Meet Auroville: Andre the founder of Amano
For how long have you been crafting leather bags and how did you first get into it?
I started crafting leather bags in the 80ies in France. We were making bags, self-taught, and selling them on markets in the summer or during the Christmas period. Then I came to India and for a long time I didn’t craft bags or work with leather. Once my trip in India was over, and that was almost 35 years ago, I went to Ibiza, Spain. There I met a man who had a shop for leather goods and he taught me how to properly work with leather to craft bags. I got my hands into it and learned a lot. So 33 years ago, when I came back to India to settle in Auroville, I made a few bags and the rest is history. I created “Amano”, which means handmade in Spanish, as a reference to the school I come from. Later, due to larger orders from customers in Bombay I had to employ a first worker, and then as more customers came I naturally expanded my team.
Can you take me through your design process?
Most of the time I am inspired by what I see around me, like when I am in Europe; I look at the bags that the women on the streets are wearing, then when I come back I craft new samples. The other designing process happens when people come to me with their own ideas that I try to materialize in the best way possible. In those cases I name the bags after the women who had the design idea.
How does Auroville influence your way of running the business?
I would say that one of the main influences from Auroville is that I work very closely with people from the surrounding villages. Over the years I have built a close relationship with the workers, I know all their families and when we have a celebration everyone gets together. We are supporting them in building their houses and so on. Auroville in this regard is a very close sort of family-run business I would say. That is one aspect, the other one is that running a business in Auroville makes Auroville grow, and this is one of the main points for me.
What does a typical day look like?
The perfect day looks like this; I get on my bike and go cycling (he laughs). But a work day starts at 8.30 and we go on and plan whatever we need to prepare for our shop Mira Boutique, located at the Visitor Center. We also have orders from clients outside of Auroville, like Europe, which often have deadlines so that keeps us busy as well. Some days are very quiet, others are full on.
What are some of the challenges you face running the Unit?
The quality is a big challenge for us. We have quite high standards in terms of material and manufacturing. The process of crafting the bags is entirely in our hands, we make the bags by hand from beginning to end and the people I work with are very skilled in that regard. The problem we face is that we make bags in various colors and when we order the leather it is not necessarily the same shade from one delivery to the next. We face a lot of small problems with the raw material but a lot of Auroville Units have the same experience. You see, we are a small business so the leather orders are not that big and we need to order several times, and that’s when things start being tricky.
What is next for Amano?
I am trying to reduce a little, to be honest. I actually want to focus more on quality than quantity. So I am open to working with people who come with ideas for designs to craft samples, to have fun and sell in the boutique and online rather than having tight deadlines for big clients, where I get stressed and start running around. The only priority that needs to be assured is being able to pay my people decently while giving fair prices to the customers. To sum it up the future of Amano will be as was in the past, small quantity and high quality. This has been our motto from the beginning.
Living in Auroville means….
Oh! Do you have a couple of days?! (laughs). It means a lot, a different way of life, a different way of interaction and so much more. For example in terms of business, we all know each other quite personally, so that makes a big difference between here and the outside world, where everything is quite distant. Here I don’t feel like the boss, just that I am the one responsible.
Living in Auroville is a grace, when you see the state of the world. We are here to manifest something and I guess in a way we have to succeed.