How a former special educator, without formal training in design, makes handmade hip
We’re certain we’ve found the young woman from Usha Janome sewing machine’s storybook-like stop-motion TV commercial—Runa Damji’s technicoloured Facebook photo stream is proof. Ever since her husband bought an entry-level Usha Janome Allure in 2009, the 35-year-old entrepreneur has been stitching mix-and-match fabrics to create handbags, summer dresses, baby clothes, gadget covers and even curtains, quilts and cushion covers under her label Haathmade by Runa.
Damji, a former special educator, has no formal training in design and yet each of her products follows a contemporary aesthetic that would easily suit the crafts-only e-commerce website Etsy. While studying home science at Lady Amritbai Daga College in Nagpur, Damji would often outsource her stitching projects to family members. But once she began stitching and sister Meera Damji, a radio jockey, started carrying her handmade bags to work, orders started pouring in.
Damji shops for no more than a metre of any fabric, so every design is unique and is constantly sourcing odd scraps in the city and on holidays in India and abroad. She often ends up buying leftovers of export-reject materials by the kilo in her hometown Bareilly. This way, nearly every product is made of at least half a dozen different textiles. “I always put in a surprise in all of my products," says Damji. “It could be a different colour or pattern popping out of a pocket or inner linings. Sometimes I’ll stitch on an initial or add a key ring holder."
So far, Damji only accepted custom orders—from wallets to and cutlery and napkin holders—but for the last four months, she’s has also been working on an inventory of assorted pouches, cross body bags, clutches, Kindle and iPad covers for her online store.
Haathmade by Runa products are priced from ₹ 500-2,000. To place an order and for details, visit www.haathmadebyruna.com.