The Land of Nod Goes to India

Follow along on a voyage of creative discovery in one of the most visually stimulating places on earth

Saturated hues, such as those on the work of this textile maker, abound throughout India.
Saturated hues, such as those on the work of this textile maker, abound throughout India.


Acres of manicured gardens, a temple where we did yoga every morning, and luxurious tents hand-blocked in gold with the most beautiful motifs. If you go to Jaipur, you have to stay in the Oberoi Rajvilas—it’s magic.” With just a few sentences, Michelle Kohanzo, managing director of children’s home-goods retailer the Land of Nod, has us reaching for our passport. This past fall, Kohanzo’s annual sourcing trip took her from the company’s Chicago-area headquarters to the far-flung corners of India, where magic is a viable commodity.

The Land of Nod Goes to India
Dee Clements, textile buyer Stefanie Ricciardi, and Michelle Kohanzo at Jaipur's Amber Fort. 
Dee Clements, textile buyer Stefanie Ricciardi, and Michelle Kohanzo at Jaipur's Amber Fort. 
Controversial yet undeniably atmospheric: a traditional snake charmer with a cobra in his sway.
Controversial yet undeniably atmospheric: a traditional snake charmer with a cobra in his sway.

“It’s an overwhelming place—the sounds, smells, and colors can be quite intense,” recalls Kohanzo of the bustling streets of New Delhi, India’s capital. Located in the northern part of the country, the city is also the hub of the Land of Nod’s Indian textile production. “We have long-standing relationships with our artisans and factories. Without them our brand wouldn’t exist,” says Kohanzo, who visited factories at which centuries-old crafts that have been passed down through generations are being practiced. It’s these precious art forms of block printing, hand sewing, and weaving that the Illinois-based company has infused into its growing range of offerings. “So much time and energy is put into producing our items, from choosing the palette we use to the artists we collaborate with to design them. It only makes sense that we partner with vendors and craftspeople who are going to put just as much care into their creation.”

Sometimes these like-minded people are right in Nod’s own backyard. Fellow Chicagoan Dee Clements, designer and owner of the handwoven goods line Herron Clothier, met Kohanzo in a weaving workshop at a craft camp for adults, and the two immediately hit it off. Soon after, Clements was invited to design a collection of rugs and textiles for the retailer that will launch later this year. “Her work is playful and fresh and so rooted in craft that a partnership was natural,” Kohanzo explains. As part of the collaboration, the two traveled to India together to meet the people bringing their visions to life.

The Land of Nod Goes to India
The Land of Nod Goes to India

While a major goal of the trip was to review new merchandise, the two also made time to see the sights. “This was my second trip to India, and I felt better able to take it all in,” Kohanzo says. In Jaipur, known as the Pink City, a trip to the Amber Fort revealed a stunning view of the town below. The traveling companions explored crowded bazaars and atmospheric garden cafes; observed locals preparing for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights; and made the pilgrimage to Agra, where the Taj Mahal has stood as a testament of love for more than three hundred years. 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Kohanzo admires a block-print design. A craftsman handweaves a colorful rug. Camels provide a traveler-friendly mode of transportation. The tented rooms at the Oberoi Rajvilas. 
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Kohanzo admires a block-print design. A craftsman handweaves a colorful rug. Camels provide a traveler-friendly mode of transportation. The tented rooms at the Oberoi Rajvilas
Images courtesy of Michelle Kohanzo

But as a true creative mind, Kohanzo absorbed equal stimulation from the simpler moments throughout her journey. “I’m so inspired by the details—tassels on truck mirrors, painted elephants, henna tattoos, and vibrant saris dragging in the dirt.” At night over gin and tonics (invented by the British in India to repel mosquitoes), Kohanzo would marvel over the day’s adventures with Clements by her side. “We would talk about all the new things we had seen and done,” she says. “We both felt so lucky to be in this special place: a culture that celebrates beauty.”

The Red Fort in Delhi, built in 1648 as an emperor's palace.
The Red Fort in Delhi, built in 1648 as an emperor's palace.
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