Born and raised in Bangalore as the daughter of an entrepreneur and a writer, Akshata Murty came of age with dueling passions for the arts and India’s growing economy. As a child, Murty was exposed to the plights of women in poverty-stricken areas of India by working with her mother’s nonprofit foundation. “My parents raised me and my brother with strong philanthropic values, and volunteer work in impoverished areas exposed me to the challenges faced by women in India,” explains Murty. “It is also there that I discovered an ancient and diverse craft tradition, and wondered why these women didn’t have a way to earn a living from their talents.”
In 1998, Murty left India to attend Claremont McKenna College, where she studied economics and French. Upon graduation, she began a successful finance career in California. “But whenever I returned home, I was struck by these crafts, and how much more beautiful and exotic they appeared from a new vantage point,” Murty explains. “I began thinking of ways to preserve the arts and provide a sustainable source of income generation for these women.”
Fashion, one of Murty’s other lifelong interests, became the perfect vehicle to deliver this art to a global audience. “Indian fashion is perceived as mostly tunics and saris,” says Murty. “But there are so many works of art, from maps to pottery to tribal paintings, that can and should influence style. And why not use clothing to raise awareness about different cultures?” And so the idea for Akshata, the brand, was born. The name not only
refers to its designer, but in Sanskrit it translates to the notion of infinity. Akshata’s concept? To use indigenous crafts as the basis for a fashion label, beginning with India and ultimately expanding to other traditions around the globe. “I’m fascinated by how people live, and how we can learn from their experiences,” explains Murty. “Reading, researching and understanding history is innate to who I am, and these arts allow us to experience those other worlds vicariously. Ultimately, I hope that my label is viewed as a passport to different cultures.”
Murty developed the business plan for Akshata while earning her MBA at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Upon graduation in 2006, she remained in San Francisco and worked once again in marketing and finance before dedicating herself to Akshata full-time in late 2009. Murty’s debut collection will debut for the Spring 2011 season. “Clothing is the most literal expression of my creativity, and I’m equally passionate about history, so this business allows me to merge those two worlds,” says Murty. “Developing these collections provides me with an ultimate sense of creative fulfillment.” Collaborating with individual artisans, non-profit organizations, and factories all over India, Akshata provides artist fees and royalties to those individuals whose designs grace her collections. Akshata and her husband Rishi are passionate about supporting educational causes and social entrepreneurial ventures. Akshata serves on the Board of Claremont McKenna College and the San Francisco Exploratorium, and Rishi serves on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica. A recent Londoner, Akshata is excited about exploring the rich history and culture that London has to offer for her young daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.