GE Healthcare asked Ammu Cherian’s husband to transfer from his post in
India to Wisconsin last year, she saw an opportunity to pursue her dream
of becoming a designer. She quickly absorbed the basics of American
entrepreneurship at Waukesha County Technical College business workshops
and launched her own label, called Amu. Look for Cherian’s fresh line of
collectible classics during Milwaukee Fashion Week.
What is your
“elevator speech” about Amu?
We make handprinted, artisanal clothing inspired by India. A whole part
of this is to empower women. When you buy our clothes, you have helped
so many other people in the process, because 10 percent of our sales go
to organizations that fight sex trafficking and homelessness.
What type of person
do you have in mind as you design?
The woman I imagine is a person who is sensuous, who likes to dress up,
but doesn’t always wear high heels — a woman who likes to be unique, but
not uncomfortable. She wants to stand out; she enjoys color because
she’s adventuresome. She likely has a bohemian spirit, but is not every
day over the top. She might be a teacher, a business executive, an
artist — somebody who has a strong personality but has a creative
Where do you find
inspiration for your work?
lot of my clothes are based out of what I feel. There’s a lot of color —
the fall and spring colors. Just seeing that makes me happy. For custom
work, I try to get to know (the customer) as a person — what they like
to do, what kind of wardrobe they have, favorite colors. I always ask
lots of questions. I want the design to be a timeless piece, to grow
with you as a person. I think clothes reflect personality, so I try to
Your pieces are block-printed by hand. Tell us about the
The blocks that I use are hand-carved blocks designed by artisans in
India. I use those blocks to create patterns. So I spread the ink on the
block and stamp on the fabric. Usually I design the outfit and print the
pattern according to the outfit. I don’t print on yards of fabric and
then sew; I design and then print. The blocks are about 4-by-4 inches,
so the patterns are quite small. I like to put the blocks together to
create new patterns.
Where would you like
Amu to be in five years?
The idea is to help local economy through our business, to bring
artistry back and empower women through the whole process. We want to
teach women how to print on clothes, and we want to have a manufacturing
unit, hopefully in Milwaukee. It’s not that we want to be large-scale
manufacturers. Each design is less than 10 or 12 of the same design.
Everything is made ethically, and we try to get ourselves involved in
fashion that’s sustainable. I would like to bring handmade clothing
back, and make it in a more affordable manner.
What do you do just
My husband and I travel a lot. We’ve been to Detroit, Washington, D.C.,
Chicago, Indiana and Minnesota. He plays soccer, and I hang out with
friends. And we see lots of movies.
For more on the Amu fashion line, go to
My Five Favorite Things!
1 Baking cakes and fancy desserts
2 Collecting fabric — I love my
4 Collecting stationery
5 Block printing; seeing how the
blocks can work together