The quest for meaning is a life-long mission for the Malkanis. When they launched their first signature collection in 2014 it was aptly called Life. The set of bags began by exploring the social, sartorial and psychological significance of bags. They were more practical bags that were positioned at the vanguard of style taking into consideration the fact that bags are most crucial to women on a daily basis. Common to all the bags in the line were their functional origins — they were designed to carry the necessities of Life. The fact that Bags were hot and handbag mania dominates fashion was also not lost on them. At the same time Life imbued the truth that modern women in the UAE have increasingly assumed new roles, while also retaining their traditional aspirations. So Life answered some fundamental questions like: Why do women carry bags? How can men function without bags? What, after all, do women carry in their bags. It was as much research as it was results. Purses, at the end of it all, hold out the hope of a better, or at least a better arranged, Life.
Life was followed by Love in 2015. Handbag, it has been historically proved, is a woman’s best friend because the handbag carries the objects that calm their insecurities and support their vanity. Designer Nathalie Hambro says, “A woman carries her neuroses in her handbag.” In fact, a recent research by scientists showed that a woman’s most expressive way to highlight her style or signal her status is by buying designer luxury handbags and shoes. The research proves that women buy three handbags in a year simply to make it evident that they are highly interested in keeping their relations safe and protected from other women.
During the research, Vladas Griskevicius and his PhD student, Yajin Wang, investigated what most other women conclude about a woman and her partner from her luxury possessions. They found out that a woman wearing designer and branded products has a more devoted and loving partner. As a result, other women were seen to flirt less with the partner. The other side of this is that men find the best way to express their love is buying gifts for their loved ones and handbags are on the top of that list. And women show-off those very handbags, it usually tells other women to back-off from their men. Women are not the only ones who invest in luxury handbags. “The largest group of customers for handbags and accessories as gifts are men,” according to research by the US-based National Fashion Accessories Association. It seems men realise the powerful appeal of handbags to women, and know they will score points by giving a bag, rather than, say, a bottle of perfume as a present. Rachna tapped into this reservoir of Love where her handbags expressed, exhibited and protected L’Amour.
BEAUTY BEYOND THE OBVIOUS
In 2016, Rachna and her husband launched Beauty Beyond the Obvious, a new handbag line that was both more eccentric and more tightly focussed than their previous collections had been and was keeping with their mission of ‘Un-labelling’. The line took more risks than the Malkanis had, and was meant for a far gutsier and empathetic customer, which made the work exciting to watch. It seemed that, even after only a few years designing for her business, Rachna had something new to say (she was, in fact, expressing something she had been carrying with her for a few years now). She was reaching out to mothers and sisters with children and kith and kin with special needs, particularly kids with autism. She was paying homage to the spirit of those parents and families “who are in this journey with their kids that demands an unbelievable inner strength for an endless amount of time”. This was an act that seemed to signify a period of reinvention.
Rachna introduced three significant designs as part of this collection that narrated a story that embroidered into the bags with crystal work. “They were done to truly enhance their beauty,” she says, “which would be still somehow unmatched to the true beauty of these kids.” It’s a small effort from our side to say to us these kids are ‘true luxury’ and have the most exuberant life within.” If that meant redefining the word luxury then so be it. “Whoever cared for labelling or pre-conceptions. We stay true to our NATIVE,” she announced nonchalantly.
The three designs were:
Doves Carrying Roses: It celebrated life with its values of peace, love and serenity, without falling into the trap of being conditioned by society. It symbolised mother’s love.
Alexander Mcqueenesque Butterflies and Roses: This nodded towards blossoming and transforming into such magical and beautiful beings. It celebrated the eternal process of change that punctuates life and traced the path to reach its full glory.
Owl and Dreamcatcher: The third was inspired by the dreamcatcher, which is often hung above a cradle to protect babies from nightmares. They are also hung above the beds of children. According to the Malkanis, the motif of the owl carrying a dream catcher celebrates life with its value of following its dreams with confidence and vision, feeling securely protected by nature itself. “Dreamcatcher carries an underlying message,” says Rachna, “of keeping our soul and true spirit from the acts we see against both ourselves and humanity”.
All the three designs were handcrafted to achieve world-class quality, with pride in the UAE by a select few who have been trained personally by master craftsmen from Italy, with top-quality material imported from Italy and France.
A year later they introduced their tantalisingly titled Duality series. Like each of their collection here too the nomenclature had a notion. In fact it was one that was deeply seated in the inner recesses of Rachna’s mind. She called it Duality “because in some way,” she says, “we occupy that state.” Two façades: One for the world and one mostly kept within ourselves. “It doesn’t mean,” she corrects, “we only live two ways, it could be that we are living perhaps hundred different ways playing every role to its perfection while in it. It truly means one me for the World the way it needs to be and one me only for me the way it truly feels Native.” In order to translate that notion onto the skin of the bags Rachna chose three titles: Extrovert, Introvert, Split Personality. The names, provocative as they may sound, are Rachna’s way of introducing some element of fun in her products and also cocking a snook at psychologists and psychoanalysts who like to give a title, a name, a label to everything and categorise everything. So here was Rachna’s attempt to break on through to the other side shattering all silos by creating her own registers.
Early this year they added another collection aptly titled Chaos considering the new world order. It also took in to account women on the go who needs a very practical bag to manage the chaotic life she leads. The bags, therefore, have been designed to weather many storms, while the colour, material, and angular body gives them a clinical edge. This bag was designed not only to make a statement but also to carry things around without a hint of messiness in the inside. Some bags in the line smacks of soft construction while exuding a rugged, handmade feeling. They have also been designed so that they can easily make the transition of space from the workplace into the evening, the gym on to the dinner. The success of these series prompted the Mini Chaos series directed the fashionable urban warriors, drawing on a hybrid of practical, utilitarian and status styles. What is unique about these bags is that from a distance each one of them resemble a tunnel perhaps referring to the dark uncertainty that a tunnel always presents and represents, but there is always light on the other side. Both Chaos and Mini Chaos marries designer catchet and quality craftsmanship with hands-free convenience and military cool.
One collection every year was not a routine that the Malkanis followed. They sneaked in a capsule collection in between. Titled Kira Kira, a word borrowed from the Japanese, it was an exclusive python series. Kira Kira means sparkling, glittering or shiny. The word kira assumes different meanings in different languages. In the original Latin Kira means light, which as Rachna puts is, a ray of hope when the world is constantly going through natural disasters, political unrest, economic crises etc. “To us,” she asserts, “at Native, Dubai symbolises that hope for a better and a promising future. That’s the thought this collection is dedicated to. So Kira Kira.”
Native is born in a place that takes pride in being a beautifully entwined mix of cultures. it is homes to almost 180 nationalities. All of them individuals and yet, blending in. learning to accept and respect so many perspectives that are different from your own. It helps you evolve as a human being and teaches you to move beyond the labels and judgements. Each bag pays ode to the spirit of this sentiment as well as the Dubai lifestyle...Entwined yet standing on it's own.
Our first ever Evening Collection created by Rachna is in the honour of her mother's memory and for the love of knitting that was her mother's true passion. This evening collection carries the beauty of tradition transitioning into modern times, keeping the values and love intact for all kinds of existence that there is. To appreciate what we have and to keep growing while having our traditions and culture knitted together.
One of Rachna's childhood memories was looking for the constellations in the sky..it's probably the most common and memorable night stories for all of us regardless of where we come from. It's the beauty...of how the cosmos thread between us and that is what motivated her to look at constellations for her inspiration.