hen Malini Murjani tells you she’s spending time with her pops, you can bet they’re not hanging out at the local strip mall.
That’s because her father is fashion industry heavy-hitter Mohan Murjani—and, as a rule, the Murjanis are more interested in haute couture than Home Depot.
Murjani senior first made a name for himself in the 1970s by turning modest fashion labels (Gloria Vanderbilt, most notably) into global lifestyle brands. By 1985, Murjani, ready to financially back a promising young designer, set his sights on an ambitious unknown.
Don’t let her stunning looks intimidate you. Malini Murjani is completely down-to-earth. So much so, that she even let us snoop around in her handbag:
If we peeked into your python shopper right now, what would we find? “Well, my Blackberry comes with me everywhere. I have some Kiehl’s lip gloss in there, sunglasses and my essential mini make-up kit for when I have to race down to dinner after work. Also: gloves. Oh, and a notebook. You always need something to scribble on.”
His name was Tommy Hilfiger.
And the rest is fashion history.
Mohan Murjani has been described as a retail visionary and marketing genius, but to Malini, he’s just dad. Mention his name, and she lights up instantly, “We’re very similar, both adventurous,” she says. “We enjoy life—wine, and good food.”
“In my family we’re definitely known as the crazy ones,” she grins. “We want to go skydiving together someday.”
For now, the duo is content to hit the clubs of New York City: “I took him to Spy Bar one night,” she laughs, “I thought I was quite cool, because I kind of knew people. Then he walked in, and within an hour was friends with the whole club.”
From Bags to Riches
For Murjani, 31, the choice to pursue a career in design was a clear one. “I’ve been breathing fashion all my life,” she says. “It was never like, ‘Oh what do I want to do?’ Fashion has always been in me.”
But when time came for college, it wasn’t fashion that her parents wanted to see her study.
They urged her to take “liberal arts courses at Columbia University.” (“Because fashion is a tough industry. It’s a bit of a rat race, and my father wasn’t sure I should get into it.”)
Murjani didn’t listen. She applied to and attended New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
As a rule, the Murjanis are more interested in haute couture than Home Depot.
Today Murjani lives in Manhattan, where she has made a name for herself designing handbags and belts. From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, her designs light up the shelves of Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Bloomingdale’s and other high-end stores. Her eponymous label has been featured in Vogue, W and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, and Murjani counts Tori Spelling, Angelina Jolie and Paula Abdul among her fans.
So what does her father think about all this?
“Now,” she says, “he’s very happy for me.”
Shiny Happy Handbags
If you thought metallics were on their way out, think again. Murjani tells us they will “be strong again for the fall.” Check out all of her collections at Malini Murjani online.
The type of woman who carries a Malini Murjani original is confident and fashion-forward, explains Murjani: “She can afford to buy a Prada, Gucci or Louis Vuitton bag—and has all of those—but she’s also looking for something a little more unique, without having to sacrifice quality.”
Her collection’s soft, washed-leather tote (called Lisa), a piece that’s perfect for the “everyday modern woman,” is very popular, but it’s the Dena python shopper—a classic, versatile bag reinterpreted—that is her bestseller.
With its whipstitch detail and adorned tassel, the shopper is a well-constructed statement piece. It’s also what Murjani currently has slung over her shoulder. “For me, living in New York, you go to work with piles of magazines in your bag, and usually run straight from the office to dinner,” she says. “The Dena goes well from day to evening.”
Today Murjani, who grew up in Hong Kong, England and Switzerland, feels most at home in New York. “I’m a city girl,” she admits, “but having an Indian heritage gives my work an eclectic feel to it.”
Her visits to India are annual (she calls the country “inspiring”), and sometimes she even toys with the idea of moving there (“I was just talking about this today, with friends over lunch”).
But despite being enamored with India, her designs transcend the Bharat. “I don’t really feel like my collection is ‘Indian-looking,’” she says.
Check out her line, and you’ll see what she means.
“I’ve been breathing fashion all my life. It was never like, ‘Oh what do I want to do?’ Fashion has always been in me.”
Murjani is a designer with global style sensibilities. At once timeless and relevant, her pieces—like the embedded-stone clutch—have been applauded as instant collectibles and will have you rewriting your birthday wish list. As British Vogue insisted recently, “forget Prada bags and Gucci belts. Malini Murjani is the next ultra-hip name to have plastered across your favorite accessories.”
We couldn’t agree more.
From daddy’s little girl to fashion forerunner, we’re sure this is one desi designer who has success securely in the bag.