Poet-comedian Alok V Menon is often seen in Bodice’s architectural silhouettes with their signature binding and pleats. Tara Lal of Mumbai’s Chatterjee & Lal art gallery is also a fan. As is the powerhouse actor Tillotama Shome. But this Delhi designer with her neo-modern take on workwear that has the vote of creatives across the country has been busy putting together something else. Rechuu (pronounced richew), Ruchika Sachdev’s childhood name, which also stands for rebirth and replanning, is a two-storey concept space in Fort Kochi.
Curated by her, this collective of some of the country’s finest design talent includes fashion houses like Abraham and Thakore, Pero, Raw Mango, Maku Textiles, Eka and Savio Jon. There is a re-edit of the classic Chandigarh chairs by Bengaluru’s Phantom Hands and wellness brands like Pahadi Local. It was launched in tandem with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in December. When I meet Sachdeva, hair scraped back and downing curry leaf negronis at a fun cocktail evening at Pepper House, she is surrounded by chefs and art curators, convincing everyone to head over to Bodice x Rechuu on Princess Street. It becomes a cheery discovery for many visitors to the Biennale. For her, it is the most fun she has had in years.
Winner of the International Woolmark Prize in 2018, Sachdeva has always been a meticulous planner. While her brand was born in 2011, she applied for the Prize only when she was certain she was ready, with a selection of wool pieces mostly created across five regions in India. She was careful about spending her approx $35,000 prize money. When she launched menswear, she only did it “in bits and pieces” as the market was small. “Bodice has been constantly growing. So Bodice x Rechuu was about having fun, believing in your talent, and 10 years of community building. Sometimes when you work alone, you feel isolated and it’s tough. But when artists come together, they create something so impactful. Rechuu was done for the sake of expression rather than perfection.”
“With Bodice, Ruchika created an exciting brand, and winning the Woolmark Prize was a recognition of her talent, design, and work. After the win, we’ve seen a wonderful new store, on-point brand imagery and communication, and a cool pop-up at Kochi. Now looking for a show that will put all that magic on the ramp with something fresh and beautiful.”Nishat Fatima, fashion consultant and commentator
Did the pandemic lockdowns have anything to do with this experimental phase, I ask her over the phone a couple of months later. Her pop-up has been extended till March and she is with her team, fine-tuning her spring-summer ’23 collection to be shown at Lakme Fashion Week. “Yes. And I think it’s also age, connecting to my inner child, not being so critical.” She laughs when I remind her that she is only 35. “But I started Bodice when I was 23. Wellness practices, yoga, and a lot of reading have made me what I am now. I am really interested in psychology too.”
“We repeat clothes in our fashion shows. Why is something supposed to be last season and we feed that retail cycle of ‘new new, new’? I can show something I made five years back and still be new and people will be able to write about it.””Ruchika Sachdeva
Her quiet confidence is evident at her LFW-FDCI show on Thursday, celebrating Holi colours like bright pink, green, blue and yellow a day after the festival. The set is dhobi ghat-inspired, with multicoloured clothes hanging on bamboo to dry. Models walk past in the decadent silk and hand-marbled crepe dresses she is partial to, with many separates, some older looks, but styled differently. This echoes her views on clients being able to pair a new blouse with pleated pants they purchased five years ago “and not compromising on the aesthetics”. It reminds me of our phone conversation a few days earlier when she quotes a friend and client saying, ‘I want my clothes to reflect my intelligence, my profession, my artistic expression’. And then she adds, “If you choose to look at it, that’s the culture we shape, going forward.”
Mind over body