Going the distance
Shweyta Mudgal says one of the things she missed most about her hometown, Mumbai, when she moved to New York City in the US over a decade ago, was the convenience of a neighbourhood tailor. Sick of shopping on the high street through the year, Mudgal says shopping for mix-and-match printed fabrics and meetings with the nearest “masterji” were always at the top of her “When-in-Mumbai” to-do lists. In an attempt to stock her two-year-old daughter’s wardrobe with more than just pink, “princess” clothing bought from stores like Gap and H&M, Mudgal managed to coax her dressmakers into stitching comfortable clothes for her toddler too.
Two years ago, Mudgal and her husband decided to turn into “global nomads”, and have travelled and lived in over 20 countries since then. Presently based in Mumbai, 35-year-old Mudgal decided to switch careers earlier this February. “From an architect working on mega constructions of airports to a designer creating comfortable play clothes for kids,” she says. “The only thing that’s changed is the measuring tape I use and that the dimensions of the designs are much smaller.”
As a long-time devotee of stores like Fabindia and The Shop, Mudgal says her clothes for children fall in the boho-chic category, in line with her personal dressing sense. There are “hippie” rompers in black and white with cute animal motifs, dresses for newborns in batik (called “baby batiks”), kurtas and shirts in block-printed fabrics with pockets and detailing in contrasting colours, pin-tucked, A-line dresses that can be worn as tops as the child grows taller, and fold-up shorts made out of full-size lungis.
But it’s the little details that we fell in love with—all the clothes are fitted with pockets because “kids love collecting little objects”; buttons and hooks are used only if necessary and are transparent or neutral in colour; garments come with labels that urge parents to maximize their use and encourage recycling; and even the punch holes in the tags are in an adorable T-shirt shape. Until a few weeks ago, Mudgal was not only hand-picking reams of fabric but also hand washing it at home to make sure “they are comfortable enough for kids to fall asleep in”. She continues to oversee the new unit that is assisting her with pre-washing and pre-shrinking the cottons used to make her loose-fitting designs.
Though Mudgal had initially planned to launch her label, eight thousand miles, only in New York, she decided to retail her clothes in India too after a successful sale at Bazaar & Bling, an event hosted by Bandra restaurant and café Candies in February. The first set of samples Mudgal created and sold, including dresses and shirts, were made using metre-long fabrics bought in Khar, stitched variously by a local tailor, a wholesale manufacturing unit and seamstresses working for the non-profit organization Aadhar Skill Development Trust (ASDT).
A series of happy accidents led to a collaboration with seamstresses employed by the ASDT: Mudgal says her tailors were too fussy and overworked to stitch children’s clothes and the manufacturing unit had turned out to be the most expensive option for the business. Apart from Mudgal’s designs, the eight thousand miles brand also stocks hand-stitched clothes for children sourced from travelling craft groups and artisans participating in handloom and handicraft fairs in the city. Rather than commissioning orders, Mudgal says she buys the products she likes outright and then creates special labels to credit their makers.
Ditching the trucks-for-boys and tiaras-for-girls mantra, eight thousand miles is one of the few brands that willingly opts for unisex styles. “I didn’t think there was a market for such clothes here in India but I’m constantly surprised at the way moms are shopping these days,” says Mudgal. “At The Lil Flea sale in Bandra, I was thrilled that parents were buying the kurtas and shirts I had designed for boys for their little girls to pair with shorts and vice versa.”
Basic kurtas and shorts from eight thousand miles are priced at Rs.600, shirts at Rs.700, dresses range from Rs.1,200-1,500, and bedding and quilts are priced at Rs.2,500-3,000. For details and to place orders, visit www.facebook.com/eightthousandmiles.theshop