Retired Sociology professor Celine Augustine’s keen eye for style led her to open a boutique on bridal couture
Celine Augustine’s take on designing saris has an academic twist. The former head of department of Sociology at St. Teresa’s College refers to Cooly’s theory of the ‘Looking Glass Self’ to explain what one thinks of oneself and of appearances. Fashion design is an unlikely second choice of career for this teacher, but she says a passion for saris led her to it.
After retirement, which followed 23 years of service, she took time off. Travelling sometime, relaxing sometime until her daughter, Ambili, suggested she do something about her passion for good clothes. Till then she had just travelled to different parts of the country looking for offbeat saris, “different from what everybody else would be wearing.” Her travels had familiarised her with markets in Jaipur, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
“When my children were studying in Delhi I used to make frequent trips there. I used to shop from there and that helped me when I set up the store.”
Rather than open a boutique, she decided to focus on bridal couture. Ioara, on Puthiya Road just off the NH Byepass near Holiday Inn, caters not just to the bride but also the mother, sister, bridesmaids… for all the women in the family.
A family effort
She works out of a studio adjacent to her house. She stocks material that becomes saris, lehengas and anarkalis. Her Singapore-based daughter helps her. Daughter-in-law Anna contributes with her design inputs. “I don’t think I could have done much without the girls,” says Celine.
The saris, Celine underlines, “are exclusive, since there is no mass production.” However if clients want certain styles/designs by Ioara reproduced, the store undertakes those.
Most of her clients, she says, are NRIs, especially those living in the United States of America. And then there is family and extended family for whom she is the ‘family designer’.
She narrates an instance when she and Anna designed a lehenga for an NRI bride. “All the information was sent to and fro via mail and phone calls…the measurements and the design details. But when the girl came and tried the outfit, a couple of days before the wedding, she had tears in her eyes. It was perfect, she said.”
Brides, she adds, have a greater say in their wedding trousseau more than their parents. Although designing is topmost on her list, she hasn’t put her books aside. She is a guide to research scholars in sociology.
Keywords: Celine Augustine