In today’s world of fast fashion, there aren’t many brands as special – or as humble – as Dilli Grey. Founded in 2015 by Vickie El-Rayyes who had a vision to create an ethical lifestyle label that works in a fair-trade partnership with Rajasthani craftsmen, each beautifully made one-of-a-kind piece is made to be treasured forever.
Growing up overseas, Vickie has spent years exploring India and learning about its historic craft traditions. As a self-confessed ‘textiles geek’, the beauty of Dilli Grey lies in its story, the process and the people as much as the beautiful end-product. Read on to uncover all…
What do you draw upon for inspiration at Dilli Grey?
Rajasthan. It’s home to our artisan team and I draw inspiration from the landscape, colours, art and architecture. I love the intricate byways of the Rajasthani villages, the bold hues of Jaipur and the energy of Mumbai. I feel like even in 20 years, I have barely scratched the surface of India and I’m constantly discovering new places – with many more on my wish list!
What is your creative process?
As intricate as you’d expect. I like to honour the artistry of India by collaborating with multi-generational creators who add magic to everything they touch. Working with them has given me a deep respect for the skills involved – from wood-block carving, dying and printing to chikankari – a style of embroidery that’s created by a women’s co-operative just outside Jaipur. It’s such a slow, multi-layered process to craft one item.
What makes Dilli Grey products so special?
The value is put not in the speed of production, but the skills to carve the wood blocks or print the fabric purely by eye, without relying on a piece of machinery to replace centuries of craft traditions. Every piece goes through a slow and considered process – from idea to finished product can take up to 18 months.
Aside from the way we make them, our bold patterns evoke a real reaction in people – something as simple as a printed quilt can totally transform the look and feel of a bedroom (without having to spend a fortune overhauling the whole room). Similarly, a block-print dress is an instant outfit – no accessories required!
What does being an ethical business mean to you?
I feel like many big brands make a lot of noise about making small token gestures towards ethical or sustainable production and it really devalues and undermines those words in the eye of the consumer. It’s not actually that hard to be ‘ethical.’ It just means being kind and honest and, from start to finish, making sure that everyone involved is treated well, respectfully and paid fairly. If you build a business from scratch with that in mind it feeds into everything you do. It just becomes the norm. You don’t need a special sustainable collection to prove yourself. It’s that hard-wired ethical approach to fashion as a whole that I want to see more of on the high street.
As well as looking after our team, our products are made from carefully sourced, natural fabrics such as organic cotton, lyocell and linen; skillfully designed and made in small runs for zero wastage.
Tell us about the Dilli Grey team. Who makes your brand what they are?
Over 20 years, I’ve been working with multi-generational family printers in India who’ve become real friends and mentors. I’ve been lucky enough to be hands-on at every stage of the process, which has given me the deepest respect for the art involved. From sourcing our raw organic-cotton fabrics, to block-carving, dyeing and printing, so many skills and hands are involved in making one piece.
What are your hopes for the future of the brand?
In our fast-paced world I want to keep championing craft traditions so it can remain a viable career for young garment-workers in India.
Love this brand story? Shop Dilli Grey on our brand Bazaar today.