HOURS: Vaz Rajan

I hail from Adyar, a quiet suburb in the south of Madras, as it was known then (a name I stubbornly prefer over ‘Chennai’) and I spent my salad years in sunny Sydney, Australia. At the age of 21, armed with a head full of dreams and a tourist visa (the audacity!), I set foot in Paris, determined to carve a name for myself in the fashion world. The details of that journey? Well, that’s a story for another time.

Today, I’m the sole creative force behind ‘Adyar’, the home of my ideas and vision for the world, seated in Paris and crafted across Italy. It may sound like a chapter from a high-end fashion tale, but let’s keep our feet on the ground – it’s still a one-person show, supported by my work as a freelance designer and consultant.

Italy, with its timeless mastery in tailoring, leather, and shoemaking, has been my creative playground since 2010. Crafting for clients and myself, I’ve been on a constant learning curve. Yet, amidst this European escapade, a longing emerged. A longing to reconnect with my ‘Indianness’ – an aspect of myself I awkwardly side-stepped during my Aussie upbringing. In the realm of fashion and design, there seemed to be a void where my Indian voice should be.

Navigating the crossroads of being Indian and being ‘modern’ always felt like a tightrope walk. India, much like Italy, is steeped in tradition. Yet, its contributions to radical design or groundbreaking thought are often overlooked unless they’re draped in spirituality or bathed in Bollywood glitz.

For the past two months, I’ve been diving into the fabric of my homeland, exploring the potential of crafting some of my designs right here in Adyar. In collaboration with a family friend, we’ve formed a small unit of highly skilled tailors. I’m imparting my Italian savoir-faire, teaching them to tailor clothes ‘my way’. I’m hopeful that this fusion of skills will give life to new, inspired creations.

The global design narrative is heavily western-centric. Countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan are hailed for their cutting-edge ideas and refined taste. Britain and France symbolize elegance, America embodies modernity. Yet, here I am, in the heart of Adyar, rewriting this narrative, blending the best of both worlds.

Despite my Anglophone background and now a polyglot identity, the ‘Indian’ tag lingers, often mired in clichés. It was this very stereotype that drove me to explore a new design ethos, one that blends innovative thinking with Indian values. I’m on a mission to create a new language in design – one that’s informed not just by the history we know, but by the histories waiting to be rewritten.

In a quest for reinvention, I’m redefining my journey – less about returning to the past, more about reimagining the future.

Now, I’m back in Adyar, in the childhood apartment that was a sanctuary during those summer months when my parents and I would return from Sydney. It’s more than a homecoming; it’s a rediscovery of my origins.

06:30 AM

My day begins when the morning light filters through my window, a welcome alarm clock. The Indian sunrise, unlike the capricious European one, is a reliable cue for my body clock. A stretch and a morning coffee set the tone for the day.

07:15 AM

Fitness demands discipline. I’m not one of those naturally sculpted individuals, so a visit to the gym is essential to keep everything in check. I’ve hired a personal trainer at a nearby gym. Our 90-minute sessions include warm-ups and cool-downs.

09:15 AM

Breakfast is a hearty affair: a six egg white omelette and two slices of toast, accompanied by another cup of coffee for the road.

09:30 AM

The first order of business is handling my emails, trying my best not to get sidetracked by Instagram.

10:00 AM

Work officially begins as I plan the day’s activities for my workshop.

10:15 AM

My Uber ride to the workshop, which is about 18 kilometers away, takes an hour thanks to the traffic. Thankfully, podcasts like Lex Fridman’s make the commute more bearable.

11:30 AM

The bulk of my day is spent at the workshop with my team, overseeing progress, making corrections, and shuffling between my drawing board and the cutting table. If I’m not doing this then I’m scouring the town looking for artisans or material suppliers.

05:30 PM

I call for my ride back home, bracing for the 80-minute journey through the evening traffic.

08:00 PM

After a refreshing second shower, I often catch up with a childhood friend who lives next door. Whether it’s over dinner or a cup of chai, our conversations, enriched by his musical talent and cultural insights, are always a highlight.

10:30 PM

Our post-dinner walks wrap up around this time. After my third shower of the day and slipping into pajamas, I spend about 15 minutes journaling – a practice that helps me unwind and reflect.

11:20 PM

In bed, I either immerse myself in a book or catch up with friends in Paris, bridging the miles with conversations before sleep takes over.