Handbag designer Natasha Shamdasani Madan was born into a traditional Indian family living in China, and she attended a British school in Hong Kong. “I’m very Indian, but in many ways I’m also very Chinese,” she says. “My friends growing up were German, Belgian, Singaporean, and Finnish. One of my best friends was seven different nationalities, and I still remember each of them.”
The East-meets-West aesthetic of Madan’s Taashki handbag collection is an amalgamation of her varied global influences.
“After high school things changed. Everywhere I went had its own clearly defined culture,” she says. “What I’m trying to do with my designs is to bring things that are beautiful in one culture and merge it with the first culture, turning it into something that is unique, stylish, and elegant — and also teaches you a thing or two about a part of the world you’ve never been to.”
Her Empress bag, for example, unites Western practicality, Indian beauty, and Chinese superstition. The bag features two large, durable straps for functionality, a tonal leather exterior, and a silk brocade lining for style, with a symbolic etched fortune lock hanging from the front. Madan always includes a key with the sale of the Empress purse, which she says, “Doesn’t do anything except remind you that a lock always has a key on the end; therefore, any problem you face always has a solution.”
As an adult, the self-proclaimed “big city girl” lived in New York City and Bombay and roamed the globe as a travel marketing executive, a position she held prior to entering the fashion industry. So when her husband Alok Madan, a behavioral health physician, received a job opportunity at MUSC, he promised her they would only have to stay in the small city of Charleston for a year. Improbably, Madan fell head-over-heels in love with the Holy City, electing to stay indefinitely. “It’s an amazing place for stimulating creativity,” she explains. “I found my voice here.”
Madan lights up when describing the people she’s met and experiences she’s had here, including her first attempt at wholesaling Taashki handbags to Charleston boutiques. Terrified, she arrived at her first appointment at Eden Boheme. Within three minutes, her fear had completely dissolved, and she and boutique owner Anna Lassiter were sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by bags, discussing the innate creative nature of artists. Eden Boheme continues to carry Taashki handbags today, and her lower-priced vegan handbag line, Yantra by Taashki, is available at House of Sage.
Recently, Madan became a partner in One on King Street, a space for emerging designers to showcase their work. Madan calls One founder Rachel Gordon a “kindred spirit.” Both women share a desire to pursue fashion in a way that helps others and have already hosted several events at One to raise funds for local charities. Taashki has previously donated to MUSC Behavioral Medicine. “For me, it’s the mental health side,” she says. “My goal is to sell 1,000 InsideOut Clutches in a year.” By selling that many bags, Taashki would be able to pay for six months of therapy for 12 women.
At the end of our conversation, Madan recalls an exchange with her husband shortly after moving to Charleston in which they discussed changing the world one handbag at a time. One day as Madan headed out the door to work, her husband told her, “Go change the world.” “That’s really what I want to do,” she confides. “Now, it’s all happening. It’s all coming together.”