It’s technically complex

Accessories define your look, says Sonal Verma Photo: M. Periasamy  

“Leather was an instantaneous choice,” says Sonal Verma. The graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology went on to Spain for her masters and specialised in leather technology there as well. After stints as creative head with other brands, she launched Rara Avis in December 2013.

Given her specialisation, accessories would have been the normal choice. When did clothes come into the picture? “Chicken and egg situation,” she laughs. “I don’t know. I launched with both simultaneously.”

She uses organic washed linen and organically treated leather. “The feel and texture is important,” she says. Her first break was when Bombay Electric stocked her designs. Her best moment was winning the Elle Graduate Award in 2014. “Things changed after that,” she reflects. “There was more interaction with the fashion magazines and specialists. Also the market changed. Take silhouettes. What was once questioned is now considered acceptable.”

Ask about the difference in working with leather as against fabric, Sonal is animated. “It’s technically complex. You have to look at cuts, gauges, quality of leather, where you source it from, finishes … International leather fairs give you an idea of the trends, what’s working and how you can put things together. India is the second largest producer of leather footwear and women’s clothing. The industry is growing but we should be doing so much more.”

Her own fashion sense is understated with an eye for detail. “Accessories define an outfit,” she says. “Make it more personalised.” In that case, how would she react to a client who wanted something bold or dramatic? “I design only what I can relate to or can wear,” she says firmly. “That includes styles, fabrics… everything.” So her work is an extension of herself. “Well, I guess that would be true for most designers,” she shrugs.

Given this uncompromising stand, I am curious about how she deals with feedback. “Initially I took it very seriously,” she says. “I almost lost it. There were just too many contradictory things. Finally I just let go of stuff that didn’t work with my philosophy. If people want stuff that I cannot do, I just have to say no. Like wedding wear. It’s a huge market and the demand is unceasing. But it’s not for me. In any case there is a demand for western wear and the kind of stuff I do is now accepted.”

Sonal markets through multi-brand retail stores, as well as her own concept store. “Pop-ups, exhibitions and fashion weeks are also important,” she says. “They give you more exposure.” She has been showing at the Lakme Fashion Weeks for two seasons and she agrees that it adds to the brand value.

Talking of brand value brings us to the question of social media. While Sonal agrees that it helps create awareness and pushes sales — “Social media is the new word of mouth”— unlike others, she doesn’t think there is a flip side.

“Personally I would say one has to take control of the narrative. I put out stuff only when I have something substantial. Social media may be a great way to reach out but it cannot do anything unless your work speaks for itself.”

Five years hence, Sonal sees her brand selling in international boutiques. “But it’s important to be establish a base here and then launch abroad,” she smiles.

Sonal Verma’s Rara Avis is presented by and will be on show at 15, GD Street, Race Course, from 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. today

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 8:53:50 PM |

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