A candid chat with Malini Agarwalla

Updated: Nov 23, 2014, 10:32 IST | Nikshubha Garg |

Accessory designer Malini Agarwalla commemorated a decade in the fashion industry by recently launching her flagship store in Mumbai. She tells Nikshubha Garg why she introduced a clothing line and which is her favourite accessory

It’s been a long but an interesting journey for accessory designer Malini Agarwalla. The finance graduate admits the past 10 years have been a learning curve. “From having no background in designing to launching my label, Malaga, the last decade has been a roller-coaster ride. I have enjoyed every bit of it,” says the designer who specialises in handcrafted bags, belts, footwear and fashion jewellery.

Malini Agarwalla
Malini Agarwalla and (below) her new collection at her recently-launched store at Hughes Road

Her designs boast of rich embellishments wherein precious and semi-precious stones, swarovski crystals, embroidery, beadwork and zardosi (gold threadwork) are interwoven with fibre, leather, silk, brocade and velvet. Agarwalla is known for her interesting array of formal and casual line of accessories for women who have both traditional and contemporary tastes. Her handbags, potlis, jholas and clutches in jewel tones are kitschy as they have traditional Indian prints with funky embroidery and mirror work.

Beautifully embroidered sarees and suits sit comfortably along one side of the wall while handbags and clutches covered with precious stones flank the other side at her newly launched store, which is done up in hues of beige and white, at Hughes Road. “I’m known as an accessory designer but now I’ve introduced a clothing line. I’ve ensured that I give equal prominence to both the aspects in the store,” she explains. Excerpts from an interview:

Q. What prompted you to launch your flagship store?
A. A store is the best way to showcase your aesthetics. When you have a space for yourself, you have complete control over the message you want to send across. I have been catering to a number of clients for some time now but showcasing everything from my office/workshop is not always possible. Also, I get a better perspective of my collection when it is displayed at the store.

Q. Why did you think of starting a clothing line?
A. I designed clothes for myself and a few friends appreciated it. This kickstarted the whole process. I did a capsule collection for my store at Palladium. It did well, so I introduced a full-fledged clothing line for this store. I’ve kept the festive season in mind and have used a lot of bright colours. I have experimented with gota patti, cord and Parsi gara work in suits, sarees, lehengas and kaftans.

Q. Which is your favourite accessory?
A. It has to be the handbag as it can uplift any outfit.

Q. What is your personal sense of fashion?
A. I prefer dressing classily. For instance, for a party, I’d opt for palazzo pants and a shirt and team them with a statement neckpiece and a handbag. No matter what the occasion is, I make it a point that at least one accessory stands out.

Q. In your 10-year-long career, what challenges have you faced as a designer?
A. Churning out new designs has never been a problem for me. What’s challenging is to keep abreast with the changing sensibilities and demands of the customer. It’s important to house something for everyone.

Q. How do you think the accessory market has evolved in India?
A. There has been a sea change since I first began retailing. Today, younger designers are making a mark. Having international labels such as Louis Vuitton, Versace and Gucci selling their goods in India is a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are our competitors but on the other hand, their accessories are priced so high that today if we make an expensive bag, customers are willing to buy it. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Back then, people would have thought a designer is crazy if his or her accessories were priced exorbitantly.

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