Stitching together your daydreams into reality is quite an achievement. This is exactly what India-based accessories designer Rachana Reddy has managed to do, walking mid-way out of her degree to create a global fashion business which has met with rave reviews – and all by the age of 25. Her path to success is strewn not only with must-buy fashion apparel but also with insights as to what to do if you have a whisper of a dream you want to actualise.
Rachana debuted with a stunning collection of clutches and handbags. Crafted out of teak and leather with silk detailing and beautiful embellishments, her work has been featured and styled in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Wallpaper, Femina, Grazia and several national newspapers. An impressed Paul Smith will be stocking her designs in London and Paris, and Rachana also has an e-shop which will post internationally far and wide (www.rachanareddy.com and www.facebook.com/rachanareddyaccessories).
Like many academically able students Rachana was shunted into a traditionally prestigious career path, in her case engineering. “It suited my grades but not my personality,” she explains. She had always made things as a child, either starting from scratch or reworking items she had bought, and knew that this is where she wanted to channel her energy. “If you have a real zeal for something, don’t ignore it,” enthuses Rachana, “listen to your heart.” For her, she was not so much dropping out of engineering as striding away from it into new opportunities.
Accessory design is a highly specialised area and Rachana knew that, if she wanted to turn her hobby into competing with the best, she needed to gain professional training. With this in mind she studied at the London College of Fashion. “I loved it,” she smiles. “On my course I was surrounded by like-minded people and we could bounce ideas off each other. Living abroad was a great experience as I am deeply influenced by art, architecture and travel.” One of Rachana’s collections The Global Gypsy is based on nomadic inspirations and free spirit symbols such as butterflies.
Living the vision
When she returned from London, Rachana faced another crossroads – how to put her new knowledge into action. Even though she took a day job in the fashion sector she kept telling herself that she was an accessories designer. “Although I wasn’t actually designing, believing it was important,” she emphasises. “If you have a down day, you have to have confidence in yourself that you can spring back. For me going with my gut instinct that what I was doing was what I really wanted was an important aspect of my philosophy.”
Fascinated by the possibilities of wood Rachana came up with the idea of making clutch bags out of teak and juxaposing that texture with softer elements such as silk. Using a combination of laser-technology and artisan hand-crafting, her initial designs gave a twist to Indian symbols such as the lotus and peacock. Her later crystyal studded collection called High Beam is a Diwali-inspired special.
Upwards and onwards
“You never stop absorbing new things and in the beginning the learning curve is steep,” states Rachana. Although she comes from a business-orientated family, she took a course at the Indian Institute of Management to further enhance her skills set. At the start she did everything herself from designing, accounts to marketing although she is now getting in some help. The fact that she has managed to get this far without a dedicated PR manager speaks volumes about the beauty and innovativeness of her designs. And her product is her passion. “I had to work out to what extent I can delegate. Some of my design work is outsourced but the finishing is done in-house. My name and my brand are synonymous and I am a stickler for quality,” she says.
And what about the future? “I hope to move into designing jewellery and footwear but that is a long term goal,” plans Rachana. At the moment it appears that her hands are far too full with her bags.