Orvana London, Unique Women’s Boutique, Offers Array of Original Designs and Styles
CREATIVE DESIGN: “I look forward to sharing my designs with the customers. I believe my designs are a way to connect with people.” Alka Mattoo, designer and founder of Orvana London, the new women’s boutique on Chambers Street, is shown wearing her own designs: a handwoven kimono-inspired caftan and handwoven shawl of yak and sheep-blended wool.
By Jean Stratton
Versatility. Wearability. Sustainability!
These images all describe the special selection at Orvana London, the new women’s boutique at 12 Chambers Street.
Just opened the end of September, it is already attracting scores of customers who appreciate the unique styles and quality handwoven fabrics that are Orvana London’s specialty.
Featuring the designs of founder Alka Mattoo, Orvana London has opened to rave reviews, and even in such a short time regular customers are returning, hoping to discover yet another superb example of Mattoo’s design skill and the quality fabrics.
“I knew Alka as a friend, and I always liked what she was wearing. I really admired her style,” reports a Princeton resident and enthusiastic customer. “One time, I asked her, ‘where do you get these wonderful clothes?’ And then I found out they were her own designs.”
Silk and Cashmere
Born in the Kashmir region of India, Mattoo was interested in fabrics, especially their texture and color, from an early age. Kashmir is particularly known for its cashmere wool and pashmina shawls.
“My mother and grandmother collected fabrics, especially silk and cashmere, with the idea of passing them down as heirlooms,” explains Mattoo. “Some had the most skillful, beautiful hand embroidery. And there were incredibly vivid colors. These fabrics were so beautiful they could really be in a museum. They are similar to pieces hanging in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.”
Inspired by these fabrics and her own creativity and imagination, Mattoo was determined to explore the world of fashion.
“This really surprised my family,” she reports. “They were engineers and doctors, and they were amazed when I decided to go into fashion. My mother thought I meant to be a model!”
But Mattoo’s interest was directed more to design, and after earning a diploma in design at the Pearl Academy in New Delhi, she enrolled in New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Her focus was on combining high quality artisanal textiles with contemporary Western design.
After working in New York’s garment district and as a fashion merchandiser for the Theory label, she moved to Denmark and then England.
She established Orvana London, her design studio, in London in 2009. Her collections were available at Harrods, London’s famous department store, and she also developed a luxury scarf collection for designer Diane von Furstenberg.
The name “Orvana” was inspired both by her vision for her designs and the sound of the name. “I created the name Orvana, thinking of it as a reminder of ‘nirvana,’” she explains. “The main thing about it is the sound of the word and what it conveys.” Nirvana, of course, is an idyllic state of perfect happiness.
Mattoo had a distinct vision for her designs. As she points out, “I wanted to consistently create beautiful products that reach people worldwide, and preserve the value of handmade textiles, while keeping practices ethical and sustainable.
“Orvana aims to provide vibrant and soulful designs made with the finest textile craftsmanship to evoke inspiration for people to connect to their own style.”
Returning to the U.S. in 2017, she moved to Princeton, and opened a pop-up in Palmer Square last summer. It was so successful that when space became available on Chambers Street, she was excited to find a permanent setting for her designs.
She was also very definite about how she wished to present that setting to customers. “I wanted the shop to be uncrowded, have a nice sense of space, and to reflect an experience of calm. I very much enjoyed creating this space, and sharing it with everyone who comes in. Also, you get energy and a certain environment from being in a store that you can’t get with online shopping.”
Not only will customers find this serenity, they will also find a wonderful collection of caftans, wrap and jumper-style dresses, tunics, tops, scarves, and shawls. All are Mattoo’s designs, as is a selection of jewelry, including bracelets and necklaces in striking styles. In addition, many of the silver pieces are crafted by the artisans of the Zuni reservation in New Mexico.
Most of the clothing is unsized, and nearly all the fabrics are from India, although Mattoo is also now including designs from the American Southwest and Native Americans, with representations from the Navajo Arts and Crafts and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe.
Orvana’s designs are graceful and flowing, displaying both style and comfort. Silk, cashmere, linen, and cotton are emphasized, and there are also items from yak and sheep wool. They feature a mix of color combinations, from muted earth tones to vibrant brilliance. Wide stripes and eye-catching prints offer choices for every taste, and it is really difficult to decide on a favorite to take to the fitting room.
With a bow to her Princeton headquarters, Mattoo has designed a special orange and black silk scarf with tiger motif. Its appeal to Princeton alums returning for football games and reunions will no doubt prove irresistible.
Another specialty is the collection of one-of-a-kind, traditional pure cotton comforters in gorgeous colors and designs, handcrafted and handprinted by artisans in western India. Guaranteed to keep you warm this winter!
Customers are all ages, notes Mattoo, and she is eager for them to find their own style at Orvana.
“I think my customers will be anyone who appreciates fine textiles,” she explains. “I believe customers coming in know what they like and know their own style. They will be comfortable in our store.”
What she also seeks to do is to offer them an opportunity for self-expression and to establish a connection. “Don’t we all want to have self-expression? This is, after all, another way to connect with someone. And I think Orvana is trying to connect everything together. We are all connected. It’s like the thread that binds us — from the artisan through my designs to the customer.”
Mattoo feels that Princeton is the perfect location for her designs and her shop. “I am so encouraged. It has been a wonderful experience. Everyone has been so friendly, including all the other businesses and neighbors. I look forward to meeting even more people and introducing them to our styles and fabrics”
She adds that the designs will change seasonally, and customers will always find something new. A grand opening celebration is planned in the near future.
Orvana London is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m. (609) 436-7129. Website: www.orvana.co.uk.