Atlanta native Meghna Davé brings Indian-inspired apparel and textiles to Maelu in Grant Park

Maelu is the marriage of Davé’s Indian heritage and American spirit

Atlanta native Meghna Davé brings Indian-inspired apparel and textiles to Maelu in Grant Park
Meghna Davé says Maelu is a lifestyle shop for both her creations and other local brands.

Photograph courtesy of Meghna Davé

Like many, Meghna Davé left Atlanta after school for the bright lights of New York City. She grew up in an Indian family in Dacula, where textiles were the family business—her mom created niche, high-end costumes for local dance groups. “I wasn’t interested in continuing in the family business or entrepreneurship,” she says. “I wanted to work in corporate America in NYC. That was my dream.”

After two years in New York City, though, she realized that life as a forensic litigation consultant wasn’t necessarily for her, either. She quit and traveled around Asia, beginning to think about becoming an entrepreneur. Surprisingly to her, her business ideas revolved around textiles, but with one key difference. “I realized that my own thing didn’t have to be exactly like my parents’ business, but rather a combination based on my heritage and how I grew up American,” she says.

What that business was going to be, though, she didn’t quite know. During her sabbatical, Davé enrolled in a dressmaking school in Thailand, then went to India to research natural dyes. She had no goal other than to learn new skills and meet artisans. While in India, she met a local family who block-printed traditional fabrics, and began experimenting with the possibilities of their fabrics. A year later, with the help of her parents, she began delving into business conversations to make a clothing line a reality.

Now in its 12th year of operation, Maelu is the marriage of Davé’s Indian heritage and American spirit. Collaborating with three block printers in India that specialize in different techniques, she combines the traditional with the modern. Her focus is on natural fibers, sustainable practices, and well-made pieces. She works with an NGO in India for sampling and manufacturing that provides resources to women who have suffered from domestic violence, teaching them sewing skills and offering the support they need to work with the organization or start their own microbusinesses.

Maelu comes from the Thai phrase mai ru, which loosely translates to “I don’t know,” a perfect fit for Davé’s philosophy of figuring things out as she goes. “The nature of the unknown appealed to me,” she says. “I didn’t want to put a vision on it. It was more about doing one step at a time.”

She began her business in Atlanta, but after she met her husband, they moved to Portland. Her line of dresses, pants, tops, pillows, and more has blossomed into an avenue for community since they moved back to Atlanta in 2022, after the birth of her son. She opened her retail space in Grant Park in September 2023. While she wasn’t actively searching for a brick-and-mortar, she was, once again, open to possibilities unknown. It more than worked out. “I’m five minutes from my house,” she says. “I take my son to the park across the street.”

She enjoys having a physical space to help customers and amplify local brands. Right now, that includes a section for such specialty foods as Spicewalla spices and Portrait Coffee, and a kids section with small runs of toddler- and baby-sized clothing in Maelu prints, plus toys and accessories. There’s jewelry from Grant Park–based Connie n’ Jack and Decatur-based Fossil & Hide, and fragrance from Sandy Springs’s Eidecker Studio. She’s planning more events this year, continuing to build the community that has supported her so passionately. “We’re a lifestyle store. We’re creating a story, a feel. We want this space to feel welcoming for all,” Davé says.

This article appears in our June 2024 issue.