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 Home > City Resources > Fashion & Beauty > Shaina N C

 Designer wear, Desi style 

Shaina N C at her studioShe's one designer who promotes the sari in both its ethnic and contemporary forms. Her pret-a-porter and haute couture line of designer sarees, ghagras, embroidered blouses and kurtas have made an independent statement. Shaina N C, one of few designers in the fashion industry with a FIT New York Graduate degree, has two stores in Mumbai to her credit - Golden Thimble, one of the most famous designer stores for bridal wear in the city, & Shaina N C Westerns, showcasing clothes with an Indo-Western touch.

Mumbaibest meets the talented designer in a heart-to-heart.

Do most people attribute your success to your father, Nana Chudasama?
If you are the successful daughter of a successful father, people always say that 'this was expected of you.' If you are unsuccessful, people would say 'look at her dad how successful he is and look at that poor child she has not been able to blossom.' So, from school days itself, I always wanted to prove that I am an individual with an identity of my own and not just bask in my father, Nana Chudasama's glory.

If I did not have talent of my own and could not sell garments successfully as Shaina, do you think I could sell outfits because I am Nana Chudasama's daughter. If you make the most pathetic clothes, people will not buy them for your background. Yes, I owe a lot to my parents, because genetically I am part of them, obviously the creativity has come from them. But one cannot say that because I have a background that I am so successful, that I bask in their glory. Look at artist M F Husain for example, his children should be basking in his glory. How many of his children actually made it successful.

Do you think fashion shows are a must for a designer?
I never did fashion shows earlier because I did not see the need for them. The advantage of having a fashion show is just to show how your clothes look when worn. Recently, I had 'The real woman show,' wherein I dressed women from different age groups and professions - doctors, lawyers, filmstars and celebrities.

Do designers pay models for shows?
It is a trade secret - 'We don't pay the models.' When we have a shoot for a magazine, the magazine is responsible for bringing the models. Models do not charge the magazines for the editorials, because it is publicity for them as well. For fashion shows, in all probability, we never spend money on shows, we have sponsors who take care of the expenses. If you have celebrities like Shobha De or Parmeshwar Godrej modelling your outfits, there are no costs involved at all.

Models do make a lot of money when they become brand ambassadors of companies Omega, Swaroski crystals or do big shows for brands Raymond. New upcoming models charge anything between Rs 5000/- to Rs 8000/- and the Madhu Sapre cadre charge between Rs 25,000/- to Rs 30,000/-. They do not model for love of the designer or just for publicity.

Do you sell the clothes that the models wear on the shows?
If we were to let the models take home the clothes they wear, we would be paupers. We always sell clothes that models wear. In fact, that is the way clothes sell. At the end of the show clients come to us saying that they want the Bipasha Basu or Madhu Sapre outfit.

In the Real Woman Show that I had - everyone wanted the outfit that Mahima Choudary wore. It is funny, but star appeal goes a long way. Marketing serves a lot of purpose, because if you have Shobha De wear an outfit everyone wants that outfit, whether it suits them or not. A lot of it is how you play with your client's psyche.

Do you make wearable clothes?
I make only wearable clothes, that is why my dead stock is less. Take Rohit Bal. I shudder to think who would even touch the blouses he makes. We are constantly aping the west, designers see something on Fashion TV and want to create the same for Indian society. I just feel that the philosophy is totally wrong. What are you achieving by showing these skimpy outfits? Eventually it is a dead loss. The shock appeal is all you can muster.

Top designers charge Rs 1-2 lakhs for a ghagra choli. In Rs 3 lakhs you can buy a car, you are spending that on one day for a wedding outfit. How does one justify it? The people who buy these outfits are primarily NRIs, in the local market there are few who actually spend such money.

For the past 3 years I have been doing a lot of Indo-Western outfits. Even the saris I design are not completely traditional. All clients emphasis on subtle sexiness of an outfit, without revealing much.

What about the garments that remain unsold?
We mark down the prices of clothes that do not sell. We do not have sales, because the moment you have a sale you are classified as a 'B' class designer. If it is absolute dead stock we try to revive part of the embroidery, because eventually what costs is the embroidery, we patch it on to something else and create a new ensemble. It does not always work, you sometimes end up with dead stock. A designer like Ritu Beri, who has so many shows abroad, has a godown filled with deadstock. She might not even have the time to sift through the dead stock to create a new outfit.

Karighars (workers) are as responsible for an outfit as the designer. But while designers have glamourous studios, karighars work in pigeon-hole workshops. Comment.
In our field you find the disparity - on one hand are the 'Karkhandas,' the workers who are making all this and then you have the houte couture designers selling clothes at 1000% profit. Yes, they do not have the best living or working conditions, more so in a place like Mumbai. But in terms of what they are getting paid, they have a union of their own and they decide how much to charge and when to raise their hourly wages. We are also at their mercy. But the only sad thing is that they get little children of 8 or 9 years to do the hemming and embroidery, who should technically be studying in school.

What is your USP as a designer? How do you decide on the pricing of your clothes?
Accessibility is my strong point. There are some designers like Rohit Bal or Tarun Tahiliani who are so inaccessible and only if you have a budget of Rs 50,000 or Rs 1 lakh will they meet you. Then you have the choice of coming to a designer who is accessible and willing to advise you. A lot of women are clueless as to what looks good on them. So, accessibility is what clients expect and it makes them feel comfortable.

Cost of embroidery, cost of workmanship, karighars, fabric - you arrive at an 'x' amount and mark it up to '2x' or '3x'. Sometimes we cheat, if the visual is absolutely wonderful, if I have put my heart and soul into it, I will mark up more than I usually do.

Do you have any plans to dress up men?
I have big plans. In January I am planning the launch of a men's shirt collection. Why ? Because men are the easiest clients. It is such a pleasure to have a man and his wife come into the shop together, because the man will say 'if you like it, take it, pack it,' pay immediately and is out of the store in a matter of minutes. That is such a great feeling. That could be one of the reasons for me to plan a men's range.

I also feel that there is much that can be done about men's shirts and pricewise it works out for us. We plan to sell good formal men's shirt for Rs 1000 to Rs 1500/-, which is affordable when compared to international standards. This would be my way of diversifying slightly.

How do designers decide what is in fashion?
No one designer racks his brains about trends; he just listens to the west. If designers in the western countries say 'Pink is passe' and red and bugundy is in', Indian designers follow suit. Do we have a Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter collection? Some of these seasons do not even exist in India. These are all ways of aping the west and just another marketing gimmick. Who sets trends? What is a trend basically? It is a modification of something that basically exists. For example, you can modify salwars kurtas into trouser kurtas, that is a trend, reduce the length of a kurta that is a trend, or change the dupatta into a scarf, these modifications are trends.

Why cannot India be the fashion capital of the world?
In India, we have no unity in the fashion industry. We do not have a platform where we designers can get together. This is never going to happen because all designers have big egos, which is the size of a mountain. Designers feel that they cannot fold clothes, cut or hem. If we had some unity and dignity of labour we would go places.

Honestly, if you ask me there is over glamourisation of this industry, it needs to be deglamourised. They make us into such big celebrities. In India, after film stars, the most happening people are models and designers. Creative people per se are quite erratic. The media makes you bigger than you actually are.

Author: Anupama Vinayak


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