“I think if you’re passionate about something, you make time for it,” says the co-founder of MoonRay, 14-year-old Avantika Swali. Her words characterise her journey to launching contemporary luxury fashion brand, MoonRay alongside her mother, the co-founder of JADE by Monica & Karishma, Karishma Swali.
The young artist Avantika defines herself as an artist with a passion for universal education and animal welfare. Hence, MoonRay, the conscious fashion brand plans to donate 50% of its profits to those causes.
The first rays
Swali’s doodles gave way to illustrations which eventually led to a line of T-shirts and hoodies with her designs, and the beginning of MoonRay’s debut collection. From subtly embroidered cropped T-shirts, the Swalis moved on to create a gamut of dresses, bottoms, denims, jumpsuits, shoes and accessories.
Since Karishma is creative director at Chanakya – a luxury craft house, that creates handcrafted couture for fashion houses such as Balmain, Versace, Tory Burch and Moschino, MoonRay’s designs too are entrenched in timeless crafts. The collection includes a prêt-à-porter line of garments using techniques like crochet, macramé, tie and dye, appliqué work, needle lace and hand painting. Kutch and kala organic cotton hand spinning and hand weaving have also been used to create contemporary fashion.
MoonRay’s varied offerings include handcrafted vegan leather shoes, mainly pastel and black sliders and mules. Bags in sizes perfectly suited for a phone, money and AirPods,can be paired with the collection’s chokers and bracelets, made using macramé, as well as a limited edition of 22K gold plated jewellery. Certain denim ensembles have been upcycled from re-purposed fabrics using patchwork techniques. While the tops and hoodies cater to Gen Z, MoonRay’s midi-dresses can be worn by a variety of age groups, and are embellished using the French art of needle lace, microbeads, with quilted high necks, ruffles and lightly flowing skirts.
The first half of the moniker MoonRay is inspired by the phases of the moon that represent immortality, eternity, and enlightenment, while Ray is a tribute to a puppy fostered by the Swalis who passed away recently. “For us, the name MoonRay represents a feminine energy that is pure and powerful- one that is creative, compassionate, and connected,” says Karishma Swali.
This creativity is given a young twist by Karishma’s daughter. On the subject of working with her Avantika, Karishma says with a smile, “What more can I ask for?” The younger Swali brings a fresh perspective to the table as well as her artist’s eye for design, while Karishma focuses on the craft and technique side of things. “My mom is my mentor,” says Avantika, who juggles between managing a study schedule and working on MoonRay after school and on the weekend. The young designer relies on her love for organisation, schedules and designated office days to pursue her passion. Another cause that Avantika feels passionate about is giving back to society, which is one of MoonRay’s founding tenets.
Not only for profit
Both the Swalis stress on the fact that 50 % of MoonRay’s profits will always be invested in universal education for children and animal welfare. When Avantika was in the second grade, she learnt all about non-profit organisations which led to a spark of inspiration to start an organisation of her own. With support from her parents, she started ACE, All Care for Everyone, a registered not-for-proﬁt-organisation committed to providing children with the opportunity of holistic education, that has collaborated with the Dharavi School in Mumbai and the Gift a Smile Foundation. “We believe that education is the greatest leveller and the best thing for equality,” says Avantika. ACE has helped educate over 200 children, and through this organisation, Avantika has also initiated ‘The Raincoat Project’. This involved the design, developing, and distribution of over 12800 sustainable raincoats to underserved youth communities.
The Swalis, who have fostered seven dogs over the course of the lockdown, also plan to donate to animal welfare organisations such as Rescutes, from where the family fosters their dogs. The BSPCA (Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and WSD (Welfare of Stray Dogs) are other organisations MoonRay plans to give back to.
All things sustainable
Another pillar of the brand is sustainable sourcing of material and the provision of stability to artisanal communities through education, skill development and women empowerment. In 2017, Chanakya, the parent company of MoonRay established the Chanakya School of Craft, a not-for-profit institution to teach women from underserved communities the art of hand embroidery through a certificate programme. Each piece at MoonRay is thoughtfully crafted by female artisans that have graduated from this school, and they are a vital part of MoonRay’s efforts towards inclusivity and cultural sustainability.
80% organic cotton, GOTS certified jersey, “Forest Stewardship Council” certified viscose, indigo dyed denim, crochet crafted from recycled threads, are key materials used at MoonRay. Waste like discarded orange peels have also been used to create threads which eventually make their way into shirts by the brand. Recycled packaging and upcycling unwanted fabrics are a part of the brand’s efforts towards carbon neutrality. MoonRay shines light on conscious luxury, along with the hope of a world that provides education and welfare for all.