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When contemporary design meets timeless craft

Karishma Swali, creative director of luxury craft collective – moonray, gets talking about philanthropic collaborations, the label's latest collection, and foraying into the capital with a new flagship store

moonray's Delhi store is a contemporary oasis with an all-white landscape and biophilic design
moonray's Delhi store is a contemporary oasis with an all-white landscape and biophilic design (moonray)

Since its launch in December 2021, moonray has been gaining recognition for building a conscious craft-based fashion community around the world – a community that appreciates its unique blend of design excellence, craft, and inclusivity. Founded by Karishma and Avantika Swali, the design house is on a constant pursuit to foster change through conscious fashion collections that are a celebration of craft and modernity.  Now, after the success of the brand's flagship store launch in Mumbai in August 2022, moonray is expanding its presence with the opening of its New Delhi store at The Dhan Mill. Lounge spoke to Karishma Swali about her new store in the capital that’s she’s also designed. Edited excerpts: 

How challenging has it been to adhere to moonray's commitment of being consciously responsible at every step of the supply chain?
We are blessed to be part of a culture where inspiration for both craft and conscious living can be found in every corner. With every collection, we try to explore the craft’s endless possibilities. For us, it is important to seek inspiration that reflects our larger message of preserving our communities and planet. I also rely on my travels to help sow seeds of an initial thought, which with the help of the craft collective, grows into a deeper, more meaningful idea that informs the theme of the collection. Today it is certainly possible to make cleaner choices at every step of the supply chain. To build a meaningful dialogue between our suppliers and designers, we work intimately with all stakeholders to ensure we learn from each other and are always aligned on both values and processes. It is of utmost importance to us that we stay true to ourselves and build a community through meaningful collaborations.

Slowly, but surely, we would love to grow our community worldwide, propelled by universal love and timeless fashion. 

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moonray recently collaborated with the Mumbai-based Jai Vakeel Foundation and School, which offers support to children with intellectual disabilities by providing vocational training and employment opportunities. What catalysed this collaboration? And since it is an ongoing initiative, what are its end goals?
Marking the occasion of World Disability Day (December 3), the moonray craft collective and the Jai Vakeel Foundation came together with an aligned vision for inclusion – to create a world that has space for everyone in it. Inspired by the resilience and happiness of the Jai Vakeel children, our co-founder Avantika Swali felt a strong desire to amplify this message of inclusion. She began illustrating and creating narratives inspired by them, resulting in the creation of unique characters that are collectively called ‘moonchildren’.  
Armed with charming personalities, this set of moonchildren includes Mario, the dog, who is a chef; Norah, the cat who is a dancer; Leo, the bunny, a magician; Ray, the dog, a hockey player; Cai, the teddy, who is a philosopher; Max, a rapper; and Maya, who is a marine biologist. These characters serve as a thoughtful reminder to spotlight abilities rather than disabilities. Designed by Avantika, the moonchildren are handcrafted by the enterprising women artisans of the Chanakya School of Craft using humble scrap fabrics. 
By joining forces with the Jai Vakeel Foundation and School, we hope to spark conversations about systemic marginalisation, be it in the form of physical or intellectual disabilities, language, social strata and more, and how everyone, at some point in their lives, has felt excluded. The ability to imagine an all-inclusive world is the beginning of affecting meaningful change. And art has the power to bring that imagination to life and amplify the voices of those unheard. 

What made you want to expand your brand’s presence into Delhi? 
We are very encouraged by the response of our community of clients and what the future holds! Delhi has always appreciated the moonray design narrative, and we are looking forward to discovering and building our community in the capital. 

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Tell us about the concept and design process of the Delhi boutique? 
moonray’s flagship store in the capital is built to embody the rarity and timelessness of craft while being an evolving space that will grow into a larger format later this year. 
Situated within the Dhan mill compound, the store is a contemporary oasis with an all-white landscape and amorphous interiors designed in-house by the moonray craft collective. The organic forms create the illusion of weightlessness provoking a contemplative dialogue between contemporary and timeless craft. Sustainable materials such as hand-coated limestone against terrazzo flooring create a visually calm, biophilic design. The furniture is subtle, seamlessly merging into the background and harmonising with the muted colour scheme. At the heart, sits a laurel fig tree to echo moonray’s profound respect for nature and love for the planet.

States of Matter – moonray's SS23 collection features an array of crochet dresses, semi-precious gemstones and lace collars. Can you share the process you followed to conceptualise this collection?
The collection studies the literal and profound aspects of the states of matter:  Their unique qualities, innate versatility, and infinite possibilities. There is a poetic beauty in knowing that something can change in form but remain the same at a molecular level; this shape shifting phenomenon can also be applied to us human beings. The world may be ever-evolving, but at our core, our deepest natural state, we remain the same. 
With this collection, we explore the constant shifting of molecules as matter changes state, evident in the densely embroidered beads on crochet dresses and intricately handcrafted lace collars featuring contemporary variations of needlepoint techniques. The moonstone series is a playful interpretation of the solid state using semi-precious gemstones on liquid-like crochet knit fabric. 
The bubble drift series with beaded circular cut-outs on the hems and pockets are reminiscent of an interplay between solid and vapour. Hand-embroidered flower appliqués, silver metallic flower petals, and bugles featured across the collection catch the eye. The colour palette for this season is a lesson in spontaneity: Sand dune yellow, sienna red, and fern green, along with bright whites and pastels that bring a sense of weightlessness to the collection. Our signature moon-o-gram series includes raw denim in dark indigo and light blue washes, which have been engraved with a ‘mr’ monogram in varying scales and sizes.

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As you also actively collaborate with global brands like Dior, how much of that artistic exchange impacts your design process? 
Our design language is a contemplative dialogue between craft and modernity. The craft collective enjoys exploring craft in a way that it can be enjoyed in a raw weightless form. While we actively collaborate and feel so fortunate to be able to artistically collaborate with international couture houses, each brand has its own specific design language and DNA. This is the beauty of the versatility of craft and its infinite possibilities!

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