a certain point and it's just the same mountains that were there thousands of years ago.

F: Millions of years ago.

S: Yeah, who knows how long. But you know that then you think about the stories, the myths, the legends we have and they all speak about these mountains. It's the same mountain they would have seen like thousands of years ago. That's a certain richness that I was attracted to and I guess that's why my mind can run a wild. That's another feeling of what home could be but it's an abstract at the same time, you know what I mean? It's the idea but at the same time being at home with you guys and having home food…that's also nice.  I could also have, we could be in Timbuktu and cook some food. (Laughter) If we can eat together at the same time then that place that would be home.

F: I just want to interrupt you. Talking about memories of your childhood, like even as a very young kid, you used to stand before the shoe shop and you used to keep staring at a new arrival week after week...

S: I can recall several occasions of shoe shops. I can recall clothes. I can recall your fear of not wanting to take me to the clothing section of any place. (Laughter) You know too well about the arguments that we’ve had over shit like this.

F: But I also want to jog your memory…the fact that for a kid we could go to many up-market stores in Singapore and we come back buying nothing  or you had something in your mind and if you didn't find what you wanted you used to walk away within half an hour or one hour. It was extraordinary for a kid so I wonder if that is changed or you continue to be that?

S: Umm, I don't like going to shopping. I guess when I was a kid I was fascinated by the choice of having all these things you faced. Like you walk into a store and see all these things. I guess for a kid it must be fascinating.

F: Of course it is but .. as a curious kid you used to walk away without picking anything because it didn't quite gel with what you wanted.

S: Yeah, I suppose I knew I had this idea in my head about what I needed to what I liked and what I wanted to look like! So I think I know if something didn’t fit that then I wasn't interested. That part of me is still alive and well today,  I don’t deny. Every now and then I find myself walking through shops and i’m like you know, i don’t want this garbage and I just walk out. (laughter)

F: We still have a problem because we can’t buy you anything because it may not be exactly what you want.

S: Hey! You can ask my friends. I can't buy myself anything and in fact, that’s what led me to doing what I do. I have to literally spend months you know working on stuff that I want. For me, in order for me to feel comfortable in a garment, or in an object, or in an investment,  i mean I have to literally make it physically myself because now I'm so obsessed with how things are made, that I have to meet the best people , the best craftsmen and I have to go through that ordeal of having to realise it and then by the time I realise it, i’m on to the next thing. So i guess i’m someone that can never really be satisfied when it comes to the things. But that’s what keeps me creative I suppose. I still don’t go shopping. I feel like it’s definitely not something I enjoy doing. Although I don’t mind browsing if it’s for research or something else but it’s not ever really something. It's not an easy thing for myself. If I have to shop for myself, it’s traumatic. (Laughter)

F: Well, tell me do you still feel connected to india? In terms superficial or deeper away? in either way! If so, is it reflected in your work or in what you are trying to do? Because we all carry baggage, good or bad,  of the culture or heritage where you come from—does that have a bearing on your work?

S: Absolutely I think, but it's not literal. It’s not something that I...I guess I don't like to live up to the stereotypical image of - drawing inspiration from India, you know what I mean? It’s like a giveaway. And being of Indian descent but not being entirely raised there is something that gives me the advantage of looking at Indian history, which is something that fascinated me always as a both an insider and outsider at the same time and I guess, I do reference Indian history in my work but it's subtle you know? For example, in my very first collection the references to desert tribes in Rajasthan were there but I wasn't direct.

I don't like it to be obvious. It's what the industry wants you to be obvious and I don't like that.. it becomes too easy. I want people to read between the lines and if you get it you do, but it takes away all the mystery if you put everything out there. If you state your references so clearly, then all the fun is taken out of it. You know I like to mix my references so well that they are almost undetectable. That's the way I like to work. If you look at my own life with all the different places where I have been and my eye has travelled so; if I had to focus on one thing at a time it's impossible as you know I'm a product of so many different things and  cultures. So, how could you explain it in one motif?

F: Sorry, interrupting. Do you also fear that it could be reduced to cross-commercial enterprise? Having to be obvious about the ethnicity because people do after all expect certain motifs if you're an Indian or a Japanese or Chinese or African. Do you fear it?

