Banjanan designer Caroline Weller loves to travel. So much so that her luxury women's wear line is inspired by wanderlust, and style that transcends borders and cultures. So where did she find her favorite Chinese silk jacket? On a trip, of course...
How did this piece come into your life? "It's a great little vintage jacket. It's a vintage Chinese jacket, which I found in a flea market when I'd been traveling around. The reason it became very special to me was I had it for ages in my closet, and I didn't wear it, and I didn't wear it, and I didn't wear it. Finally one night I decided to wear it to a dinner party—where I met the future father of my child! So it became very sentimental because I wore this jacket and he commented on the jacket, he loved the jacket, and that's how we met."
Wow! How did that turn out? "He's still my partner and we've traveled the world together and we have a son, and a dog, so somehow this jacket's become this really 'Talismanic' piece in my wardrobe. And funnily enough, I never wore it before and I haven't worn it since. But for some reason I wore it that night, and that's why it's become this special piece in my wardrobe."
Maybe there's a part of you that's protecting it from the harsh influences of life? "Maybe…I keep looking at it in my wardrobe and thinking, 'Oh, maybe I should just give it away or give it to someone else, but somehow something keeps me hanging on tight, so it's still there."
What do you love about its style? "It's a silk jacket, it's a woven jacquard silk. It's a yellow color with red trim. It has short sleeves and a little fan collar, like a Chairman Mao collar. It's fairly long, I guess it just covers your butt, so I could belt it and wear it like that, or over a little dress."
Do you remember the experience of buying it? "I spend a lot of time in the South of France, and they actually have these great little flea markets that pop up in local villages over the weekend, almost the way we have street sales in America, they have these similar types of things. So I went to one of those in a local village and started wandering around looking at all the stuff. And suddenly there was someone who had this jacket which I loved, so I picked it up from there."
Even though you've only worn it once, how would you suggest styling such a unique piece? "I always think that when you have a piece like that it has to become the focus of your outfit. So generally speaking, on the night in question, I wore it over a tank top with a pair of skinny jeans and really high heels. Nothing's worse then when you've got this real statement piece and you over accessorize it and try to throw on a hundred things. I always think that if you've got one really special piece, that should be it, and keep everything else really simple."
When you met your partner, what did he notice about the jacket? "We got into a conversation about traveling. I love to travel and my brand is all about travel. He just noticed that the jacket was from somewhere else other than New York. And interestingly enough, he was just going to India and I had just come back from India, so we ended up having this whole conversation about India. And ironically now, that is one of the places that we live. Which is really funny, first circle to our first conversation. Now our whole life is about traveling and India, so somehow it was meant to be."
Where in India do you live? "We live in Jaipur, in Rajasthan. I do all of the production for my line Banjanan in Jaipur. I work with craftsmen and artisans in Jaipur and we work on the collection together. So we go back and forth between Jaipur, New York, Switzerland and the South of France."
So the jacket also reflects part of your inspiration as a designer. "Yes. Anything that's a little bit unique or has some kind of craftsmanship or history to it, I love. I really like the idea of pieces that have history or stories. That's what's so nice when you find a vintage piece like that. Even if you don't know what its story was, you know that it had one. To me that's really charming and interesting."
When you see the jacket in your closet, what's the first word or feeling that comes to mind? "Love!"