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SIMPLY SIA

Mrs.Madhavi Veerepalli and Mrs.Supraja Borthwick are childhood friends, classmates and painting buddies who journeyed together but it is one fortuitous moment that led to the birth of the outlet Sia Boutique. The name Sia (Goddess Sita) is evocative of the feminine charm that reflects in their exquisite collection. Just one year in to the field and the boutique made rapid strides and gained immense popularity. The 300 footfalls per month vouch for it. The store’s niche is a swarm of designs ranging from chic, elegant to stylish and ethnic, with a few funky accessories thrown in to satisfy the fashion conscious clientele. Adding charm and elegance to the store is the collection designed by their equally talented children-Ankitha Veerepalli and Aaron Borthwick. Know more about the boutique from the designer duo.

Motivation
Supraja: I should thank my son Aaron for that. He wanted to work for a social initiative after his 10th standard. He started visiting the hospice, working with Dr.N.S.Raju, Managing Trustee of Age Care Foundation. I followed suit and started donating for the noble foundation. However, I realised that this kind of giving should come from my own earnings. I mooted the idea to Madhavi, who received it with great enthusiasm and equal zeal.
Madhavi: I had a rather simple and straightforward reason to be here. My children have grown independent and I had a lot of free time on my hands. Perhaps, the latent desire to design clothes was always with me and of course, Supraja kindled it.

Modus Operandi
Supraja: We travel to places like Jaipur, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai every two months to handpick our products. We stock everything from daily, casual wear to prêt line, boutique style. We offer tailoring services and customise as per the client’s demands. Madhavi: We both bring different skill sets to the table. While I am good at designing, Supraja expertise lies in choosing the right colours. Our tastes too vary. She prefers pastel and nude colours while I am for vibrant ones. This kind of contradictions really help in making our collection a rich mix of colours and designs.

Challenges
Supraja: The foremost of all is neither of us has background experience nor knowledge on how to run it. Nor did we do any homework or research before we took the plunge. Hence, there were many hiccups en-route. It took us some time to understand the customers’ tastes and requirements. It is all hands on learning. I feel it is ultimately a good fashion sense that helps you survive in this industry. Madhavi: We started on 4th Nov 2017 and four days later the government declared demonetisation. It absolutely overwhelmed us. As time passed we came to terms with it. Understanding the market and clients is the key to any business. Know the pulse of the people and you are bound to be the brand that they love to associate with.



USP
Supraja: Our palette has assorted outfits from multi-designers, allowing the customers to pick a creation that best appeals to their better sense. Madhavi: Ours is a budget-friendly boutique that caters to people who look for constant change and don’t repeat their dresses.

Trends- yay or nay?
Both: Nay. We don’t get swayed away by short-lived trends that are here today and gone tomorrow. For eg., the full sleeves blouse was in vogue during our time and it is back now, indicating that they keep going in circles. Hence, we make our own fashion statement.

Power of Clothes
Both: People judge us by the way we dress. Wear a stunning outfit and you become a head-turner. A good dress can certainly elevate your mood.

Misconception
Madhavi: Saris are outdated. This timeless six-yard apparel has seen many twists and swirls.
Supraja: Yes, I agree and add that we can create an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary style by creatively pairing sari with jeans.

Memorable Experience
Both: A few customers from the US get their blouses, saris and lehengas stitched from us. They keep sending us pictures flaunting our designs, making us feel really proud.

Future Plans
Supraja: We want to keep this running smoothly, introducing a good wedding collection. We wish to hold exhibitions at different locations.
Madhavi: We want to encourage young designers by holding events in Sia to showcase their collection.

SUBTLETY IS THE NEW BLING



Simplicity, comfort and elegance are three words that come to mind as we see AMSA by Ankitha Veerepalli, a qualified architect. Though she has no formal initiation into the field of dress designing, she nurses a great passion for it. The name AMSA is derived from her grandmothers’ name Sulochana and Amaravati. She effortlessly blends age-old traditions with present day aesthetics. What sets her brand apart is her flair for creativity and close attention to detail- be it colour or technique. Each stitch, weave and design reflects her commitment to deliver the best. Here, she talks of her tryst with fashion.

The Novice
I did not have any godfather or guiding force in this field. Nor did I have any real time experience of dealing with customers. I had to set up my own team, understand the fabric and even source it. Getting something made from scratch is not an easy task. Each day comes with a challenge and each challenge with a valuable insight.

Designs Behind Design
I don’t believe in making clothes that are relevant only for one season. AMSA is about timeless and versatile collection. My client should be able to wear them now and even after a few years. I want to propagate it as a lasting and sustainable brand.

