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Chanee Vijay: Textile Design for Real Life

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She describes her work as perfectly imperfect. A variety of home decorating furnishings feature her one-of-a-kind creativity, combining eco-friendly materials with pleasing minimalist designs. Yet Chanee Vijay’s climb to become a darling of the home decor industry has been a long one, starting in a small room in her home, moving into an attic, then occupying her two-car garage and finally settling into a design studio in Kansas City. Here, the opportunities are nearly endless as she continually improves her processes to meet the needs of interior designers and consumers.

“A lot of my more popular designs that have been ordered over and over were actually mistakes when I was starting out. But now I’ve learned to embrace those flaws because someone is going to like it,” noted the Kansas City, Missouri, resident. “Hand painting my art gives me the flexibility to produce unique designs, and everything is made with quality materials. It’s something special, but it fits into your real life. My pillows can handle kids and puppies. I designed them for the realities of my life at home.”

Organic Career Path
Her textile design studio carries her name, Chanee Vijay. She began her career in 2011 with the vision to craft high-quality, statement pieces, customized for every home. Chanee handprints and paints original designs on organic European hemp and linen in small collections, with her mother, Phyllis, sewing them into beautiful pieces for the home.

She’s a Kansas native, growing up in Topeka. But she’s called four different cities home in the last ten years as she’s moved with her husband, Vinoo, following his career. She had her own corporate work in the financial industry, but Chanee believed there was something more for her. She had graduated from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, with a degree in geography-community planning/sustainable development, but hadn’t employed this educational skill set. It was Vinoo who ignited the spark to expand her talent.

“A few years after we got married, he said, ‘You know so much about eco-friendly home design you should write about it. You have a perspective that others would like to read,’” shared Chanee, recalling the beginnings of her design career. “So I started as a blogger writing on sustainable home design. I focused on elevated, sophisticated designs featuring environmentally friendly products. After the blog grew in popularity, my husband said, ‘You have this blog and people are listening to you, so you should sell them something.’”

She carried her new vocation with her as she accompanied Vinoo, landing in Los Angeles for a while. Her next stop was in June 2018, when the couple moved to Kansas City. She opened her first studio in August.

Sustainable Sourcing
Chanee’s driving vision for her work relies on a “slow-design philosophy,” crafting each hand-printed piece with concern for health, environment and real life. She refers to it as “grounded in sustainability.” In the start-up stages, she experimented with various techniques and materials before settling on sustainably grown fibers, hand painted with water-based, solvent-free textile inks for a healthy, chemical-free process.

“Hemp is the most eco-friendly plant in the world because it doesn’t require much water and grows like a weed. Hemp that’s harvested and woven in China and India uses chemicals and acids to create the fabric and lots of energy. I use European hemp that’s been retted, which means it lies in the fields letting nature remove the fiber from the stalk. The color of the end product changes based on the season they’re experiencing,” advised Chanee. “Woven European hemp is similar to linen or raw silk; it’s so beautiful. I use non-toxic inks that are water based and solvent free. The end product is durable and can last wash after wash.”

Her hemp has a rich, earthy texture, void of those confusing, multi-syllable additives that usually mask problematic chemicals with little regard for the environment. The final product embraces the washing machine, softening after being laundered. Chanee mixes her water-based and solvent-free inks in small batches, guaranteeing custom designs yet meeting tough environmental standards. Her designs are blended methods of printing styles, hand-painted onto the fabric and hand-pulled screen prints. Chanee notes that in a world in which disposable design is the norm, she strives to create unique, durable pieces, sewn with impeccably woven hemp and flax fibers.

Perfect Imperfection
“My work has happened so organically. Some designers can get distracted with perfection, myself included, and with what everyone else is doing. But if you have a vision and it’s your signature style, stick with it and stay true to yourself,” commented Chanee. “My products have a handmade look, and they’re made in the U.S.A. I’m glad I held onto that idea and have stayed true to my materials and inks and kept exploring within that space.”

The majority of her product line is pillows, but she also creates pouches with leftover scraps. Shopping totes can be customized by color. Wristlets feature vintage bracelets or fair-trade bangles created from Brazilian golden grass that resembles the precious metal. You can choose from aprons in three different styles, tea towels and hand towels, tablecloths, poufs and bed throws. Chanee’s work has received high notes of praise, particularly with a major home retailer that has contracted with her to supply pillow covers. The company can’t be named at this time, but she reports the product launch will come sometime this spring.

According to Chanee, her designs have been seen in national and international publications and blogs such as Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset Magazine, Lonny Magazine, Sweet Paul Magazine, DIY Magazine, Style at Home, The New York Times, Design*Sponge, Remodelista, Design Milk, Apartment Therapy, Fete Press and also on The Nate Berkus Show.

Needle Points
Chanee is quick to point out that her mother, Phyllis, and her sewing skills are an important part of her success. “We are partners in this, and she’s an amazing seamstress.” Another segment of her success has been the support of the artistic community in Kansas City, which is fast becoming known across the nation as a vital hub for creative entrepreneurs.

“Within each community that I’ve lived in, creative types have rallied around me and helped me establish connections, either by featuring my work on their design blogs or in their shops. This is happening even more in Kansas City,” she remarked. “A lot of my peers follow a script: Go to market, which means trade shows to sell wholesale products to retailers. I resisted that model because it’s not right for me. I’m selling directly to the customer, which I love. Working with customers directly creates a bond and lets me craft something perfect for their space, and then see the end product in their homes. I think that’s why I have so many return customers. Just remember, you don’t have to follow a certain script and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Most importantly, you don’t have to have all the answers before you start.”

Her social media connections in Kansas City helped her land the showroom space when she was moving from Los Angeles. The tenant, a good Instagram friend, was moving and offered to make introductions that allowed her to rent the studio. “The creative energy is just fantastic here,” Chanee shared.

When asked about her secret to success, she notes a prescribed path doesn’t exist. “There’s no magic potion, but having a supportive husband and family is wonderful,” she advised. “It’s not always the greatest climate in design. You’re going to be peer-reviewed and endlessly critiqued. So surround yourself with people who encourage you, embrace your ideas and lift you up.”

Chanee’s vision for the future includes more retail and online sales. Right now, she estimates more than half of her transactions come from interior designers, who are looking for a customized piece for their clients, something no one else will have.

“My clients want something unique, something you can’t pick up from a big-box store. I can personalize the color within the designs I offer. Some want metallic and some don’t,” remarked Chanee. “Sometimes it’s the way the watercolor moves across the fabric. Each one is its own little thing, a piece of work that’s perfectly imperfect.”

Visit her showroom on Thursdays at 633 East 63rd Street, Suite 100, Kansas City, Missouri. Special appointments also can be scheduled. View her work on Instagram @chaneevijay and