...a new series of interviews and blogs exclusive to Tovi Sorga, celebrating those who dare to live by the mantra: Follow Your Bliss.
Over the coming months we'll be meeting with a wonderful range of creative entrepreneurs - from fashion designers and florists to film makers and award-winning novelists - discovering some of the joys, pitfalls and rewards of turning what you love into a successful business. Expect to be just a little jealous, and seriously inspired!
Among our interviews we'll also be delving deep into the mysteries of The Humble Notebook - that unassuming space where all creators start turning dreams into reality. Which notebooks, sketchbooks and journals from the great minds of history would you most love to get your hands on?
Our very first interview is with an amazingly adventurous and talented young mother whose journeys through India with her daughter have inspired her to create the beautiful ethical clothing brand, Tuk Tuk Anouk. Read on to find out how...
I am the owner of Tuk-Tuk Anouk, a handmade, fair trade children´s clothing company based out of our home in India and sold worldwide. I design all the clothing and, up until recently, did everything myself: website, marketing, etc... Now I am doing a few other projects so can happily release a few of the roles I am not so excited about onto some really lovely new Tuk-Tuk Anouk employees!
I started the company because I was making clothes for my daughter when she was born. I have lived in India permanently for seven years and at the time was in Jaipur. We were traveling around and collecting fabrics and ideas along the way when a friend from London suggested I try to sell a few pieces in a shop there. They sold out within a month, so I headed back to our local tailor and began mapping out a collection. I was very conscious of using fabrics that are natural and promote age-old artistry, such as block printing, and khadi, which promotes village self-sustainability in rural communities.
The main driving force behind Tuk Tuk Anouk has always been my daughter, in all aspects, from silly and fun-to-make drawings she likes that end up as prints, to the base of how I support her and our life and pave the way for her future. My dearest friend in Jaipur, Marieanne Oudejans, created an amazing and hugely successful label in New York in the nineties and she has been an incredible support and guide. We spent many of our early days in Jaipur living in a complete madness of lazy adventures: lying around old havells in heat waves and dreaming up outrageous projects and stories, traveling around in tuk tuks with her Italian border collie and whichever boyfriend was in tow at the time, or getting Abdul, our somewhat insane ambassador driver, to take us into the desert to ride horses. I think the charm and magic of that time really instilled the idea that anything is possible, and I wanted to bring that into my work with Tuk Tuk Anouk .
I love working in India, but it does throw up some challenges. For the most part they are the sort of clichéd pitfalls of working in factories in India, such as quality control, things veering wildly out the margins of what you envisioned, designs being copied, and delays on everything due to: weather, holidays every other day, strikes, power cuts, someone getting married, someone dying (my original tailor’s great uncle died six times in my second collection production!). Other challenges outside of just the literal production are the constant issue (and blessing) of only having yourself to question and answer to!
In exchange for these challenges you get to learn and accept the things that you are and are not adept at within your own company, and the joy is then in delegating those roles off efficiently. I’ve also learnt how important it is never to make something I don't believe in because it’s unsustainable; and also that rudeness or discourtesy from others is not necessarily always my own fault.
I think seeing my clothes on random little beings around the world is by far the most enjoyable thing I could imagine. My daughter growing up in clothes that I made for her is a pretty incredible thing, and each season there is a little bit of our adventures in the prints or designs. We are supporting and working in the place that we have chosen to live, and really getting to know this vast and extraordinary country is a huge blessing. We have the luxury of being able to choose where to live and explore, do amazing train journeys at the drop of a hat, and see the most extraordinary things every day. Tuk Tuk Anouk supports that while also rooting us to this place.
Also reorders! And big reorders. That is hugely satisfying and a wonderful highlight.
There are lots of young artists that I meet on our travels that I would love to do prints for us. I would also love to do a collaboration with a bored billionaire who would like me to make his investments more interesting!
Nudie Cohn. And also Jemmy Hirst for sure. I would love to see how and why he decided to live the way he did and apparently he was an avid note writer. I also just went to Memphis and have developed a weird obsession with Elvis, so maybe his if he had any. I’ve always had a fascination with Leonardo Di Vinci but his notebooks have all been published.
That’s tough! I am always drawing on bits of napkins and scraps, I think I must have about forty notebooks scattered around the world. I’ve just come up with the idea (actually inspired by this interview!) to have one notebook to rule them all! And then only have that one when travelling, and only copy in what is truly worth it from all the bits and pieces. There’s something about having a really nice heavy pen and a good strong piece of paper in a beautiful notebook to write down the most important things, and it seems to add a significance and gravity to the general scribblings, so that’s the next course of action!
I illustrated a friends children's book that was published this summer so next up is doing my own! I’m in the process of setting up my own publishing company to print on the beautiful recycled paper you find in parts of India. I’ve just about completed an online retail space – threeringmarket.com – which has my own clothes, and also really lovely designs from friends and loved ones we meet along the way, such as Anami & Janine from Goa, Gipsea treasures from Kenya hand carved jewels from Anouk's father. I’m doing swimwear for TukTuk Anouk and more collaborations with local cooperatives to support women's and village self sustainability.
My wildest dream is sort of on the horizon! My daughter and I travel all the time and it can be hard to sustain yourself, not just financially but also creatively, when you are in areas that don't intrinsically support your business. I studied ethnobotany and medicinal practices from all over the world in university and had the most amazing teacher who is a medicine hunter. I have sort of translated that idea onto our travels, and those of like-minded travellers, so we are hunting for treasures in all our respective fields as we go around the world. It’s quite a diverse group of people that veer more towards the pirate lifestyle than holiday goers. We all have our own fields that we are specialised in, from gemmology to primitive European art, and document our findings as well as selling treasures online.
Discover Amber Grey Knowles's beautiful collection of ethical clothing for children and adults at Tuk Tuk Anouk and The Ring Market as well as at a range of international retailers. If you've got questions for Amber, contributions to make about #thebusinessofbliss or #thehumblenotebook, or just some thoughts to share, please leave us a comment below - we'd love to hear from you!
You can also join our Facebook group The Business of Bliss - a space to explore, support and celebrate creative entrepreneurship.
And finally, if you'd like to treat yourself or someone you love to one of our beautiful personalised leather and recycled cotton notebooks and sketchbooks you can shop the collection here.
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