This month I had the pleasure of finally traveling out to Jaipur for the first time since we started Hullabaloo. Amy has been out on previous trips, as I felt Allegra was just too young to leave behind, and now that Amy has little Florence and Allegra is older - it was my turn to go!
It was still a bittersweet departure. I was so excited about such an adventure and especially to finally be in the city that is helping make our dream a reality and to meet all the wonderful people there who are such a big part of our story. But I was also fraught with worry about leaving Allegra for a whole nine nights. Was she going to be ok without me? Would she pine for me terribly and be miserable all week or get ill? How would I cope with missing her so much? My mother and I boarded the flight for Abu Dhabi and it took all my strength not to cry my eyes out. However as soon as we touched down in the Middle East and the sun was rising, a brilliant orange ball in the early morning sky, so familiar to me from living out in that part of the world a few years ago, I was filled with a wonder, a freedom, an excitement and a sense of being me, just me, that I had kind of forgotten since having a baby. After a FaceTime call back home confirmed that Allegra was not missing me in the least and was having the most wonderful time with Daddy, I was able to relax and fully plan what we wanted to achieve over the week.
A few hours later, weary from the journey, we arrived in Jaipur. The air was pleasantly cool and crisp, the drive in from the airport with our head supplier Anirudh and his wife Shilpa, a hair raising experience! There seemed to be a completely different psychology to driving compared to the West. Colorful buses, tuk tuks, motor bikes with entire families on the back jostled for lane space with cows pulling wagons filled with wood or a camel with a fancy bridal and shaved furry diamond patterns down his neck, wandering seemingly headlong into the dual carriageway traffic. Scenes of poverty did flash by where families had makeshift slum type living arrangements on the side of the road - but the remarkable thing about India I found, was that everyone and everything, person, animal, mode of transport - all seem to coexist side by side with a wholehearted acceptance. The entire organized chaos of Jaipur (and the wider country for that matter) seemed to be mostly accepted by everyone.
Arriving at our first hotel, the Narain Niwas Palace, an old Haveli, was like arriving on location for some colonial film. It oozed character and although totally shabby in places, you couldn't help but fall in love with its quirky charm and delightful staff. My mum (who is one of the most intrepid travelers I know) had come prepared with extra little luxuries like chocolate biscuits, lavender eye masks and an assortment of teas, which by the end of the second day had been given out to most of the staff at the hotel in lieu of tips as it was initially incredibly difficult to get hold of any small note rupees.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the trip was finally meeting our suppliers and solidifying our relationship. The Indian custom is to be incredibly hospitable and before long, we had met the entire extended family plus friends - most of which have helped in some capacity or another with Hullabaloo! After a whole morning of office meetings chatting about new ideas and samples that we wanted to try out whilst we were there, we headed out to see the printing workshop just below the ancient hill-top fort of Naharagh. A huge area filled with rows of tables topped with several layers of calico and cotton were ready to let the imagination run wild and the printing magic to begin. We decided to get some of our Pink and Mint and Blue and Yellow hot air balloon design in single layer muslin made up to try out some samples that we had been working on. It was thrilling to watch the colours being carefully mixed to the right consistency and shade by Mr Singh, our head printer, and applied to our carved wooden blocks before being stamped repeatedly and methodically by hand by printer Hanuman.
My mother and I could have stayed in the workshop all night! We dreamed up idea after idea, much as Amy had said she had done. One can't help but be creative in such an environment - and we found that in Jaipur, the ideas just flowed and flowed. There is a magical, colorful undercurrent there, a space that allows for creative spark, as well as being an incredibly inspiring place to be. You can go the same route numerous times but there will always be something new, curious, other worldly or rather beautiful to look at.
After a day of sightseeing, riding Elephants to the Amber Fort, visiting the Anokhi Museum and tuk tuk-ing to see the treasures at the City Palace, we drove outside the City to the Samode Palace, which is nestled in the Rajhastan mountains. A stunning former royal palace, we were there with just a handful of other guests. From the moment we arrived, we felt like we were staying in someone's grand home as a guest rather than being in a hotel, adding to the feel of hospitality we had already been encountering all around us. On the second evening at Samode, we had some great news - a few of our samples were already ready and Anirudh and Shilpa kindly drove out to us at the Samode to show us. We were hugely excited to see them and I messaged Amy immediately to show her. Being five hours behind, I was aware that it was bath time for little Florence back in London so I knew she probably had her hands full - but she managed to message back immediately and luckily, seem pleased too!
Back in Jaipur again a day later, my mother and I couldn't believe how fast the week was going. We still had so much to do! We whizzed around various recommendations that Amy had given me, ever inspired by the beautiful colors, fabrics and handicrafts. The next day, I picked up the rug for Allegra's room that we had experimented with printing up at the workshop, along with further Hullabaloo samples to take back. I was glad I'd brought an extra suitcase along! It definitely felt like we could have had a few more days, but home was calling, I couldn't wait to see my little girl, my husband George and of course Team Pike.
Reunited back in London, Amy and I are now planning the next stages of our apparel project. Thanks to some positive feedback on social media and in the flesh, we are now ready to embark on further sampling. We'll be updating this blog monthly so you can watch our progress. No doubt we will have some highs and lows - all part of the Hullabaloo adventure, but we are looking forward to sharing it with you all.
Thanks for reading!
Emma and Amy xxx