S: No, no one ever has this question about white people. And it seems like if someone is white, they can reference any country, seem to borrow from every culture in the world and appropriate it into their own thing. And even now, really influential people getaway without being called out for culture appropriation. I just feel like we live in a time when we don't have to live upto any specific stereotype. Because if I want to focus on india, and if I want to focus on Japan in a season, I should have the freedom to do so as long as I'm doing it in a manner that it’s respectful, or should I say as long as I'm doing it in a manner that is not disrespectful at referencing. Or working in a way that’s sensitive to where I'm drawing the inspiration from and that kind of authenticity is what is expected from a designer.

So I don't see why just because I’m from indian descent i have to  reference India or do it in a way thats not obvious so that the non Indian can understand immediately. I'm not trying to please anybody. My work is about my personal universe and if anyone gets it, they get it. If they don't get it, they are welcome to find a new person to buy something from.

F: I suppose all the more, because you are also coming from Australia. So in that context people might expect you to bring some Australian motifs

S: Exactly why my work is about didgeridoos and boomerang. That’s exactly what I am, aren’t I? Again, this is about that or it has to be about self-culture. People need to do think beyond the obvious.

F: And their ethnicity I supposed.

S: We need to be proud of it. But how we choose to express all our ideas do not have to be  defined by our ethnicity. If I choose to reference let's say, the rumoured affair of Nehru and Jacky Kennedy. That is a part of Indian history. People talk about this rumour. Did that actually happen? Was it true? Was he really sleeping with Jacky Hill? There were rumours that he was a womaniser and it was a controversial topic to some people but whether we like it or not, it is a part of Indian history. Nehru was a charming man, he had a  great sense of style and if I had to reference him I wouldn't do it in a way that is direct. And this is the kind of Indian history that i’m interested in because it reminds me of all the conversations I would hear you guys talking about, when you're having a beer with the family you know? Things like that come up in conversation and those memories still exist.

F: I guess you are talking about, are we talking about both lady Mountbatten and Nehru?

S: um, was it lady Mountbatten? I thought there was rumour that he also tried to charm Jacky Kennedy.

F: He probably did (laughter)

S: That's the affair that is a little more famous than the Kennedy one, i guess that was the give away.

F: Absolutely. I might have been mistaken .

S: Anyways I was just giving an example of part of Indian history. Whether it's true or not it's not the question. It's more about the focus on this magnetism that Nehru had. For example, if I could work on a collection based on this one idea but putting it in a different context. This is my approach to how I work but it's something the average person might not really know about. Most people don’t even know who Nehru is.

However when people meet me they ask - do you watch Bollywood movies? Also you must know who these movie stars are? That is nothing to do with who or what I relate to.

F: However, I know you are a student of history. And I know you love Architecture, art and so on. People outside of India, they think about the Taj mahal, the dessert, the camel, the elephant and so on. However, there is so much more to India than these things, like the temples that were built thousands of years ago, they still exist. I think it's natural that the art and architecture would come up in some way in your work or is it something subconsciously that happens?

S: I think it's the latter. I haven't actually put out that much work that can speak for itself but like it's gonna take some time for that side of me to come out. It's only been one collection. The more work that comes out, it’s bound to happen as time progresses. It takes a lot of time for ideas to realise unfortunately. Being a perfectionist, it's a slow process. There are so many ideas that aren’t yet realised. I feel like it’s bound to come down the line.

F: I'm going to move to more personal perhaps. If you're not comfortable you could say it or forget it, we’re not going there but  most people you say home to that's where they have there personal objects, memorabilia. You mentioned that you have never really held onto objects, or anything like that?

S: But, um you should know well. Because I pretty much grew up like a gypsy. I haven't really liked to hold onto anything.

F: I'm sure you have some sentimental objects or what you collected through your mother or that may make some appearance from time to time where you live?

S: I think you're talking about…Okay there are two different things I don't carry things with myself but if you're asking me if I have something at home that I keep that will be in my roots in a certain way. I do keep some things that mum gives me from time to time, whenever i visit home she always forces me to take certain things back with me. For the last 10 years I've held down to things which she enforces on me.

So, I've got the pressure cooker.. (giggles) you know I didn't ask it for that, but it’s almost like I have to take it with me. Like shut up and take it, so keep it. Now it's become something that is sentimental.  I don't use it often but I still keep it and it's the same with the little Ganesha that I keep at home and the little Sai Baba. It's all these things she gives me I keep. It's out of respect and that becomes sentimental after a while. It's given to me out of love and affection.

