Newcastle woman launches African fashion label The Colour Bug

Passionate: Shivangi Maheshwari is excited about her new fashion company, The Colour Bug. Pictures: Mitch Lee
Passionate: Shivangi Maheshwari is excited about her new fashion company, The Colour Bug. Pictures: Mitch Lee

Shivangi Maheshwari is a true citizen of the world. Born in India, Shivangi moved with her family to Kenya when she was in primary school. She ultimately lived in East Africa for half of her lifetime and now refers to it as “back home”.

“We moved with my father’s work opportunities,” she says. “First we moved from New Delhi in India to Nepal. Then we came back to India, but this time in Mumbai, before moving to Nairobi in Kenya. After being in Nairobi for 10 years, we moved to Tanzania for five years.”

Despite having parents who were clearly comfortable traversing the globe, Shivangi says that she had to work hard to convince them to allow her to move to Australia.

“It took a lot of convincing,” she says. “I did two or three months researching all the places I could go to in the world and why I was choosing to go to Australia.

“For Indian parents, to have their kids leave home before getting married is not so natural for them. It was a big deal for them.”

Choice: Trisha Stephen, Shivangi, Loor Awwad in The Colour Bug fashion.

Choice: Trisha Stephen, Shivangi, Loor Awwad in The Colour Bug fashion.

Shivangi moved to Perth for three years where she completed an MBA and met her partner Thomas. Together they moved across to the East Coast and settled in Newcastle, which they now contentedly call home.

“We decided to move to Newcastle in search of work and instantly fell in love with the city,” she says. “I just love the cosy, calm, vibrancy of Newcastle.”

Shivangi initially found work in accounting and finance with a major accounting firm whom she had also worked for in Tanzania. However, she soon began to realise that she did not feel authentically fulfilled within her professional life.

“At some point I was realised this is not me,” she says. “This is a character that I put on for my work life but this is not me.

“Though there were parts that I enjoyed, I didn’t feel connected with my work.”

During this time, Shivangi was travelling back to Tanzania each year to visit her parents.

“Every time I went back, I realised how connected I felt to the people and culture there,” she says.

African sense: Another sampling of The Colour Bug fashion range.

African sense: Another sampling of The Colour Bug fashion range.

“‘It got to the point where I just felt like I am too old to not do things I am happy with.”

She began to plan The Colour Bug, a Newcastle-based boutique that would focus on unique pieces of African art and fashion.

“It was a hard decision to leave a regular pay cheque and move into setting up something on your own. Of course I’ve studied how to run a business but it’s not the same,” she says.

Shivangi is now four months into her Colour Bug journey and is thrilled to be bringing a piece of her childhood home back to Australia with her.

True to its name, The Colour Bug is filled with rich colours and vibrant patterns, but most importantly it supports projects that are aligned with its core values of sustainability, ethical fashion, and social entrepreneurship.

Shivangi has sourced all of the pieces within her upcoming debut collection from East African arts and women’s collectives. The collection consists of handmade clothing; jewellery made from fabric scraps, wooden beads and seeds; headbands; hand-woven baskets, wall-hangings and tableware; hand sewn toys; as well as colourful art pieces made out of recycled thongs.  Each of the pieces are unique and one-off.

Ambitious fashion: Shivangi Maheshwari

Ambitious fashion: Shivangi Maheshwari

“I am hoping there are different kinds of people who will like these products, but I am expecting my customers to be mostly female, aged between 25-50, who like colours and bold fashion, care about ethically produced and sourced handmade fashion and who embrace diversity in cultures,” she says.

It has been important to Shivangi that she personally meet each maker to learn their processes and stories. “When you buy something The Colour Bug, I want people to know the story of the person who made it. Every product will be sold with a name and a little story about the person who made it,” she says.

Ultimately Shivangi aims to set up a bricks and mortar store in Newcastle.

‘I want people to experience the culture, not just the product. I don’t want to make it just about the product.’

You will be able to catch her first collection at a local market soon.

Follow The Colour Bug at @thecolourbug on Facebook or Instagram.