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Student’s website brings global accessories to Denton

Student’s website brings global accessories to Denton

Fashion Design Junior Navya Kaur styles a pair of barcelona earrings sold by her brand. Kaur creates unique jewelry, headbands and journals which she sells online at kaahani.com. PC: Katie Jenkins

Student’s website brings global accessories to Denton
August 25
13:03 2017

Behind every bright, colorful accessory worn around necks or adorned on clothing is a hardworking artisan meticulously crafting together each individual piece.

Though it is the root of their livelihood, most of those artisans are completely unknown to the public.

Until now.

UNT fashion merchandising and digital retailing junior Navya Kaur decided to turn this around by launching an online store called Kaahani, which sells small batch, handmade products directly from artisans in India in hopes of shortening the gap between artisans and consumers.

“As I was growing up, I was always going to India and we would go into these markets and see these insanely talented people creating these things,” Kaur, 20, said. “Then we would come back here and go to a mall and into an H&M and see the exact same thing, but those are being made in a factory.”

Born in India and raised in the U.S., Kaur saw an opportunity to assist the Indian workers whom she had personally seen struggle by starting Kaahani, which directly translates to “story” in Hindi.

“We really like to market our products as each product has a story,” Kaur said. “Because they are handmade, each craft does have such a history behind it.”

Kaur has visited India almost every year for the past two decades to see family and normally spends a month or two immersing herself in the culture.

Being surrounded by creators and artists her entire life inspired her to start the business two years ago, although she didn’t begin making steps toward it until last December.

When she began making plans, Kaur took her idea to her friend Abigail Santillana, 19, who jumped at the idea of helping.

“I remember she told me about wanting to start Kaahani, and I wanted to help make that dream come true,” Santillana said. “I never thought her dream would become mine as well, which is why we make such a great team. [Two] 19-year-olds starting a business during their junior year of college was a big risk, but it only challenged us further to reach our goals.”

With Kaahani’s focus being on the artisans and their stories, Kaur believes it to be vital they receive complete recognition through her website.

“A lot of times these artisans are selling to bigger clients, and my goal is to really cut out those middlemen who aren’t giving them the profit and the credit they deserve,” she said. “My website is a way to showcase their art and make sure they get full credit for their hard work.”

Though the site is not a nonprofit, Kaur said the artisans make more money than if they were going through a third-party company to sell their products.

“There are people who depend on these crafts as a livelihood, and [corporations] are ripping them off,” Kaur said. “I really saw an opportunity to really help these people along with build a fashion brand.”

As the idea for the business grew, Kaur enlisted the help from friends like 20-year-old physics student Ram Prasanna. Prasanna does everything from photoshoots to editing the website and has helped the story of Kaahani grow throughout the community.

Prasanna said he was excited to work with Kaur to make the brand and her inspiring vision for it achievable.

“Navya Kaur is one of the few individuals I have met who works towards her passions,” Prasanna said. “It is both enlightening and inspiring working with her to make Kaahani reach its goal, [which is] making ethical fashion commonplace.”

Between friend and family advertising the accessories on social media to the influx of online traffic to the Kaahani website, Kaur believes Denton to be an ideal place to promote her brand due to the extensively creative community.

“It’s really helpful to have a community that backs you up on this,” Kaur said. “We’re really excited to see where it goes.”

Santillana shares the sentiment and said she has high hopes for the brand’s future, which she speculated could include clothing in the future.

“We treat our customers like they’re our friends, so having that personal connection is very important because we are an online retailer who can’t obtain that traditional relationship people acquire in brick-and-mortar stores,” Santillana said. “So, we constantly work to evolve and become a retailer [that] customers can trust and believe in our story like we believe in theirs.”

Featured Image: Fashion Design Junior Navya Kaur styles a pair of barcelona earrings sold by her brand. Kaur creates unique jewelry, headbands and journals which she sells online at kaahani.com. Katie Jenkins

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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