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Red Eve


Abhilasha Reddy never dreamed of becoming a designer: instead, she found the profession while connecting with herself. Never one to prefer readymades, she discovered that she had a talent for creating elegant looks from scratch. The breakthrough was her sister’s wedding, where she earned the appreciation of her relatives, who asked her to DESIGN DRESSES for them. This way, she began to freelance: first for their engagements, then for their weddings. As her reputation for creating unique, simple yet sophisticated outfits gained ground, she decided to take the entrepreneurial route. She started Athira’s, a workshop and space where she produces her customers’ ideas. Since then, it has been one long rollercoaster, where she held on through sheer passion and classic determination. Today, she stands poised to take her work one step further, dreaming of a label of her own. red caught up with Abhilasha, a charismatic designer with an exemplary dedication to the craft.

The Beginnings
I started Athira's seven years ago, but I didn't have a clear vision until I was 5 years into the business. I took it day by day, customer by customer and I tried to be ‘at it’, constantly learning. I was focused on pushing myself through the challenging times. I started in 2012 in Himayathnagar. It is a workshop where I have my staff & customers come to meet me and discuss their requirements.

A day in the life at Athira’s
Everyday begins with me picking up material and looking around the market to see if there are any interesting new fabrics or patterns available. Then my staff & I make a list of all the things we need to deliver that day, co-ordinate with the karigars. Then we update customers about the deliveries. Once all this is done, I ideate for new patterns and designs for my clients, and sketch them out for my staff. We basically make to order for our customers. They come with varied tastes and demands. Some are absolutely open to anything. It could be a crop top skirt, or a gown or a blouse. They say "This is the occasion, this is what I want, please design." Others come with a few pictures collected. They know the exact pattern and I try to understand their vision. I’m happy to say that 95% of the time, my staff and I have delivered exactly what they were looking for.

Design Philosophy
If my customers leave it entirely to me, I will always go with pastel colours, plain cloth, and give character to it through various techniques. I prefer plain fabrics as they do not dominate the pieces. If fabric can make a statement by itself, and is already bright, there is not much you can do with it. If it's plain, if it has a fall, if it's like georgette, that’s exciting. You can design with a drape or a meticulous handiwork.

The best compliment ever
One of my customers came up to me one day and said she was telling a cousin about my work, and the cousin decided to wear my creation instead of Sabyasachi's. She told me this story because she felt it was about time I launched my own label. It was a huge boost for me.

The joy of work
Over the years, I have seen 80% of my customers coming back for their bridal showers, weddings, and even for their kids' stuff, so it makes me very happy.

The strength of a team
I am very blessed with my staff. They take responsibility for the boutique and run it as if it were their own, even when I am running around for fabrics and doing other chores. they would sit working. There are times when they work straight through the night. Especially during Ramzan when things get really difficult. They work until 2:00 am, 3:00 am, just to finish an order. They stick with me, they see the importance of the work we do and they don't give up. I get the support and push I need from them. Apart from one or two people, my entire staff of 15 has been with me since we began. Touchwood, I feel fortunate to have them.

The journey
The path has not been easy, there have been many ups and downs, but at each turn I was sure that this was what I wanted to do. I decided that if I don't succeed or if I am not able to sustain the trade for more than two years, I would give up, but nothing can stop me unless I decide to give up on myself. It was especially hard the first two years because coming up in a market that was already saturated with competition, and attracting new customers with established loyalties was not easy. But we did get through, me and my staff together.

Why I Work
It was not easy for me to get here, because it was difficult for my family to accept my work. People believe that a woman should not have to work unless there's a financial crunch. They would ask, "Why do you have to do this work? Why don't you stay home and take care of the kids?" But this was something I needed to do for myself, and my self esteem.
It is not about people accepting my choice, or even about success. I just want to be good at something of my own, that doesn't have to be attached to my role in my family or as a mother. I wanted recognition for myself, and I wanted the happiness and pride of making something of myself. I am providing employment to nearly 15 people and I have managed this business for this long, that itself is the satisfaction and the boost I need.

Vision for Athira’s in 10 years
Most of what I do now has been for my customers.
They come and tell me what they want and I execute it. I want to start my own label with fabrics and patterns that I love, to showcase my strengths. Many of the labels are on the ramps, my customers cannot carry their clothes. I want to make things that they can carry, all the while thinking out of the box, away from the routine of the designs going around these days. I want to be a national level designer.
I want to see myself in Lakme Fashion week, and focus on bridal fashion.

Advice to young women
If you enjoy doing something, just stick to it and do everything to fight for who you are. A woman must work for her independence, not financially, not just as a personality. but to help herself connect with her inner herself. It will give her happiness. I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I was not being myself, before Athira's. I was not doing what I was meant to do. Once I found this, I stuck to it no matter what, through the fights, the financial crunches, the ups and downs. Passion is the most important.

Favourite fabric
For everyday wear, my answer will always be handloom cotton. Preferably plain, or with minimal prints. As for wedding wear, pattus for sure. For other occasions, I love plain and classy georgettes.

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