Like mother, like daughter

The mother daughter designer duo of Sabita Dhanrajgir and Zara Umrigar brings exquisite sarees and classic evening dresses to Bangalore for the first time today

This is perhaps her first 'proper interview' and Mumbai-basedveteran designer  Sabita Dhanrajgir Umrigar sounds just the way one should in her first interview. A little unsure and a whole lot bemused. "I'm not comfortable with any of this. A few fashion mags also approached me, but I want to do my work peacefully, privately.

A saree by Sabita

I grew up in Hyderabad and I am very shy. So I don't like  any of it. I don't want to commercialise my stuff as I want to stick to quality. I enjoy it this way. I don't know why I'm doing this. This is my first show in Bangalore, maybe that's why," she says.

The grand daughter of Raja Dhanrajgir of Hyderabad and winner of the Miss India title in 1978, Sabita is bringing a collection of 60 to 65 hand embroidered sarees to the city.

The heavily embroidered sarees with sequins and resham work are in colours like cream, red and green along with a patchwork of colours. "I don't like it very blingy; classic and elegant is my style. I go with my mood and not so much with the colours of the season," says Sabita.

She hasn't ever had an exhibition in hometown Hyderabad. What made Sabita choose Bangalore? "Both my kids love Bangalore and its people. The city is beautiful. I have friends there and visit the city sometimes," says Sabita.

She's been making sarees, lehenga cholis and salwars for special occasions for the last three decades. But her loyalties lie strictly with the saree and she's a strong crusader of the six yard wonder.
"I love a saree, I think they are beautiful and elegant. I don't think a saree has less takers today as they are forever even for people living abroad. I have young girls from London and Hong Kong buying them," she reveals.

Her royal lineage is reflected in her elegantly handcrafted sequined, resham zardozi and cutwork sarees. Having worked with international designers, Sabita has dressed a slew of illustrious families in India and abroad.

Embroidery is clearly her forte. And she disagrees that it's a dying art. "I don't think that's true at all. It's become expensive for sure but brands like Valentino, Escada, Armani and Cavalli are getting their embroidery done in India. So I can't see why it's a dying art.

There's a lot of money in it. In fact, the one good thing that comes out of the whole thing is that I support these workers who originally hail from Lucknow by employing them in my seven workshops," maintains Sabita.

Besides her mother and aunt's wardrobes, the other strong influence on her designs is nature. "I get a lot of my designs from flowers and gardens. I love flowers and there's a lot of garden in my sarees," says Sabita who takes two weeks to a month to work on each saree. 

Bollywood called Sabita many times after she won the title, but she didn't respond. "I just wanted to be married and have lots of kids. I did model till I got married. Once I had kids, I didn't want to do any of that. My concentration was on the home and the kids. But I was designing even while modelling," she says.

Her 23-year-old daughter Zara Umrigar has taken after her mother and not just appearance wise. Zara is a budding designer who focuses exclusively on Western evening wear. An alumnus of the prestigious London School of Economics and London College of Fashion, she moved back home last year.

She's seen her mother create beautiful attires all her life and has been inspired by her  classic style. "My clothes surely have an edge that sets them apart. But my style is classy, more like Coco Chanel," she states.
Her timeless ensembles come in hues like baby pink and silver to royal blue and orange.

"Some are short and embroidered, others are elegant maxi dresses with embroidery on the waist and gowns. The lines are geometric. The embellishments come in the forms of  sequins and resham works. This is my second collection and I have worked with solid colours. The collection has all of my favourite things," she reveals.

The 24 pieces for Bangalore are in chiffons and net fabrics sourced from the Middle East. "Since it's so hard to find good evening dresses in India, I wanted to start off with them. In future I will be more experimental and do jumpsuits and other things and even show at fashion weeks," shares Zara.

Zara stresses on the importance of formal training in fashion for aspiring designers. "It's extremely important to know the technical aspect. Of course, style is something that comes from within. But I know how to cut a dress and do everything myself. Practical knowledge goes a long way," she signs off.

At Hotel Leela Palace,
Old Airport Road
ON November 25
11 AM to 8 PM
CALL 9820543881
FOR R R 16,000 to 60,000

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