Material girl

From, what she calls, a small section in a family-run textile showroom at Koothattukulam to a standalone store, Milan Design, on M.G. Road in Ernakulam, Sherly Regimon has travelled a long distance. She attributes the journey to her confidence.

Milan has become a shopping destination for those looking for fabric, which Sherly says, is the store’s USP. The store also stocks saris and salwar-kurta materials. Her office is a small cubicle in the black and gold themed building; the four pillars draped with pink and white fabric outside the office seem to add to the whole wedding shopping effect. At 10.30 in the morning, the parking is full and store is filling up with shoppers; while she is in the midst of planning a photo shoot.

“I stock bridal wear and we design bridal saris but those are really not my target. The saris that people remember, ask about - that is where our branding takes place.” Her theory is simple – what the bride wears is important but what her mother or sister or mother-in-law or the bridesmaids wear is what has people talking and wanting to know where it was bought from. Designer saris (read fusion) are conceived here; running fabric becomes saris here. Recently a family picked up 21 saris and a bridal sari wasn’t part of the shopping list. “People are bound to remember those saris. So it’s okay if I don’t sell too many bridal saris. I get business from the other saris. I help my customers with the saris, when they see a fabric they might not see a sari but that’s where Milan comes in.” She has design units, not just in Kochi but also in Mumbai and Delhi. “Since I am backed by these, I don’t have to worry about leftover or excess fabric. If duppattas are not selling, I’ll transform them into kurtas.” For tailoring she has tie-ups with local designers and units.

Film costumiers, boutiques and fashion designers are her staple customers. “It started out as a hobby which has now become a full time job,” she jokes. She points to the printed raw silk kurta she is wearing and tells the story of how she got it made in 60gm as opposed to the regular 70 gm silk. One of the modifications she got done on the fabric, among others, was digital printing. Now, she says, it is extremely popular with clientele including local designers.

Sherly’s just back from Kolkata after a sourcing trip and will soon be off to Mumbai. Fifteen days a month, she travels, which she says, is the reason why her fabrics are up to date. “I go myself; I don’t send staff for sourcing. I know the profile of my customer; I don’t randomly buy material or saris. I keep in mind the profile of the person who might buy a particular sari or material. By the way you won’t see something you saw here last month.”

Her points of reference, as far as customer profile goes, are her mother, herself and her daughter. If any of them can or will wear something then she goes for it. She is gearing up for Onam; since designers source fabric from her, she says, her season starts early. “If in the market the Onam season starts in August. For me it begins by end of June, the designers have to get their wares ready.”

For this native of Ranni, an MCA (Masters in Computer Application), her tryst with fabric started during her travels with her husband. “He’d be looking at material for our shops at Koothattukulam and Piravom and I’d be looking at them and other kinds. Gradually I got interested, bought stuff for myself, then for friends and family. Eventually I started a small section in our shop at Koothattukulam.” Response to the store, especially when she got customers from Ernakulam, Kottayam and other places, encouraged her to think of starting a shop in Ernakulam. That was in 2010 and a different location, at Convent Junction, Milan was born. Last year she moved to M.G. Road.

Five years later, and a year at the new address she is grateful to God for her talent. She counts her employees, most of who are women, as one of her assets. She says she never thought she’d end up doing what she is doing now, but is thoroughly enjoying it. The question is inevitable, does she see herself as another Seematti or Jayalakshmi (two popular textile showrooms in the city)? Or growing into something like that? “That’s not the plan or my store profile. Stores such as those have to cater to a large section and in huge quantities. Milan doesn’t do that.”

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 8:19:12 AM |

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