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

Dawn of the new age bride: Nari tells us what made him want to design for the Indian bride

Narendra Kumar Ahmed bridal

When designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed aka Nari announced his bridal line, it raised a quite a few eyebrows. Besides being a new territory for him, bridal designs were not something Nari’s design aesthetics were associated with. He is more known for lending luxury stitches to boring work wear clothes and stylised and structured women’s and men’s wear. But all that changed when the master designer attended an after-after party at 6 am at a friend’s house. He heard a lady play the piano with such intensity that it shook him up and he knew right then that he was ready to create a bridal line. True story! Read on…

Tell us, was a bridal line always on the agenda?

Nari: It was on the cards for a while but I felt that I couldn’t find the right idea to translate into a line. I was clear that if I get into the bridal segment, the product has to be different from what already exists in the Indian market. There are 10,000 designers already doing it, and I didn’t want to be just another one to join the bandwagon.

Nari all the way

So, what changed?

Nari: The lady playing the piano at an after party. I’ve never heard the piano being played with such intensity. Honestly, it was not the sound or the music that moved me but the intensity that stirred something in me to kick off a bridal line. It really got me going. She was playing Rachmaninoff – different, dark music. Rachmaninoff was a romanticist but it was his version of dark romance that lured me to do a bridal collection.

Dark romance for the Indian bride…

Nari: That’s the thing. If you say dark romance, no one will buy the outfits in India. So we looked at the musicians life and the time period that he lived in. We took elements from his era. That’s how we mixed the idea of Swan Lake and Rachmaninoff and came up with outfits for the new age Indian bride.

What do you mean by ‘new age’ Indian bride?

Nari: Yep. The new age Indian bride doesn’t want to stand pretty in a ghaghra that weighs 100 kilos while the guests dance and have the time of their life. She wants to be able to participate in the celebrations. It is that mindset that the collection will appeal to. The new age bride is also a woman who is an avid traveller, been to destination weddings herself and has seen the world, but still wants to connect with her roots on her big day.

Tell us more about your inspirations behind the line. What makes it so special?

Nari: The line blends classic West and modern India. It is for a woman who is strong yet fragile in many ways. I’ve drawn inspiration from ballerinas in Swan Lake who look so fragile but if you notice closely they have to be very strong to portray that very fragility. I’ve been watching a lot of films based on ballerinas in the fast few months and their movements require a great deal of strength, both mental and physical. Yet their actions on stage make us feel like they are more delicate than a butterfly. It is this paradox that is the collection.

The Nari groom

Describe the collection. What has the response been like?

Nari: I’ve used a lot of organza to portray the fragility of the garment and the structure signifies the inherent strength of the ballerinas. Women love it for two reasons. The first is that they can truly look different on their wedding day and second, they can actually reuse some elements of the ensemble. For instance, one lady picked up a sari with a jacket and said that she will definitely team the jacket with plain black pants or denims after her wedding day. She was already deconstructing the ensemble to see how she can make use of it later. I think all this signifies the dawn of the new age bride, just like the tone of new age fashion came into being about five years back, with young designers like Nachiket Barve and Rahul Mishra taking centrestage. These guys clicked because the market was tired of seeing the same 20 designers doing the same thing since decades. It’s the same situation on the bridal front too. People want respite from decade old trends.

What is the biggest compliment the bridal line fetched you?

Nari: When someone came up to me and said that for her, that all the designers’ are on one side and my creations on the other. Don’t ask me which designers she was talking about though 😉

Fair enough.

Narendra Kumar Ahmed aka Nari