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A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu

Featured Article

Westport's Amazing Makers

Enriching Our Town's Creative Scene

Article by Robin Moyer Chung and Anna Barnes

Photography by John Videler

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Aartisan Chocolates

Aarti Khosla handed me a luminous slice of orange, perfectly dried in her shop’s kitchen, dipped in Le Rouge's dark chocolate that can only be described as insane. These weren’t for sale, though.

“This has to do with me being a fanatic,” she says.

Since her first batch of chocolates in October 2012, Aarti, a Weston resident born and raised in India, has been perfecting artisanal cocoa treats inspired by flavors from all over the world. From Texas (bourbon) to India (saffron pistachio), from France (orange-infused almond) to Hong Kong (Szechuan pepper, since retired).

“I would put the kids to bed then go to the kitchen at 8:30 or 9:30 and work all night. Then make breakfast for them in the morning.”

Every chocolate (and cake and cocoa mix) is handcrafted and sold exclusively from Le Rouge on Main Street in Westport. She never makes a batch of more than 100 chocolates and recommends they be eaten within one week.

So why did a native of India become expert in a non-Indian treat? The reason is as chimerical as the chocolates themselves.

“I wanted to have my own path, not just to follow my husband. And I loved the term ‘chocolatier.’”

Furthering her own journey, she only hires women.

“I want women to learn, be independent and do what they want to do.”

Keeping Westport Artsy

Ken Warren has made Westport a little more beautiful since 2004 when he first opened Westport River Gallery. As art collectors, Ken and his wife know how art can enrich the lives of those it touches.

“We make people happy by providing them an escape from the dramatic, intense and unrelenting pressures they face at home and at work. The winter weather, honking and pressure to answer every text often melts away when they get home and magically enjoy the lavender of Provence, a beachside stroll, a European cafe or the regatta on the high seas. It’s not Narnia, but we enable people to remember life is not just about how much you do, and how much you make, but how much you enjoy. And sometimes it reminds people they need to take a break, smile and relax.”

Westport River Gallery reaches a wide variety of audiences: college students to celebrities; coast to coast.

“One’s profession and income is no predictor of an interest in art,” Ken says.

A typical day for Ken is as ever-evolving as Connecticut weather.

“Every interaction with a visitor, emailer or phone caller changes the day. Someone from Park Avenue needs prices on art they saw in our front window. A walk-in turns out to be an international artist visiting Westport seeking representation. A couple from Westchester sold their home and needs small fine art. A man from San Francisco is wondering what a French work of art is worth.”

Designing Gorgeous Threads

The path from electrical engineer to fashion designer is hardly well-tread; one rarely looks to the other for insight and guidance. Until 2006, when a Bombay-born Harvard MBA consultant/engineer living in Westport chose to ditch her corporate togs to create a line of high-end, irresistibly beautiful tunics, to become the Sulu Collection.

Decision made, Sulu Grant jetted back to Bombay to source fabric and select blocks for patterns, then worked with artisans to design her signature elaborate, hand-crafted embroidery and beadwork. Further, Sulu enlisted her mother to oversee the process.

“She takes care of all the headaches in India, and she’s 82,” Sulu says. “Instead of worrying about her arthritis, she can worry about our block printing.”

Her evolving designs and color palette—corals, cobalts, navy and more—is the “Westernization of the Indian aesthetic,” as are the slimming cuts and styles, which now include dresses and jackets. Her clothes flatter a spectrum of women, including Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Laura Bush and the writer of this article who can't seem to stop wearing hers.

“I have many repeat customers because everyone tells them they look so pretty,” Sulu says. “[My designs] are tailored rather than boxy. They make women feel beautiful without trying very hard.”

One woman, smitten with a too-small jacket, sprang for two then sliced up one to size up the other. (Sulu now sells sizes P- XXL).

After Hurricane Florence, Sulu graciously donated 800 pieces to affected North Carolina residents through GEAR. Perhaps not the most practical item in a relief parcel but, according to a GEAR spokeswoman, one that made many women very happy.

Making Children Smile

Dr. Hannah Ahn is the best of the best when it comes to making Westport kids smile!

Dr. Ahn began pediatric practice six years ago at Westport Dental Associates and has had a passion for kids for as long as she can remember.

“I always knew I wanted to work with children since forever ago. I love how innocent and impressionable children are, and I always wanted to do something that would be a positive influence in their lives. I thought that if I could be someone who introduces the dental world to them and show them that it doesn’t have to be a scary experience or something they dread, then I will have done one small positive thing that will hopefully help them through the rest of their lives.

"I also wanted parents to not dread having to take their kids to the dentist. I think dentists are often associated with negative emotions and thoughts, so my motivation stems from the hopes of creating a fun, safe and educational environment that the whole family can be excited about!”

There’s no typical day in the life of a pediatric dentist. Dr. Ahn never knows when she’ll get a funny story from a 6-year-old, hear new accomplishments of a 3-year-old, or learn of new life developments from one of her teens. The best thing about her job?

“Seeing my patients grow up! I have known many of my patients since they were born!”

  • A look from Sulu's current collection
  • A look from Sulu's current collection
  • A look from Sulu's current collection
  • A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu
  • A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu
  • A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu
  • A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu
  • A look from Sulu's current collection- Photo provided by Sulu Collection
  • The founder of Sulu, getting style inspiration in India - Photo provided by Sulu Collection
  • Le Rouge founder and owner Aarti Khosla
  • Le Rouge signature candy bars
  • Beautiful handmade chocolates and truffles
  • A collection of handmade chocolates
  • Pediatric Dentist Dr. Hannah Ahn
  • Westport River Gallery owner Ken Warren
  • Pediatric Dentist Dr. Hannah Ahn
  • A painting by HM Saffer. Currently on display at Westport River Gallery
  • A painting by Michel Guyon. Currently on display at Westport River Gallery