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I love blending the East and West: Sonaakshi Raaj

Being only three years old in the fashion industry didn’t deter designer Sonaakshi Raaj from opening her flagship store in Khar last week. She speaks to Nikshubha Garg about the new space, her fashion sensibilities and future plans

As we step inside designer Sonaakshi Raaj’s flagship store in Khar, the opulence of the cheerful tones of yellow, red, pink, crimson and emerald green, replete with pearl, zardosi, bead and sheer sequins, against the white backdrop, catches our eye. And that’s what the 25-year-old designer’s intention is — to make the clothes the star of the cosy minimalist space. A statement chandelier, painted tree barks and a small cabinet that comprises accessories by other designers such as Pretty Stoned, completes the picture. Known for her contemporary Indian wear and trademark sari-gowns which have become a favourite with B-town beauties including Deepika Padukone and Malaika Arora Khan, Raaj says her store is a reflection of her simple, yet, classy personality. “Right from my logo, which is simple and neat in black and white, to my store which houses unique garments, it speaks volumes of who I am,” says the designer. Excerpts from the interview:

Designer Sonaakshi Raaj
Designer Sonaakshi Raaj 

Q. You’ve been retailing your creations from your workshop in Juhu all this while. Why did you decide to open a store?
A. I gave in to the clients’ demands. I operated from my workshop in Juhu but somewhere, I realised that my silhouettes require the customer to enjoy the experience of trying on clothes from my label. Also, having a store is like a one-stop destination. One can have a look at my creations at one go. Opening a store was definitely on my mind, but it happened earlier than I thought (laughs).

Q. Your garments have an Indo-Western feel. Have you ever thought of designing an entirely Indian or Western outfit?
A. My fashion sensibilities are extremely western and giving a western touch to an Indian silhouette gives it that extra edge. This is what makes my garments different and commercially viable. To be honest, this has become my forte now and I would want to build on it. I love to experiment. In fact, the sari-gown was an experiment in itself but you will never find me working on a complete Western/Indian outfit because it’s the blend between East and West that sets my collections apart.

Q. What inspires you while working on your collection?
A. Women inspire me. They want to look different and break away from stereotypes, but that does not mean that everything and anything ‘different’ appeals to them. So whenever I plan a particular piece, I imagine myself wearing it and only if I love what I see, will I go ahead and manufacture it.

Sonaakshi Raaj's collection at the Khar store
Sonaakshi Raaj's collection at the Khar store

Q. With so many designers opening a flagship store, how do you think your store stands out?
A. Firstly, I am fortunate to have a store within three years of being in the industry. Also, I did not open a store to surpass anyone. I started it to make my fashion sensibilities visible. My neighbours (her space in Khar is next to stores of Inidan designers such as Rajesh Pratap Singh and Azeem Khan) are veterans in the fashion industry, which is intimidating at times, but then there is so much to learn from them. My clothes will sell only if I do a good job.

Q. What are your future plans?
A. My immediate goal is to come out with experimental designs and capitalise on my style. I will also be a part of a couple of fashion weeks next year. If all goes as planned, then soon, I’ll showcase a jewel-inspired collection as well. nikshubha.garg@mid-day.com

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