The Process
I first sketch my designs, source fabric locally, selecting the fabric that suits the design best. I prefer subtle, pleasant and pastel colours. The design is then given to tailors. I employ local women for hemming, stitching and finishing touches. I design dresses out of handloom saris, procured from the weavers of Venkatagiri and Nellore. The collection is for all occasions- be it cocktail party, daily wear, office wear or a brunch date. On display are kurtis, long length gowns, one pieces, etc.

Designing Woes
Yes, it was a tad difficult to make the tailors understand concepts. Initially, our tastes never matched. By and by, they picked up the threads and what I actually want.

Price Range
We source sustainable and eco-friendly material which proves to be a bit expensive and is a little heavy on the pocket. Vizagites are price-conscious and want value for their money. So, as far as possible, I try to keep them reasonable as I want my clothes to be worn by a lot of people.

Favourite Collection
KAMALAM. In this line, each dress is hand painted individually, hand-worked and then stitched.

In Trend
Festive wear for sure. People want something which is not too flashy and not too simple but a little bit fancy with ornamentation. Vizag is a small place and most of us have common friends. Wear the same attire twice and it is bound to get noticed.

Attire that makes you cringe…
Extreme low rise jeans.

Institution
Going through a formal course helps you gain an insight into the industry, process & technicalities. But it will only take you so far. You have to love what you are doing and also be creative to succeed in the industry.

Must-haves
A string of pearls, a handloom sari, a black dress & a perfume.
Favourite Designer
I admire Ritu Kumar for her style and innovative use of handlooms.
Welfare Initiative
I used to teach at AU English medium school as a part of the Speaking Chalk team. I even volunteered for a year at the NGO Make a Difference.
Future Plans
My next collection will be all about organza saris & lehengas.
I shall launch a festive collection. All prints will be custom made in-house. I am getting my website up and ready. I plan to retail my collection in other places.

AARON, THE REVIVALIST



One look at Aaron Borthwick and you associate him with glamour, glitter and grandeur. Here is a lad who discarded his comfort zone to pursue his passion - dress designing. He stepped out of Visakha Valley School, completing 12th standard and plunged into designing. Within a few months, he is out with his own clothing brand LABEL AB (derived from his name) on the first anniversary of Sia. He will be pursuing International Business Management at Barcelona next year, but is determined to continue with his first love –fashion. This self-trained designer has learnt everything through sheer grit and hard work. Ask him what keeps him on his toes and he replies without missing a beat, “I keep telling myself that I need to set the bar higher every day.” More about LABEL AB from Aaron himself.

Design Philosophy
I don’t design clothes to shock people and create awe. I let my imagination fly free and beyond the ordinary. My philosophy centres on making a person feel and look gorgeous. If I do that, its mission accomplished for me.

The Process
I bring a contemporary update to the indigenous handlooms. I go to villages to pick up materials. I draw designs, decide on the embroidery, cut & colour pattern. Then it goes to tailors. All my clothes are customisable. My brand LABEL AB includes DEVANGANA (festive wear), BANDHURA (occasion wear) and AVANI (pret collection of linen with thread work).

Trends –yay or nay?
Yay. In fact, I regularly follow many stylists and celebrities on social media.

City Trends
People are inhibited. It takes time to make them try something which is in vogue. People dread making a fashion faux pas because in a place like Vizag, it is remembered for a longer period.
Trend that Makes You Cringe Shararas with short kurtas and furry footwear. I find them off-putting.

Institutions
You do not require any formal education as long as you have the passion and creativity. For eg., Alexander Wang, a US fashion designer & former creative director of Balenciaga, is a college dropout. Miuccia Prada, an Italian billionaire designer and businesswoman, has a Ph.D in political science.

Favourite Designer
Olivier Rousteing, French fashion designer and the creative director of Balmain. He brings a new edge and vision to fashion which is very avant-garde and modern.

Best Dressed Film Celeb.
Samantha Akkineni. Her dress sense is very chic and elegant. I love the way she experiments with the latest trends. The fact that she promotes handlooms is admirable and inspiring.

Ankitha Vs Aaron
Poles apart! She prefers pastel and pleasant colours like my mother, while I love bright and vibrant colours like her mother. We both have our own set of teams. So, there are no clashes. Her collection is what you can wear to a cocktail party or office wear while my collection is more of festive wear.

Future Plans
I will be launching an exclusive and exquisite range of evening gowns and party wear in December. I shall tour villages to explore, research and understand different handloom fabrics.

Welfare Initiative
I run a group called Earth’s Shepherds which plants saplings all over the colony and waters them. Earlier, I used to visit the hospice at Age Care Foundation.

 
 
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