Fashion is a cut-throat industry with new designers making their mark each day. And the effort it takes to thrive in the neck-breaking competition can only be explained by someone who faces the competition day in and out. Rohit Verma who shot into the public eye with his stint at a reality show, is not just a celebrity but an award-winning designer who has made his mark in the world of fashion.
On a visit to his splendid and bustling Mumbai store, people are rushing about, barking orders and operating with full force. While his team is working on multiple aspects in one corner of the store, he excuses himself from the meeting to welcome me for the interview. “We will have to do it quickly dear,” urges Verma, who is running on an extraordinarily packed schedule.
On the 30th of next month, Verma is going to be awarded as the ‘Best Designer of the World’ at the World Film Festival which is scheduled to happen in San Francisco, California. An overwhelmed Verma tells me his hard work, determination and constant efforts for doing something unique have paid off and expresses his contentment over Indians receiving recognition on a global platform for their beautiful work. Verma, who “can stay without food for a day, but not fashion”, says, “I am going to convey this message to the world that we are no less than Paris and Milan when it comes to fashion.”
Although he has received plenty of praise from his colleagues, it has been a roller coaster ride. From being judged to have gotten conned several times by his former business partners, he has faced it all and has emerged powerfully from the fog each time, taking his brand to new heights.
At the age of 18, Verma landed in Mumbai, alone, from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh – the city he grew up in. He had promised himself that he will do everything it takes to achieve the enormous dreams he had envisioned for himself. With no family support, he had to do all by himself. In fact, everybody was against him coming to Mumbai as they feared he would lose his way and become enamoured by city’s fast-paced lifestyle. But Rohit had decided to not turn back, come what may. And fortunately for him, his aunt, who stayed in Mumbai came to his help and offered to let him to stay in one of her apartments in the city.
No sooner had Verma commenced working, than he received his big break in the industry. He was invited as a fashion choreographer for Khoobsurat in 1997, which was received quite well, giving Verma immense exposure and reinforcing his self-confidence.
In the immediate aftermath of its success, Verma went on to launch his unique and well-appreciated new collection, before his first fashion shows in New Zealand and Dubai. It was tough back then as he had to do everything by himself and people often took advantage of him being new to the industry. “Nobody supported me. I have got here by my own self. I don’t think I can name any particular person who helped me,” he asserts.
Rohit became the talk of the town in 2009, all thanks to reality TV show Bigg Boss, where he lasted for 9 weeks and received mixed reactions from the people. While recognition travelled his way, inmates had varied ways to describe him. “The thing is when I entered Bigg Boss I didn’t deceive anyone. Whatever I am inside, I am outside. I cannot make my castles with somebody’s emotions,” he says, brushing off the criticism, and switfly adds, “You know when you are a celebrity, a pedestal, people won’t only talk good things about you and you get used to it eventually.”
While Rohit argues that Bigg Boss hardly changed his life, he admits that the show taught him a lot and gave him a platform to be who he was. “Though things are much better now, but immediately after Bigg Boss it was difficult for me to be out on the streets as I would get mobbed. Even today, when I go to Indore or Jaipur and those cities, people mob me,” he shares.
Rohit is a glamorous personality. He is forthright, bold, loves being precise and is commendably unapologetic for who he is. His openness about his sexuality is well-known. “There was little acceptance in the early days, you know. Sexuality has got nothing to do with creativity. I had made it clear that I will be living for nobody, but myself. Some hated me, while some loved. It is still the same. A lot of people often misunderstand me. But people may talk sh*t about me, bitch behind my back, it doesn’t affect me. And as they say when an elephant walks dogs do bark.” he says.
Despite being an acclaimed designer, Rohit says, he leads a simple life back home. Being a hearty devotee of Lord Krishna, Rohit’s day starts at 4:30 in the morning by attending the Mangal Aarti at the Krishna Temple, before commencing work. In fact, as I move around in his store, ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ blissfully falls on my ears from a music system in a corner.
“I am a very daal-chawal kind of person,” he grins. Having had an ordinary childhood in Allahabad, he says, Bombay added colour to his life. Considering his mediocrity in studies and ignoring his son’s talent, Rohit’s late father had once thought of opening a PCO for him, never imagining that his son would go places.
The Rohit Verma store sees people from various parts of the country and overseas walking in for his designer outfits. Unlike many designers, he prefers not to follow a signature pattern or a line. “When I became a designer, I had promised I will never have one signature line. For example, if 50 people in a wedding are wearing a Rohit Verma, nobody will recognize that it has been done by one designer,” he explains and adds, “I also play with a lot of fabrics and textures. I create my own fabrics and patterns. That’s the reason why the whole product becomes unique.”
Plans to open up stores in other cities and countries is something that Rohit is working on currently. He is entering into the accessories line and has an important fashion show coming up in November this year. Besides that he is also considering a couple of offers from Hollywood and may go ahead with them in the near future.