F: What about the spices but that's something..

S: Oh, I like to cook . I guess you could say that food as lot to do than my idea of home as well in a certain way, that's a strong connection. As long as I'm making stuff that  makes me feel like I'm home with you guys. And that's a feeling of being at home. That's why you could say that cooking Indian food from time to time makes me feel like home too.

F: That's absolutely good to know and is there something, some physical memento through your journey, that you pick up, not just something that your mum gives, but something that you want to hold onto, that has certain emotional value for you?

S: Mostly, it has just been  my work. I still have pieces that I've made. Wherever i might have been. . I did spend some time in India working on some clothes and shoes. And I still hold on to those things. I mean there are some at home in Sydney and there's some here in home in Paris that I keep with me.

F: And I might tell you that some of your stuff back from who knows when is still there. Just in case you ask for it someday…

S: Ya, There you go. Like the work I've done which if I haven't sold but I've kept it. And I keep them, I store them away. And those serve as milestone or memory milestones you can call for me to look back. Apart from these objects, I don't like of my own creation. I don't particularly  care about holding on to things. I do hold on to, i think the things that I purchased for my personal research.

It could be clothing, vintage book but you know for years I never had the books either because I thought that they were cumbersome. I would have to to move around a lot and books are always heavy carrying them around was a real pain in the neck. I never thought of doing that. Clothes were always sort of easy. You can keep them in the suitcase, carry them away and it became so many then just leave it with someone else and then you move on, and with books I felt that now that I have a place of my own I do collect books and I do hold down to books too. Books, and I do hold on to objects like records and some art pieces but then I would give up all those things up in a day. I'll be just ok with some of my precious works and personal things. So I don't really care about holding things.

F: I know that. Just one last thing..

S: I won't forget the pressure cooker. (Laughter)

F: I'm going wind up by asking just one thing. Do you feel you have arrived? or do you think you'll ever feel you've arrived or this is it where I've reached where i wanted to be in the journey.

S: Honestly, That's you know that kind of satisfaction can only be achieved if ..I guess (pause) That's a tricky question.

F: Does one every feel that they have arrived?

S: Um, I guess that’s my life’s goal, isn’t it?  I've worked my whole life to create this idea of feeling at ease with both myself and with my surroundings by starting what meant to me was this idea of my own personal universe, my creative home or my spiritual home established in Paris. I guess, the day that I can create without any restrictions and if I'm able to satisfy my creative urges freely without much financial restraints, or…

F: worrying about the rent, bills (Laughter)

S: Bills and other stuff. That would be my idea of liking or feeling like home. Not an idea but it's so abstract this concept of what home can be but yes this is certainly what I'm working towards and it's a work in progress. To answer your question, this feeling of  having arrived somewhere now is even more complex, that's almost getting a bit meta here. That sense of satisfaction will only come with time I suppose. And I hope I do get some sense of satisfaction out of  my life because. By achieving certain goals. The closer I get to whatever dreams that are locked in my head that sense of satisfaction would hopefully one day arrive or it may never. You don't know.

F: Well, I do hope you reach. I hope that you get that sense of satisfaction someday. I only asked that because for a whole lot of young people…you are probably living their dreams because you went to Paris with absolutely nothing but a bag full of your work, your collection and started making a living for yourself with nobody to support you, no big bucks to back you, not even us, we couldn’t back you much, but as far as we are concerned, you’ve already made it and fact that making a living from scratch in a strange new land? That’s great. You've done well. Wish you luck for what you do.

S: Thank you. (Giggles)

F: on that note, I'd like to say...sorry, did you say something?

S: no, you just make me laugh to something you say. (giggles)

F: no, because you've set yourself really very high standard and I just want you to know that you are already doing well but..

S: You said make it. Make it where? Make it how? (laughter) Does anybody ever make it?

F: (Laughs) Well on that note..we should carry on this conversation on another day. For now, we'll call it off.

S: Alright, ok.

F: Thank you. Bye.

For Vaz Rajan, a 30-year-old craftsman and shoe designer who’s been living in Paris for a better part of the last decade, the idea of such earthly shelter finds itself more comfortable to dance between abstractions rather than offer any certainties. Having lived a largely nomadic life between continents and cities, with some ancestral mooring in Southern India, his is a story that is only just beginning.

