Vimala Viswambharan calls herself a seamstress, at a time when anybody with a passing acquaintance with a sewing machine calls herself/himself a designer. She asserts, proudly after 30 years of sewing, that she is first a seamstress and nothing will change that.
She has been running a customised tailoring unit, Vimala's in Thrissur since 1995. In April this year she launched her own label and store, ‘Seamstress' in Thrissur.
Most women, as little girls, have dressed up dolls and Vimala just carried that passion over and made it her profession. As a young woman she took to tailoring her own clothes.
Once she got married, her husband's transferable job took her to many parts of the country. And one of those places was Bombay where she got a diploma – in cutting and tailoring.
Unglamorous as it sounds, “those days the term ‘fashion designer' hadn't entered the popular lexicon,” she says. In the early 80s she did a cutting and tailoring course from Zarapkar's College of Cutting and Tailoring in Dadar, she reminisces.
The next step was setting up a customised tailoring unit. “Not so much a unit as a single tailor set-up in the house.” She would sew for friends and gradually word would spread and so would the orders. Next transfer, ditto.
Eventually, in the early 90s, she got to Thiruvananthapuram where she set up a slightly elaborate customised tailoring unit which grew to almost 20 tailors. In 1995 she moved to Thrissur and took ‘Vimala's' along.
She scaled down the operation there. “I didn't want too many tailors as it got unwieldy in Thiruvananthapuram. But gradually it grew.”
This year in April, sixteen years later, Vimala added ‘Seamstress' to Vimala's. A customised tailoring unit is one thing and label is a different, she agrees, but not too different.
Her experience cutting fabric and tailoring – in short being a seamstress holds her in good stead she says. So called designers today depend on cutters and master tailors, and since she started out that way, “I know how a garment is created – cut, stitched etc.”
This confidence along with aptitude and experience makes designing not to tough.
The toughest garment to stitch? “it has to be the blouse,” Vimala jokes.
‘Seamstress' garments are Indian ethnic wear using handlooms only. Handlooms are sourced from across the country. She stocks sizes from extra, extra small (xxs) to extra, extra large (xxl).
Every month she stocks the store with a new collection of garments and October is devoted to khadi.
“A personal favourite. This hand-woven fabric has a texture, feel…unevenness even which I like. I have used this fabric in my eponymous ‘Khadi collection'.”