Ritu Beri opens up on criticism for her opulent designs, the most expensive book authored by her and more…

Based in New Delhi, Indian fashion designer Ritu Beri is the first Asian designer to head the French fashion brand, Scherrer. We caught up with the style guru when she came to Mumbai to promote her festive collection for the season. She discusses her new line, future plans and one of the most expensive books, authored by her…

In conversation with Ritu Beri…

Model Lisa Haydon in a Ritu Beri design

Your appearances in Indian fashion events are far few and in between. Why do you keep your fans here waiting so long to catch a glimpse of your work and you?
Ritu Beri: Firstly I love Mumbai, so I am always happy to be here. My schedule has kept me very busy and I have been away travelling, hence I have not been available in the past and I’m now showcasing in Mumbai.

You wanted to start lifestyle stores. What’s the update on that?

Ritu Beri: I intend to establish “Cultural Embassies” representing the Exotic, Mystical and Magical aspects of Asia in Various Forms. The affinity between various cultures culminates in a miracle of perfection and I want to show this to the world.

Whose style sense impresses you — in Bollywood and Hollywood. Why?
Ritu Beri:
Amongst the Indian celebrities, Rekha is who I admire as a person and her charismatic and sophisticated style. Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness is another favourite.

Your designs have sometimes met with criticism, that they’re too opulent or over the top. Your take…
Ritu Beri:
I love to explore the impossibilities and work in an inspired mode while mostly designing to satisfy myself. I love to work with rich brocades, jacquards, chiffon and georgettes, fabrics that lend sensuality to any look. I try to blend the old world charm of traditional embroideries with modern day patterns and shapes to create interesting textures that allure any look.

You are showing your festive wear line in Kimaya. Can you please describe your line, your inspirations, target audience, etc…
Ritu Beri:
The collection is inspired by our rich culture and heritage. The line comprises of opulent and elaborate silhouettes. The spirit is intrinsically feminine, romantic but flamboyant; the collection is about rich, artistic hand work modelled into contemporary silhouettes with subtle details of embroidery to enhance the soft feminine appeal. Our brand has the same spirit ‘The essence of art meets the divinity of designer couture’ and our target audience is the same.

You wrote and published the most expensive book till date — Firefly – A Fairytale. Any plans to unleash the author in you again?
Ritu Beri:
Firefly is about my experiences in the fashion industry. It is not an autobiography and I prefer to call it a fairy tale. I enjoy exploring the impossibilities and like to work in an inspired mode only to satisfy myself and my passions. I love doing homes and furniture. I dream of writing many inspirational books and more than anything else I keep on doing my charity.

If you don’t mind me asking — why was the book so highly priced (Rs 1 lakh each)?
Ritu Beri:
Firefly was a limited edition of 100 copies. The book release was a great success. It sold out in hours and we went in to print the second edition the very next day.

Ritu Beri

Sudha Murthy: Impressive speeches simplified!

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murthy may look like the granny-next-door but unlike most grans, she knows how to enthrall a crowd. For the uninitiated, Mrs Murthy is a noted Indian author, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and the wife of Narayan Murthy. I had the opportunity to witness her at her enthusiastic best, when she was the chief guest for the Economist Crossword Book Awards, at Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai on Thursday evening.
Watching Sudha infuse life into a packed Tata Theatre, I realised that there are two types of speakers. The first type is very well spoken and can write impressive speeches. But all they can do is recite the speech and only a small percentage of the audience will probably remember what they said. The second variety has the audience wrapped around their finger in a matter of seconds. Even if what they are saying is not of national importance, you will hang on to their every word and pass on what you understood to people you meet for one full week.

Mrs Murthy falls in the second category of speakers.

Simply dressed in a beige sari, the pallu wrapped firmly around her shoulders, Mrs Murthy flashed a 100 watt smile as soon as she took to the microphone. Like a pro and a true sport she admitted that being a chief guest was easier than being a judge, as all she had to do was attend the function and distribute prizes, unlike the judges who had to read through 350 odd books in all. An author herself, Mrs Murthy went on to give a glimpse into what kindled her love for books. “When I was a kid, my father would always tell me to treats books like humans – don’t step on them, keep them in a comfortable environment, cover them, care for them…”

An unassuming air about herself, blended with self-assurance and the right amounts of humility and wit, Mrs Murthy, winner of the Padma Shri and RK Narayana’s award for literature, said that being a writer was very important to her because it gave her an individual identity. “Being Narayan Murthy’s wife, I may get a few extra shares in Infosys, but being a writer is independent of whose wife, mother, daughter or sister I am and that is sacred to me,” she said as the audience reacted with a thunderous applause. The cheer said that they couldn’t agree more with what she just said.

A combination of simple words, clear speech, ability to laugh at oneself, a pinch of self-assured goofiness and wit is probably makes for a good speaker and Sudha Murthy demonstrated that to a packed Tata Theatre at the awards. Other eminent personalities, with better diction and vocabulary addressed the audience at the awards, but it is only Mrs Murthy’s words that I still remember!