A story where home is but a construction of his own personal universe, filled most importantly with the freedom to create without restraints. What follows are excerpts from a private conversation between him and his Sydney-based father as they build bridges between his childhood, his present and his potential future, to map out what home might come to mean across a lifetime.

Father: How are you doing?

Son (Vaz Ranjan): I'm good, I'm good. Tell me what's up now. Let's get on with this.

Father: Yes well, I've been wanting to know this. When you think of home do you think of Paris where you’ve been living for the past ten years. Or Sydney where we—your mom, sister and I—live or India, where we all come from?

Son: Um, Good question! (Laughter) I guess you know for me it really doesn't matter where you know. I don’t really think a specific place. For me, it's more of a state of mind. I don't know… because I have my thing to go home which is here (Paris) and then I have being with you guys, which I guess is an idea of home too. You know what I mean? We could be together at a certain place, could be anywhere. I guess, that would be my idea of what home is too.

F: But do you think of India as a childhood, your memory, often?

S: Ummm, it does play a certain role. I did think of it at times, but it goes go back to the idea of us being together as a family. Kids don't really like…I dont think of ‘home’ when I think of India. I think india being India…when I think of the this idea of home, it’s just one of the different homes I can think about. Wherever we've been together as a family. Because there are so many different concepts of what home could be to me.

Home is also when I'm in my own space, when I'm alone in the place I live, I feel like okay this is one idea of home too. When I'm in Italy working on stuff, that is also an idea where I feel like I'm at home. So to answer your question, all three places—India, Sydney and Paris represent some idea of home to me. I mean, it's an abstract in its own way.

F: Ok, what about your memories from your childhood that stand out to you? Which in some way connects to a home you’ve lived in?

S: Of course, like anybody, I have memories from my childhood that standout to me. As you already know, we moved around a bit. The fixated notion of home for me, it never really applied and it's strange, when I look at someone like Nikki. She has much more of a fixed idea of what home could be. but me, I don't have such. it's always been about wherever I am I guess.

F: Yeah, for you it’s been about feeling comfortable where you are, doing what you want, I guess that’s been more like home for you?

S: Yes, you're right. I guess I've always been, physically speaking, fine wherever you’ve put me. I never really had an attachment to specific place or a specific surrounding. I was okay no matter where I was. But I guess, in a certain way I did find a certain attachment to Paris… that's why I live here. It felt like home when I arrived. So I guess that explains the concept. You know I arrived here 10 years ago and I never wanted to leave. I felt really attached right away. I've told you in the past...I found a vaguely spiritual connection to this place. But it's not spiritual in the typical sense of spirituality but spiritual in the sense of feeling connected to the city in a strange way I guess.

F: that's right, you've been mentioning that even sometimes, when you walk through the streets, for the first time you had the feeling of having been there before felt that you've been there before. It’s a totally different feeling to expect in the new place.

S: It's strange and it's true. All I needed to do was walk on the streets. For me, that was almost right. It helped me take my mind off things.

F: Could it be that, because it has so many people of different arts and it’s like the artistic community out there, and the milieu they live in, could it be that?

S: No, I think it's just the history. For me it was... I mean you know that I've always been…

F: Yes you've always been a student of history, ancient history...

S: And arts I suppose, and I guess that having all these post modern and ancient treasures. This concentration of it and it's just the fact that all over here that must have some sort of …um, magnet. That's what makes me happy to be here and in a certain way, when I arrived and I saw it's unfair almost that everything is here. And I guess that kept me here and now I feel like, I mean when I seem to take it for granted sometimes, I realise what kind of a privilege it is to be…just to have the access to museums whenever I feel like it. People travel half way the world to come and see these places. And I can go whenever I want. (Laughter)

It's these little privileges that kinda keep me attracted to the place even more. I mean having hundreds of years of history at my request is quite great. I couldnt explain it in a better way. I think it's um I like it. And I guess that's what keeps me, that’s the magnetism of Paris. It's all these stories that are coming from certain books and what not. So many stories.

You have the Paris of Hemingway, you have the Paris of Orwell, you have the  Paris of the ‘60s. All these books. To be here, I guess, there is this sort of energy left behind by all these people that I guess is the reason why I feel like home here.

