Urban Medley: Reviving Heritage within the Urban Community

November 23, 2022

Photo: Caroline Haarman in Urban Medley’s Tussar Silk Scarf Noa

We, humans, tend to always wonder about the roads not taken. However, the reality is that we do not get far if we spend too much time what-iffing.

Shayonti Chatterji is the perfect example that we either should risk, or we will forever sit with our dreams. After spending more than 22 years in the demanding corporate world, she realized that making a comfortable living sometimes is not enough if your heart is somewhere else. Therefore, she followed hers and jumped deep into the challenging yet rewarding world of building her very own venture.

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Shayonti Chatterji founded Urban Medley in 2020, immersing herself into the richness of Indian heritage after spending more than 20 years in the corporate world. Photo: Personal Archive

This is when the story of Urban Medley, the Netherlands-based lifestyle brand Shayonti launched in 2020, began.

It is a story born of the founder’s immense desire to promote the rich artisanal heritage that has held her spellbound as far as she can recall. This has led her back to her roots in India. Shayonti has always been fascinated by how Indian artisans use traditional techniques to effortlessly reflect contemporary fashion and design. “I realized it was this ability to adapt that enabled the many crafts from India to stay relevant over centuries, making them unique and exclusive, and I wanted to contribute in some way to that story,” she shares.

The brand’s silk scarves and kimonos are like pieces of art that successfully incorporate traditional forms of weaving and printing within contemporary design. The patterns and colours are dominated by nature and simple geometric shapes, “both of which provide a sense of balance and calmness,” according to Shayonti.

But why ‘Urban Medley’? Shayonti puts it straight, making it sound as a decision that just came naturally to her: “Medley is a mix of people and things and that is exactly what defines us – a mix of ideas, designs, colours, and techniques coming together to create accessories for the ‘Urban’ community, to acquaint them with the centuries-old artisanal crafts which otherwise may remain unknown.”

From its very beginning, Urban Medley was meant to be a responsible brand, though ‘100% sustainability’ is a term its founder aims to avoid. Rather, her desire was to create a lifestyle brand which “helps unfold the story behind the craft, salutes the makers, and enables people to celebrate their style while also being mindful of the planet.”

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Urban Medley’s organic silk kimono – Fallen Leaf. Available now at Konsha.
Urban Medley’s Tussar Silk Scarf Cora. Available now at Konsha.

Therefore, Shayonti cautiously chooses her partners and works with makers and designers that align with her brand’s values as well as with its principles of ethical production and transparency. For her, this means being in control during every step of the production process – from inception to the finished product.

After all, design and quality are quite important as the brand does not sell mass-produced items. Urban Medley’s products are exclusive and available in limited quantities only. “I need to emphasize to consumers that each item is handmade,” Shayonti shares. “No two pieces can be identical and there can be small glitches and misses which is what sets them apart as they are made by hand and not by machines.”

Of course, Shayonti and her team were not deprived of challenges, which according to her, will continue as the business grows. This does not scare her. After all, she and her brand successfully passed the stress test of the pandemic period. However, what she describes as the greatest hurdle was “to catch the eyeballs of the target group”. “This is very difficult for a brand that’s just starting and has a niche product line,” she explains. “We must share the space and compete with the more established ones and that’s not easy.”

Talking about the fashion industry in general, Shayonti acknowledges that nowadays more and more brands and fashion activists are putting the spotlight on responsible and ethical production practices. According to her, “the #whomademyclothes movement is as important as what the items are made of. The story of the maker needs to be in the forefront, we need to keep in mind sustainability is not about buying expensive sustainable clothes by leading brands. Sustainability is about equity in society, economy, and the environment.”

Shayonti is optimistic. However, she firmly believes that consumers should also change their habits and outlook. She is convinced that they need to “be able to see through the greenwashing as it is a huge deterrent for us, as a society, to reach the expected goals”.

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Urban Medley’s Eri Silk Scarf Isa. Available now at Konsha.

The story of Shayonti and Urban Medley is quite extraordinary. Undoubtedly, it takes courage to leave the comfort of your office and to immerse yourself into the richness of Indian heritage. Shayonti did it with grace and full determination. If you would love to learn more about her inspiration and daily favorites, here is a short Q&A we also had with her:

What is your favorite piece from your brand’s latest collection? What makes it special to you?

Silk Kimonos! I think it’s a very aesthetically made item, unique in its designing and use, an item that like most of our products is gender neutral (I am big on de-gendering fashion) and suited for multiple uses all year round.

What defines your personal style? What other conscious brands do you like and wear?

Simple but different. I have never followed trends, instead tried to express my inner self through what I wear. I always try to buy items from the makers directly. For regular wardrobe staples, I am dependent on high-street brands, or honestly speaking, what I can afford. However, I happily repeat and reuse my clothes with pride as most of them have been carefully selected and bought with love.

What inspires you the most as an entrepreneur?

The fact that no matter how small we are today we are able to impact and make a small difference in the bigger frame of things.

This song you can’t stop listening to?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a permanent favourite!

This place you just can’t stop visiting?


This drink/cocktail you can’t stop ordering?


This desert you can’t stop thinking about?

Christmas plum pudding, made in the traditional way with fruits soaked in rum!

If you want to learn more about Urban Medley’s responsible practices and efforts, you can check out the brand’s Konshas ID.

Shop Urban Medley at Konsha

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