Not only has Mallika co-founded Aunterra, a design studio receiving commendation by Christian Louboutin himself, she has worked for top designers around the world. She sits with me today casually indulging in freshly baked basil brownies. This woman is confident, capable, and achingly cool. All in the most likeable way.

Hailing from Mumbai, Mallika attended boarding school in London, her blissfully unaware classmates providing a first taste of ignorance – ‘One girl asked if I lived in a hut in India, I was shocked and replied ‘…I have a laptop!’’ She also lived in Belgium, before heading stateside to attend the acclaimed Rhode Island School of Design. With alumni including James Franco and fashion’s wonder child Mary Katrantzou, Mallika was in good company. As if studying wasn’t enough, her summers were spent working for designers Helmut Lang and Hermione de Paula in London.

I stop fan-girling long enough to learn that her creative ways started at just four years old.
‘My grandmother had a cupboard of printed fabrics I loved to play with. I would get so excited by them!’
A natural affinity with colour, fabric and print saw her through to acceptance into the RISD’s competitive textiles program. It was her calling.
‘I never looked back,’ she smiles, ‘It was the most natural thing’.

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After graduating, Mallika was based in NYC, living and breathing creativity, developing patterns in textiles roles. When the opportunity came to join Malvika Vaswani in starting a design studio, she jumped on a plane. The two aimed to create Aunterra by combining ‘two opposing schools of thoughts, aesthetics and ideals’. Mallika of course had textiles handled, Malvika veering towards industrial creations.

Mallika moved back to Mumbai with no guarantees of success – surely a daunting move? She shrugs, ‘I remember thinking.. ‘If not now then when?’ I wanted to start a business and I wanted to do it then.’

Her nonchalant determination did them well. The pair created beautifully original jewelry, inspired by crafts across India. Aunterra was stocked in concept stores across Bombay, featured in an Elle spread, and given the coveted India Design Forum award by Christian Louboutin, for their project ‘Ore’.

However unaffected she appears, these successes do not fall into ungrateful hands. Looking at me intently, she explains the importance of self-mastery in her journey.

‘You have to be sure of your aesthetic, your idea. Be sure of yourself! When we started I was still working out my voice, who I was. As time passes and an idea develops, it’s easy to let it become something else and go along with that. I’ve learned you need to know exactly what you’re putting out there and what it says about you’.

Hours of coordinating vendors, cajoling bloggers, as well as traveling the vast country of India in search of materials, lead to the development of the collection. In spite of this, she knows how to relax. ‘I’ve started kickboxing, it works all your muscles. I can do twenty push ups now!’ Her eyes glint. Any other vices? ‘Air bnb. I look up vacation homes for fun.’ She gets really excited, leaning in, ‘One place I found was a bed on water, in the ocean. Nothing but a bed!’

It’s apparent that Mallika has determined a lot about herself and her chosen industry in the process of creating a business. With the new year, came new paths; in January the duo parted ways, ending Aunterra. Clearly, the art of collaboration is a precise balancing act, easily thrown, especially in the creative industry. Giving up work in NYC, a year spent developing the company – does the end of Aunterra seem like a set back? ‘Honestly it was the best thing’, she clasps her hands, ‘I thought collaborating would be perfect but my ambition was stronger than I realised.’ The two designers had fundamental differences in work style, ‘I’m intuitive and go with my gut. I form an idea, a sketch. I could do a hundred designs and come back to the first. My partner would sketch a hundred until she found that one. She wanted to create industrial pieces for the masses, I wanted to create conceptual pieces, and hope that someone out there got it. Neither of us wanted to compromise’.


Talking with Mallika, one can immediately see, she is what people refer to in hushed voices as ‘A Creative’ – a free spirit, tied only to what she adores, textiles and print. Running a business was perhaps not as nurturing to her creative side as she would like. ‘Having my own company drove me nuts’, she shakes her head rapidly, ‘The menial stuff took over, and there wasn’t enough time to design’.

So what’s next for this world travelling design maven?
‘My grandparents think I’m crazy, that I should stay in India and start my own thing, but I want to work for people! Working with others, I get the best of many worlds. I get the exposure, experience, and I develop artistically’.

Working for an established design company may not give her the conceptual freedom she craves, but it would free her from the daily time-sapping tasks that running a company requires. ‘When your artistic aesthetic lines up with a company’s aesthetic, you can do so much! You have the freedom, the market and the clientele. All you have to do is design.’

Mallika has certainly achieved great things, though starting a new page is always intimidating. But one thing is for certain; her future is set to be bright, filled with self-discovery, success, and some stunning textiles.