Interview with Vandana Roy: Fashion Designer

Vandana Roy
Interview of Ms VANDANA ROY, the designer and the businesswoman behind the 'Sentiments' range of India Ethnics wear, which is marketed exclusively by Seasons. The interview appeared in the latest issue of the magazine "In Touch With Fashions" Volume 2 Issue 1".

In the bewildering array of clothes, somewhere lies the strangely enticing Salwar Kameez, as the contemporary couture of a feminine body. Conforming to the body, this mode of dressing has unleashed a widely imaginative fashion interest in the Indian sentiment and mind set. The endless possibilities of a salwar kameez attire from being traditionally demure to ceaselessly seductive have made it cross even the Indian frontiers. From being a predictably casual wear to being non-ageist couture; the salwar kameez with its unending possibilities has definetely arrived... in your wardrobe.

The glitterati in their endeavour to look great and feel good place their faith in the hands of a few designers and a price tag with endless nulls. Our mailbox had a lot of enquires from women wanting the same feel of the garment but at an affordable tag. Another dimentions to it was the fact that this segment wanted wears that were subtle as a casual wear yet trendy when party borne. A survey through the shopping havens across the terrians of our country led us in search of the affordable yet elegant salwar kameez that would do any women proud. The gaints in retail trade like Modern Silk House in Lucknow, Sona's Favourite Shop in Bangalore, Pralochna in Coimbatore, Sri Krishna in Chennai, Nikhar in Jaipur, Seasons in Mumbai and Asopalav in Ahmedabad were a few destinations that compelled us to believe that ingenious ideas have been plotted in making this dressing a branded product. We narrowed the search and discovered a single brand that has been visionary and a cult figure in dressing....Sentiments.

How did the Sentiments brand of Salwar Kameez's touch similar sentiments of an invigorating mix of culture and people across the country, makes you wonder what made it click. Was it the fashion genius creating wearable attires or was it a marketing revolution? Probably it was both. A few unanswered questions made us search the history of Sentiments and we discovered. ...a woman.

"Please let me be low profile," she screams from behind her desk in her design studio, wearing an elegant salwar kameez which we presumed was nothing but Sentiment. The name behind the desk was Vandana Roy, the designer and the businesswoman of Sentiments. So in this age of recession how has she managed to make a success? "Give your client value for money and she remains with you," replies Vandana Roy. However clinched it may sound but then that is the reality in this recession infiltrated season. Salwar Kameez is a necessity in today's wardrobe but at the same time within a given budget the woman wants to feel indulgent and luxurious. "The focus is on the intelligent woman who has more than just taste and is not looking for cheap imitations of big designers," thinking 17s to the mature 30s and rightfully so as we gather. So then where is the compromise...if any?

"You cannot, I repeat, cannot compromise in the quality of your garment even if you want to cut corners in the pricing." comments Vandana. The fabrics are exquisite and there is an exceptional attention to detail in the making every garment even if it is mass-produced. "Even if we are mass producing, we at Sentiments ensure that not more than two to three pieces of a single design in one colour reaches the retail outlet in one city," beams the lady, proud to maintain exclusively in spite of being a production house. "It is this mass production that makes it physically and financially visible for me to travel to jaipur just for Bandhanis, to Coimbatore for handloom cottons, get my jute linens from Bhagalpur, Jamevars from Banaras and get Bagru printing work done from Sanganer in Rajasthan," says Vandana, explaining the intricacies of producing more garments than one at a time. The quantities in question make it possible for the brand to directly deal with the craftsmen, weavers and artisans all around India and extract quality work from them. A tight reign on the prices by eliminating middle men is passed on directly to the women who adore the garment for its fit and style. So how does she design keeping in mind the different choices of a consumer in coaching to the one in Calcutta? "The choices may be different but the bottom line is the same, every women wants to feel beautiful." We agree with Vandana. The inspiration for Vandana is colours.... beautiful colours.

The arduous journey of creating acceptable designs begins with fabrics and colours. "The fabrics ought to have a character and the colours a charishma," the designer proclaims. Their tie up with all the leading fabric manufacturers in India and suppliers abroad ensures that the same fabric is not dumped in the market for a stipulated time. This gives them enough lead time to introduce garments in the fabric that no one has touched before. Vandana Roy did her two -year course in Dress Making and Fashion Co-ordination from the SNDT institite in Mumbai. Besides this, the designer has a fabulous hand for art and painting, which she uses to create soulful dressings for Sentiments. She laments the fact that in spite of such talented people coming out of fashion institutes, not one of them looks towards mass production as a medium of creating dressings. "Every one wants to be a top of the line and media hyped designer," comments this successful manufacturer of Salwar Kameezes. She believes that if there are more players and competition in this industry, it would eventually be prospering the consumer and anything less than perfect would be a passe. So are there any other players fishing in the same grounds...of Sentiments? There are a few more players in the branded segment but are far from being a recognizable symbol like Sentiments. There are nearly two hundred shops all over India convincingly retailing the Sentiments brand. "These retail outlets are personally selected by us and we ensure that there are no more than one or two outlets in a city." says Vandana while discussing her marketing strategy. Sentiments do not intend to increase the number of retail outlets any further because they do not want to oversell and wish to retain their characteristics aura in each city, is what we gather.

Where there is an original, can the fakes be far behind in a country that has shoab of pirates. Retail outlets that could not get the coveted Sentiments brand indulge in blatant piracy, creating 'Just-like-Sentiments' designs. But a consumer so used to the insignia of Sentiments at the nape of the garment, refuses to be fettered by the fakes, but then can there be greater accolades than having the losers ape your design to make a living. "The fakes still cannot compete with our brand because the moment they try to change the fabric and compromise on the quality of the garment which is a give away,"suggests Vandana. Sentiments create 30 to 40 designs every month and before the copiers get a whiff of it, the designs are changed in the coming month. These not only ensure a variety, but also translate into repeat purchases from feminine genders, especially when there is so much... to choose from. Sentiments has been creating these sophisticated silhouettes that meld style with the couture look to give a timeless and contemporary look within a range of Rs.1200 to Rs.3000. Whether you float with a pretty embroidery pattern or pack a punch with lycra, you are always ready for a look which is all woman. Be it the traditional Bandhani print or the abstract batik print, the fashion is becoming in nay garment that flaunts the Sentiment label. It has been a decade of existence for this brand of clothing which breaks away from predictability. "Good things in life need not come for a scandalous price," a smile ensures from Vandana Roy who still prefers to let her work speak....more than her image. Commercializing a brand and yet satisfying all discerning clients is no mean feat. Sentiments has managed to do just that. Women will continue to succumb to the brand. Sentiments through Vandana Roy will continue to energize the gentry with their collections. The future is endless. The Sentiments are endless.

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