But for me, it's no different than for example being at home in Sydney with you or there’s another place where I felt a connection where neither of us come from but it’s in India. When I went to McLeod Gunj with my friend Andrew, I enjoyed that place. Somehow the mountains you know, the far North of India, I found that place beautiful. There was nothing, there was no electricity but it was great and you know that was fantastic and I really felt like home there too so..you think this place, it’s been untouched for thousands of years, and it will pretty much be the same. There are no roads, there’s nothing. You go beyond a certain point and it's just the same mountains that were there thousands of years ago.

F: Millions of years ago.

S: Yeah, who knows how long. But you know that then you think about the stories, the myths, the legends we have and they all speak about these mountains. It's the same mountain they would have seen like thousands of years ago. That's a certain richness that I was attracted to and I guess that's why my mind can run a wild. That's another feeling of what home could be but it's an abstract at the same time, you know what I mean? It's the idea but at the same time being at home with you guys and having home food…that's also nice.  I could also have, we could be in Timbuktu and cook some food. (Laughter) If we can eat together at the same time then that place that would be home.

F: I just want to interrupt you. Talking about memories of your childhood, like even as a very young kid, you used to stand before the shoe shop and you used to keep staring at a new arrival week after week...

S: I can recall several occasions of shoe shops. I can recall clothes. I can recall your fear of not wanting to take me to the clothing section of any place. (Laughter) You know too well about the arguments that we’ve had over shit like this.

F: But I also want to jog your memory…the fact that for a kid we could go to many up-market stores in Singapore and we come back buying nothing  or you had something in your mind and if you didn't find what you wanted you used to walk away within half an hour or one hour. It was extraordinary for a kid so I wonder if that is changed or you continue to be that?

S: Umm, I don't like going to shopping. I guess when I was a kid I was fascinated by the choice of having all these things you faced. Like you walk into a store and see all these things. I guess for a kid it must be fascinating.

F: Of course it is but .. as a curious kid you used to walk away without picking anything because it didn't quite gel with what you wanted.

S: Yeah, I suppose I knew I had this idea in my head about what I needed to what I liked and what I wanted to look like! So I think I know if something didn’t fit that then I wasn't interested. That part of me is still alive and well today,  I don’t deny. Every now and then I find myself walking through shops and i’m like you know, i don’t want this garbage and I just walk out. (laughter)

F: We still have a problem because we can’t buy you anything because it may not be exactly what you want.

S: Hey! You can ask my friends. I can't buy myself anything and in fact, that’s what led me to doing what I do. I have to literally spend months you know working on stuff that I want. For me, in order for me to feel comfortable in a garment, or in an object, or in an investment,  i mean I have to literally make it physically myself because now I'm so obsessed with how things are made, that I have to meet the best people , the best craftsmen and I have to go through that ordeal of having to realise it and then by the time I realise it, i’m on to the next thing.

So i guess i’m someone that can never really be satisfied when it comes to the things. But that’s what keeps me creative I suppose. I still don’t go shopping. I feel like it’s definitely not something I enjoy doing. Although I don’t mind browsing if it’s for research or something else but it’s not ever really something. It's not an easy thing for myself. If I have to shop for myself, it’s traumatic. (Laughter)

F: Well, tell me do you still feel connected to india? In terms superficial or deeper away? in either way! If so, is it reflected in your work or in what you are trying to do? Because we all carry baggage, good or bad,  of the culture or heritage where you come from—does that have a bearing on your work?

S: Absolutely I think, but it's not literal. It’s not something that I...I guess I don't like to live up to the stereotypical image of - drawing inspiration from India, you know what I mean? It’s like a giveaway. And being of Indian descent but not being entirely raised there is something that gives me the advantage of looking at Indian history, which is something that fascinated me always as a both an insider and outsider at the same time and I guess, I do reference Indian history in my work but it's subtle you know? For example, in my very first collection the references to desert tribes in Rajasthan were there but I wasn't direct.

I don't like it to be obvious. It's what the industry wants you to be obvious and I don't like that.. it becomes too easy. I want people to read between the lines and if you get it you do, but it takes away all the mystery if you put everything out there. If you state your references so clearly, then all the fun is taken out of it.

You know I like to mix my references so well that they are almost undetectable. That's the way I like to work. If you look at my own life with all the different places where I have been and my eye has travelled so; if I had to focus on one thing at a time it's impossible as you know I'm a product of so many different things and  cultures. So, how could you explain it in one motif?

