Rue 21 St Sulpice, a street in Paris, is celebrated for the heritage buildings that dot its lane.

Said to be the oldest shop on the street, Mohanjeet — a 51-year-old atelier — is managed by 92-year-old Mohanjeet Grewal.

Deemed the ‘ambassador of Indian fashion’, she set foot in the fashion world in 1962 and says each of her collections speaks of a region in India.

Grewal’s childhood was marked by memories of the Partition. The family had to migrate from Lahore to Patiala, where she grew up until she moved to the US in the 50s to pursue further studies.

Following a Doctorate at Berkeley in 1955, Grewal started her career as a journalist, writing for New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times.

After this stint abroad, when she returned to India in 1960, she says she did not remember the country as she left it and so packed her bags once again and moved to Paris.

Disappointed with the money exchange crisis in India, Grewal approached the then-Indian finance minister Morarji Desai with an idea to increase exports.

“He asked me to prepare a project and come back with the results,” she notes.

And so, with the minister’s trust and an investor on board, she began exporting “trunk-loads of Indian textiles” into France in May 1964.

The same year, she opened her first boutique La malle de l’Inde with 3,000 francs, which she’d loaned from a friend.

“My vision was to display and sell Indian craftsmanship in cities like Paris,” she says.

Several times a year, Grewal would make trips to India in search of the finest fabrics, handwoven by craftsmen.

Consequently, she opened another boutique in 1968 at rue St Germain des Prés, and the flagship store Mohanjeet — the only one that remains — on Rue 21 St Sulpice in 1971.

Mohanjeet still relies on word of mouth and has not resorted to e-commerce yet.

Mohanjeet emphasises that once sold out, the same design may be available later, but never the same fabric.

When the fashion legend is not busy at her atelier, she says she loves exploring Paris and enjoying what it has to offer.

She adds, however, that she never defines herself as a stylist, even today. “I [instead] define myself as a potter who has clay in her hands and does something out of it.”