Natural and organic yet colourful and chic define designer Priyadarshini Rao’s creations. In a candid chat, she tells us about her inspirations, and how travel and books can help you
understand your innate style
As Priyadarshini Rao sat across me on a lazy afternoon, I had this sudden thought that in a way, she really did exude qualities that her clothes have come to stand for: easy confidence, freedom, effortlessness and panache that was luxurious without becoming ostentatious. Over the long chat we had over coffee, Rao shared with me her journey over the years.
Beginning from a course in fashion designing to acquiring a specialisation in weaving and also learning corsetry and jacket-making from renowned institutes, fashion designer Priyadarshini Rao has been fulfilling her objective of redefining fashion for Indian women throughout her career. She launched her eponymous label in 1996 and defined her signature style as luxury prêt. “Contemporary international trends reflect in most of my collections,” she tells us. “My label is distinctly suited to the urban Bohemian sense of style.”
Rao started expanding her label to various design stores, also becoming a consulting head of design at Shoppers Stop. Later, she launched an economically- priced prêt label called PR and retailed it out of Pantaloons. Her expansions didn’t stop there. With over 17 years of experience r unning her own label, Rao and her husband, Jaydeep Shetty, recently commenced a venture called Mineral. Casual, wearable and effortless styled are the key words to describe this brand. What’s with the name, we asked. “We wanted to create a brand name that stood for all the kinds of products that we were making,” says Rao. She further describes that her product is going to be essentially organic and something that was one with nature but at the same time aesthetically styled and with its own evolution process. “We were also looking for a brand name that would move easily from being a women’s wear brand to men’s wear or even with home décor products.”
Then saddled with apprehensions that came with the feeling of not being confident about the branding, the monies as also coming up with a whole new label that digressed from her eponymous one, Rao now looks back with a feeling of being glad about having taken the plunge. “Our niche consists of the intelligent woman who shops to clothe herself, to clothe her moods,” she tells us. She is a woman who isn’t looking for occasion wear but craves for ‘feel good’ clothing, specifically western wear. “International brands do not understand the Indian woman. A lot of foreign brands make clothing either for very tall or very slim women. It doesn’t always fit the Indian woman as her structure is different,” she says. With her understanding of the Indian retail market and the kind of experience she has had, Rao realised that she could create a brand that was international in its approach but was still specifically designed for an Indian woman, keeping in mind the fact that she has a particular structure and a specific fondness for cer tain colours and fabrics.
‘Fashion’ for her is just a word. “It’s not what we live with,” she affir ms. “I think what endures is style.” When it comes to shopping for apparel, she says that it’s very important for ever y woman to understand her limitations and qualities. “A g reat personality can carry off any kind of clothing. Wear clothes that highlight your qualities and not exag gerate your limitations. At the same time, you should read up and travel to understand yourself on a basic level.” She adds that women must give enough importance to themselves, a tiny but important nug get that a lot of Indian women overlook in a bid to please everyone but themselves. “Look g ood for yourself and not anybody else,” she suggests. Words of wisdom, indeed.
Rao’s labels comprise clothing that is rich in natural fabrics like silk, linen and cotton. She uses these fabrics and conver ts them into luxur y casuals and lounge wear. Creating textures within the fabrics with the use of unusual yar ns or surface treatments make her collections exclusive. Study them fur ther and you’ll see that a lot of research goes into a particular collection. “We travel to different places and do extensive research on embroideries, laces and fabrics,” she says. “We select elements, make combinations, assemble the required things and create a beautiful piece out of it.”
Rao loves to travel and her major source of inspiration flows from the places she has been to. Be it artisans or block printers, traditional roots of India and rural places inspire her and creep into her design elements often. “Weaving threads of Kanchipuram, cotton from Mangalgiri, the culture of Rajasthan and the Himalayas are creative inspirations,” she shares. Moreover, her learnings and experiences, relationship with the clients and the way she lives her life influence her work.
Her clothing retails out of over 15 premium design stores across the country; she plans to branch out in different cities soon. It’s been about 17 years since she has been in the industry with her own label. “It has not been easy,” she confesses. “In any kind of profession, your work needs to talk for you and that’s really what I have always been about.” Years of experiences and Rao still doesn’t see the need to network at social dos or talk about herself as willingly as some designers are wont to do. “I believe that a strong signature style is all that is required to take you from the genesis to any level of achievement that you are looking for.”