F: Sorry, interrupting. Do you also fear that it could be reduced to cross-commercial enterprise? Having to be obvious about the ethnicity because people do after all expect certain motifs if you're an Indian or a Japanese or Chinese or African. Do you fear it?

S: No, no one ever has this question about white people. And it seems like if someone is white, they can reference any country, seem to borrow from every culture in the world and appropriate it into their own thing. And even now, really influential people getaway without being called out for culture appropriation. I just feel like we live in a time when we don't have to live upto any specific stereotype. Because if I want to focus on india, and if I want to focus on Japan in a season, I should have the freedom to do so as long as I'm doing it in a manner that it’s respectful, or should I say as long as I'm doing it in a manner that is not disrespectful at referencing. Or working in a way that’s sensitive to where I'm drawing the inspiration from and that kind of authenticity is what is expected from a designer.

So I don't see why just because I’m from indian descent i have to  reference India or do it in a way thats not obvious so that the non Indian can understand immediately. I'm not trying to please anybody. My work is about my personal universe and if anyone gets it, they get it. If they don't get it, they are welcome to find a new person to buy something from.

F: I suppose all the more, because you are also coming from Australia. So in that context people might expect you to bring some Australian motifs.

S: Exactly why my work is about didgeridoos and boomerang. That’s exactly what I am, aren’t I? Again, this is about that or it has to be about self-culture. People need to do think beyond the obvious.

F: And their ethnicity I suppose.

S: We need to be proud of it. But how we choose to express all our ideas do not have to be  defined by our ethnicity. If I choose to reference let's say, the rumoured affair of Nehru and Jacky Kennedy. That is a part of Indian history. People talk about this rumour. Did that actually happen? Was it true? Was he really sleeping with Jacky Hill? There were rumours that he was a womaniser and it was a controversial topic to some people but whether we like it or not, it is a part of Indian history.

Nehru was a charming man, he had a  great sense of style and if I had to reference him I wouldn't do it in a way that is direct. And this is the kind of Indian history that i’m interested in because it reminds me of all the conversations I would hear you guys talking about, when you're having a beer with the family you know? Things like that come up in conversation and those memories still exist.

F: I guess you are talking about, are we talking about both lady Mountbatten and Nehru?

S: um, was it lady Mountbatten? I thought there was rumour that he also tried to charm Jacky Kennedy.

F: He probably did. (laughter)

S: That's the affair that is a little more famous than the Kennedy one, i guess that was the give away.

F: Absolutely. I might have been mistaken.

S: Anyways I was just giving an example of part of Indian history. Whether it's true or not it's not the question. It's more about the focus on this magnetism that Nehru had. For example, if I could work on a collection based on this one idea but putting it in a different context. This is my approach to how I work but it's something the average person might not really know about. Most people don’t even know who Nehru is.

However when people meet me they ask - do you watch Bollywood movies? Also you must know who these movie stars are? That is nothing to do with who or what I relate to.

F: However, I know you are a student of history. And I know you love Architecture, art and so on. People outside of India, they think about the Taj mahal, the dessert, the camel, the elephant and so on. However, there is so much more to India than these things, like the temples that were built thousands of years ago, they still exist. I think it's natural that the art and architecture would come up in some way in your work or is it something subconsciously that happens?

S: I think it's the latter. I haven't actually put out that much work that can speak for itself but like it's gonna take some time for that side of me to come out. It's only been one collection. The more work that comes out, it’s bound to happen as time progresses. It takes a lot of time for ideas to realise unfortunately. Being a perfectionist, it's a slow process. There are so many ideas that aren’t yet realised. I feel like it’s bound to come down the line.

F: I'm going to move to more personal perhaps. If you're not comfortable you could say it or forget it, we’re not going there but  most people you say home to that's where they have there personal objects, memorabilia. You mentioned that you have never really held onto objects, or anything like that?

S: But, um you should know well. Because I pretty much grew up like a gypsy. I haven't really liked to hold onto anything.

F: I'm sure you have some sentimental objects or what you collected through your mother or that may make some appearance from time to time where you live?

S: I think you're talking about…Okay there are two different things I don't carry things with myself but if you're asking me if I have something at home that I keep that will be in my roots in a certain way. I do keep some things that mum gives me from time to time, whenever i visit home she always forces me to take certain things back with me. For the last 10 years I've held down to things which she enforces on me.

