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Enlivening the fashion arena

Smita Shroff endeavours to bring the best of designer wear to her boutiques `Oorja' and `Elahe'. With constant showcasing of chic and elegant garments, her outlets are the destinations for haute couture in the city.

DESIGNER STORE: Oorja has small and big labels.

I WAS born in Kolkata and grew up in a joint family . Being the eldest among two brothers and one sister, I had the privilege of almost everything a first born usually enjoys. I went to Modern High School for girls and fared well in academics and sports. I come from a simple background, with literally no proper career guidance and encouragement to make it big in the world. I got married to Rajiv while I was studying. So I completed my graduation after marriage and went to live in Guwhati. A year later, shifting to Hyderabad from Guwahati was the best thing that had happened in my life.

I was a housewife for a decade. I have two lovely daughters, Aakriti and Aashna Making new friends, playing scrabble, watching movies and being with my family were a few things I enjoyed doing.

Then came the break, when Rajiv suggested I start a `designer store' in the attic of his already existing men's wear store. With no fashion background or qualifications, I was a total novice in this field. I was sceptical of the whole idea. In fact, I myself was not aware of designers nor wore any labels. But, my husband played an encouraging role and made all arrangements for me to start this small store, which we named `Oorja'. Both of us did the interiors of the boutique, which opened in January 1998. Initially, it was a herculean task to convince designers of national repute to supply to us. In fact the only hurdle I faced was convincing the designers, and once we started selling there was no looking back. The market was always there, but what was missing was a good designer store and Oorja filled the void.


I'm always on the look out for new designers. I started with small labels, but now Hyderabad has seen some beautiful clothes from the likes of Rina Dhaka, Wendell Rodricks, Meera & Muzaffar Ali, Anamika Khanna, Raghavendra Rathore, Sabyasachi, Niki Mahajan, to name just a few.

Fashion changes at the drop of a hat, and I have to be constantly on the move to get the right collection at the right time. It is a hard task though. By gods' grace, Oorja started wooing customers from day one and then Elahe happened. I took over Elahe in November '99. The store was almost `dead' with shoddy interiors. It was a big gamble, as I didn't quite know how I would manage both the stores at two corners of the city with two different names. But then we went ahead with it, redecorated the interiors, again by ourselves and re-launched it with a bang. Our first promotion with Wendell Rodricks at Elahe was a runaway success. This was followed by a `coffee morning' with Anuradha Vakil. This was the beginning of the long list of designers we started stocking at both the outlets.

My friends often tease me saying Oorja is my own baby and Elahe, my adopted one. I have different sets of designers for both my stores. Elahe has a strong NRI base of customers, and hence, the garment here is a little more trendy and fashionable. Oorja got a facelift in the summer of 2001.

Due to the expansion it can now cater to a much larger crowd and stock more designer wear.

HAUTE OUTLET: Elahe offers trendywear.

We have been going to the Lakme India Fashion Week (LIFW) for the last three years. This gives us an opportunity to meet and interact with a number of designers. We conceptualise our own form of fashion week where we choose some of the participating designers and showcase their collection at our stores. `LIFW 2002' collection preview', the third in a row just concluded at Oorja. It has become a major event amongst the die-hard fashion conscious of the city. I do at least one promotion every month alternately at both the stores. Keeping the season in mind, I plan my promotions and have often invited designers over too.

The city has given us a lot, in terms of acceptance. I have some really nice customer friends who always advice me.

I feel happy that the fashion scene is changing and people are getting more and more conscious. I want to put Hyderabad on the fashion map on par with Mumbai and Delhi, because I strongly feel that we are in no way behind the so-called fashion bigwigs of the metros. In fact, Hyderabad has some extremely educated fashion patrons who don't follow fashion blindly. This is just the beginning and I'm sure our continuous endeavour to get fashion to this beautiful city will make it better dressed than ever.

(The writer is the owner of `Oorja' and `Elahe')


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