H

ippies knew real fashion. They made everything for themselves,” states Rakshya Bhadra, one of the two brown girls at 2BrownGirls.com. This sort of hippie sustainable fashion aesthetic is what excites Bhadra, most of whose design training was at her grandmother’s knee. “I used to watch her sit and sew for hours. I was quite selfish—I would make clothes for myself and not my dolls.” Selfish or not, Bhadra inherited a family love of craftwork and community service, with a mother active in both textile design and community development for the U.N. in their native Nepal.

Peacock earrings.
Peacock earrings.

Bhadra first bumped into Sonya Balchandani (the second brown girl) at a tabla class during their freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. Unable to master the ancient instrument, they bonded over their mutual ineptitude. Luckily, they discovered their shared love of all things handmade. Days were spent scouring Philadelphia’s 4th Street market for fabrics and evenings devoted to sewing and stitching. Years later, they both moved to New York City and began working as Web designers. (Balchandani is also a bassist for The Big Sleep.)

Balchandani and Bhadra kept making gifts for friends, and it eventually dawned on the two that they should try marketing their designs: thus, 2 Brown Girls came to life. The whimsical name signifies their pride in their desi heritage and their love of fun.

Inspired by travel and natural fabrics, the duo has created pieces out of recycled material such as the kimono bag. Bhadra recalls the initial spark: “I love Japanese designs and I used to collect chopsticks. Then one day I saw someone in Paris carrying a bag with chopsticks and I was inspired to make my own version of it. So, when I was in LA, I stopped by this Japanese store and they were selling old pieces of kimono fabrics which were perfect for a bag.” Such unique design inspirations have led to more than 50 sales in the last year alone.

2browngirls-1.jpg
Embroidered carry-all.

Bhadra also makes necklaces and earrings using authentic Nepali beads which she purchases during yearly jaunts to her native country. The girls even employ age-old traditional Nepali craftwork techniques. To make the handle for their patterned carry-all bag, they work with carpenters in Nepal. The process involves soaking tree branches in water until they’re malleable enough to round out. Bhadra gushes, “It was so cool to watch them make it. I can do it myself now.”

Roping in friends to volunteer as models, they handle packaging and shipping from their home and rely only on word of mouth—not unlike the marketing methods of tony design houses in Europe. And though the pair dreams about a 2 Brown Girls boutique in the future, right now they’re content to live on the Web, handling both design and business in-house.n

Mili V. Narayen couldn’t stitch an inch to save her life.
Published on December 4, 2006.
Photography: Courtesy of 2 Brown Girls.

More Information

2BrownGirls.com

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  1. December 20, 2006, 9:54 pm Nirali Magazine | Renaissance Rebel

    […] Balchandani is a sort of Renaissance woman: her other artistic endeavors include designing bags and jewelry for her accessories company, 2browngirls.com, and acting in the 2004 film Bedford. […]

  2. September 17, 2007, 9:04 am Rachel Hebben

    I’m Julie Caracino’s sister and just want to say your music rocks! I’m glad to see you are doing quite well and very artistic.