by Annie Hart
Iris Shalimar, 43, creator and designer of Colors by Padmini, currently at 8133 Germantown Ave. at least until the end of December, possibly longer, was born in Israel but studied interior design in London. At the end of university study, she felt called to India, something she had wanted to do all her life but which took some time for her to find the courage to go. Her trip to India was originally supposed to only be for two months, but she ended up staying for 14 months.
In India she became focused on her inner purpose. This quest that brought forth the name Padmini, meaning “little lotus” in Sanskrit, which was given to her by a spiritual teacher and became her designer name. Together with her experiences of meditation and dance, Iris was drawn to the fabrics, textiles and materials she saw in the women’s clothing. “I was struck by the way they carry themselves,” she said, “the way they wrap themselves in those beautiful, brightly colored fabrics, and I got lost in that vast world of beauty. This became my material.”
Iris traveled all over India and eventually ended up in a tiny village where many European designers go that might be called the secret fashion capital of India. As Iris described this magical place, I could almost feel myself there: “It’s a small village located by a holy lake. Tribes come into the town to worship at the lake. You wake up in the morning and cross the market, and you see hundreds of Indians dressed in vibrant pink, which is their tribal color. This is where I am in touch with their real costumes and their outfits.”
People in the village have been collecting pieces of tribal jewelry and embroidery for 70 years. Iris then takes them to her tailors and puts them together in new ways for the American market. Her fashions and home décor all come from these long-ago, hidden-away treasures that are repurposed for our modern world. “I had to bring these magnificent colors here. In India you will see a woman walk out of her house wearing bright yellow color from head to toe, but we don’t do that here. So I take that yellow sari and make a bag that makes a stylish accessory.”
The colors are stunning, but there is also an intangible factor that makes these pieces stand out. While in India, “I would sit with them while they worked and talk about their lives. I feel their stories are contained within these pieces.”
Iris came to Philadelphia because her brother lived here. (He doesn’t live her anymore). People responded, were inspired and fascinated by the items. Traveling for the better part of the past 10 years, she continued to sell her wares during holidays and travel back to India.
Eventually Iris discovered Northwest Philadelphia and instantly felt she had found a home. Even though her shop is currently a pop-up store for November and December, she would love to stay in Chestnut Hill and put down roots. “I love Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and Germantown,” she insisted. “I really feel welcome here, even though I’m not from here. I am surrounded by a community of friends and family.”
Iris brings more than just retail with her store. She and her musician husband create musical and cultural events that draw people together. In addition to the home decor, one can find an original line of fashion and one-of-a-kind accessories.
She loves the old homes of Chestnut Hill. “My designs and the gorgeous old homes of the area are really compatible. I recently bought a 140-year-old home here, and I’m fascinated with the combination of pieces that are old, rustic and tribal. I feel Colors by Padmini and Chestnut Hill are a perfect match.”
Annie Hart is a lover of all things Chestnut Hill. She was born right here in our very own hospital to a mother who was a teaching nurse at the hospital and a father who was a golf pro at the Chestnut Hill Cricket Club. Annie’s work of Personal and Organizational Development and her love of travel take her all over the world, yet she considers Chestnut Hill a lovely place to call home. She lives on Southampton Avenue with her little dog, Miss Sweetie.