Owner of Amba boutique and gallery, Nirmala Jagannath, opened her first store 10 years ago after her job as head of the Scripps La Jolla out-patient mental health clinic abruptly ended. She says she was so depressed leaving her patients scattered to various locations in the city that she decided to travel to Hyderabad to visit her mother for comfort. It was in Hyderabad that she found what would be the merchandise for her first store in Solana Beach.
“Every few kilometers you travel to and in every village, there’s a variety of crafts made a unique way for thousands of years that have persisted. But modernization is leaving hand-made craft-making forgotten,” Jagannath says.
Today, Jagannath’s store is in a new location along Cedros, and though it’s somewhat tucked away, it’s no longer a secret to lovers of hand-crafted home goods or traditional-made Indian clothing.
Many of the items in Amba are created by using re-claimed saris—something Jagannath says is fairly common. Jagannath also designs many of the pieces in the store. She says is she loves design because at its essence, it’s about solving problems. “In fact, everything in the store attempts to solve a human problem. I bridge the relationship gap between women who make beautiful things, and women who appreciate and want to have beautifully made things. It’s a matter solving a social need,” Jagannath says.
By traveling to India to work with rural and urban artisans and pay them a fair wage to create merchandise for the store, Amba is essentially reinvesting in projects that conserve and develop the skills and lives of craftspeople in India. Jagannath says she’s providing sustainable work and keeping much of the traditional handiwork alive.
Items at Amba range from $50 to $500. Everything in the store is one-of-a-kind, commissioned exclusively for Amba. The artisans in India are paid a salary year-round. All of the profit (after overhead which included Jagannath’s small salary) is returned to the artisans in India.
One of Amba’s most beautiful items are the dresses made from Khadi—a fabric made famous by Mahatma Gandhi when he encouraged Indians to weave and wear it during his movement to revive rural self-employment and India’s independence. Khadi is a cloth made from homespun thread, made by hand on a spinning wheel, and then hand-woven on a simple treadle loom.
Additionally, the store offers silk and organic cotton blended and hand-painted tops, bed-covers made from re-claimed saris in Bangladesh, vintage shawls, and metal block printed and hand tie-dyed scarves.
“I believe in making a profit, but also supporting a bigger social cause. It’s my business model. There’s no middle-person. I’m it. I relate directly with the artists and the consumer,” Jagannath says.
143 South Cedros, Solana Beach
Hours: Open Tues-Sat 11-6pm, Sunday 11-5pm, Closed Mondays