So, I've got the pressure cooker.. (giggles) you know I didn't ask it for that, but it’s almost like I have to take it with me. Like shut up and take it, so keep it. Now it's become something that is sentimental.  I don't use it often but I still keep it and it's the same with the little Ganesha that I keep at home and the little Sai Baba. It's all these things she gives me I keep. It's out of respect and that becomes sentimental after a while. It's given to me out of love and affection.

F: What about the spices but that's something..

S: Oh, I like to cook . I guess you could say that food as lot to do than my idea of home as well in a certain way, that's a strong connection. As long as I'm making stuff that  makes me feel like I'm home with you guys. And that's a feeling of being at home. That's why you could say that cooking Indian food from time to time makes me feel like home too.

F: That's absolutely good to know and is there something, some physical memento through your journey, that you pick up, not just something that your mum gives, but something that you want to hold onto, that has certain emotional value for you?

S: Mostly, it has just been  my work. I still have pieces that I've made. Wherever i might have been. . I did spend some time in India working on some clothes and shoes. And I still hold on to those things. I mean there are some at home in Sydney and there's some here in home in Paris that I keep with me.

F: And I might tell you that some of your stuff back from who knows when is still there. Just in case you ask for it someday…

S: Ya, There you go. Like the work I've done which if I haven't sold but I've kept it. And I keep them, I store them away. And those serve as milestone or memory milestones you can call for me to look back. Apart from these objects, I don't like of my own creation. I don't particularly  care about holding on to things. I do hold on to, i think the things that I purchased for my personal research.

It could be clothing, vintage book but you know for years I never had the books either because I thought that they were cumbersome. I would have to to move around a lot and books are always heavy carrying them around was a real pain in the neck. I never thought of doing that. Clothes were always sort of easy. You can keep them in the suitcase, carry them away and it became so many then just leave it with someone else and then you move on, and with books I felt that now that I have a place of my own I do collect books and I do hold down to books too. Books, and I do hold on to objects like records and some art pieces but then I would give up all those things up in a day. I'll be just ok with some of my precious works and personal things. So I don't really care about holding things.

F: I know that. Just one last thing..

S: I won't forget the pressure cooker. (Laughter)

F: I'm going wind up by asking just one thing. Do you feel you have arrived? or do you think you'll ever feel you've arrived or this is it where I've reached where i wanted to be in the journey.

S: Honestly, That's you know that kind of satisfaction can only be achieved if ..I guess (pause) That's a tricky question.

F: Does one every feel that they have arrived?

S: Um, I guess that’s my life’s goal, isn’t it?  I've worked my whole life to create this idea of feeling at ease with both myself and with my surroundings by starting what meant to me was this idea of my own personal universe, my creative home or my spiritual home established in Paris. I guess, the day that I can create without any restrictions and if I'm able to satisfy my creative urges freely without much financial restraints, or…

F: worrying about the rent, bills. (Laughter)

S: Bills and other stuff. That would be my idea of liking or feeling like home. Not an idea but it's so abstract this concept of what home can be but yes this is certainly what I'm working towards and it's a work in progress. To answer your question, this feeling of  having arrived somewhere now is even more complex, that's almost getting a bit meta here. That sense of satisfaction will only come with time I suppose.

And I hope I do get some sense of satisfaction out of  my life because. By achieving certain goals. The closer I get to whatever dreams that are locked in my head that sense of satisfaction would hopefully one day arrive or it may never. You don't know.

F: Well, I do hope you reach. I hope that you get that sense of satisfaction someday. I only asked that because for a whole lot of young people…you are probably living their dreams because you went to Paris with absolutely nothing but a bag full of your work, your collection and started making a living for yourself with nobody to support you, no big bucks to back you, not even us, we couldn’t back you much, but as far as we are concerned, you’ve already made it and fact that making a living from scratch in a strange new land? That’s great. You've done well. Wish you luck for what you do.

S: Thank you. (Giggles)

F: on that note, I'd like to say...sorry, did you say something?

S: no, you just make me laugh to something you say. (giggles)

F: No, because you've set yourself really very high standard and I just want you to know that you are already doing well but..

S: You said make it. Make it where? Make it how? (laughter) Does anybody ever make it?

F: (Laughs) Well on that note..we should carry on this conversation on another day. For now, we'll call it off.

S: Alright, ok.

F: Thank you. Bye.