Fashion: Ruchi Mehta's aesthetics allows flexibility of interpretation.
Ruchi Mehta may not be the quintessential Indian fashion success story yet but her designs are refreshing and so is her judiciousness. Mehta is clear as crystal about the direction she wants to nudge her fashion label — Salt — in.
The plan is precise but unorthodox. You won’t find her at either of the two fashion weeks anytime soon, at least not until they’re less “theatre production” and more “business generation”.
“It’s only in India where fashion shows are so frivolous, held just because the sponsor company wants branding opportunity,” she explains. You also won’t find her retailing out of Indian fashion staples. Her Western emphasis was born not from starry-eyed fixation but from a practical cognizance of her niche.
An NID graduate, Mehta makes clear she is a textile designer first and fashion is just an extension of her experimentation with textiles. She also realised early on that the local market was almost entirely driven by bridal wear, or clothes that designers “crammed sequins into”. “The obvious choice was to look abroad where indigenous craft found more takers,” says she.
Her work is characterised by a creative use of ethnic prints, colours, original woven fabric and layering, not unlike her inspiration — Belgian cult designer Dries Van Noten “My clothes are all crossover pieces that have the flexibility to be interpreted in whichever way you want,” she says.
Her strength is surface work — quilting, appliqué, kantha, and other traditional texturing techniques, and the base fabric is almost always a manipulated version of silk. The palette is consistent, taupe, charcoal, dusty rose, grey. “I would die if I had to do bright colours,” she says good-naturedly
“Six years ago, I began in a garage with one weaver and a sample loom,” she laughs (she now has at least 30 craftsmen working with her). And with no readymade retail channels at her disposal, it was her persistent presence at trade fairs that got her craft the attention.
She’s back from her first showing at Pret-a-porter Paris and says her retail spread is only a little less than 200 stores in the UK, through fashionable yet affordable chains like Jigsaw and Fenwick.
It’s noteworthy that Mehta is sensitive to, and sensible about, pricing. Her retail price varies from Rs 3,000 to 5,000. “I know what I want my final selling price to be and I work backwards with retailer margins to consider.”
Mehta’s apprehension about Indian consumers has never really gone away. This is despite sell-out exhibitions at Bungalow 8 in Mumbai and Cinnamon in Bangalore. “I am beginning to think a discerning buyer is a discerning buyer no matter which country you sell in. Also, I guess more and more people here appreciate the thought that goes behind each garment,” she adds hopefully.
Though she is keyed up about a potential entry into the Indian market, she indicates there will be no dabbling in retail. “I am a wholesaler. Too many designers make the transition from creator to seller too quickly. You’re then creating competition for your own buyers and that makes no sense,” she explains.
Mehta’s work, not to mention her judiciousness, quietly, but powerfully, sets her apart from the crowd.
Source : Arati Menon Carroll