Interview: Sonaakshi Raaj, Bollywood Designer and Sari-Gown Specialist

With a National Award for the best upcoming designer of the year at the age of 21 in her pocket, Sonaakshi Raaj has been climbing up the success ladder and there is no looking back! The 27 year old designer holds a degree of BA in Apparel Manufacturer and Designing from SNDT where she bagged the SNDT University’s Best collection Award. Today, she is regarded as one of the best designers in the country.

Named as the Sari-Gown specialist by VOGUE India, Sonaakshi has been rated as the top 25 young designers on VOGUE’S radar. She is a pioneer in her field with her highly popularized Sari-Gowns and contemporary Indian wear for the new age women.

Sonaakshi is one of the very few Indian designers who has been featured for her popular work on the website of Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. Her clientele involves famous personalities and who’s who of the B-town. Sonaakshi debuted her collection at Lakme Fashion week Winter Fest in 2012, and has been showcasing her fabulous creations at LFW-Spring Summer 2013 & LFW-Spring Summer 2014 and recently at LFW- Winter/Festive 2015.

Her show stoppers include Sushmita Sen (who walked for her twice), Prachi Desai, Esha Sherwani, Malaika Arora Khan, Kriti Sanon. Her most regular muses include Kareena Kapoor Khan, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu among others.

Talking about her brand, the designer says, “It’s a young fresh take on Indian couture. I describe it as a contemporary Indian wear couture brand.”

The Label – specializes in women’s wear and retails her couture line from various multi designer stores across India and overseas like Europe, UK, U.S.A (LA- Beverly Hills), South Africa, Canada & UAE. She has clients from across the World.

Her clothing line is synonymous with opulence. With an intention to create glamorous ensembles catering to women’s couture wear, it renders to styles that are luxurious yet understated.  By combining tailoring with drapery, the garments are meticulously crafted and have a timeless appeal. We’ve been long time fans of her work and caught up with the young designer over a cup of coffee.

1. Since when did you start taking interest in designing?

Ever since I was in Grade 6, I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. I always had an eye for fashion and beautiful garments would really fascinate me.

2.  Who is your inspiration, if any?

The women of my family played a major role in creating awareness about silhouettes and couture pieces.

3. Which Indian designer do you look up to?

Manish Malhotra, Anamika Khanna, Rohit Bal. I worked under Manish back in the days and he was a great mentor to me.

4.  When and where was the first store launched?

I launched my first flagship store in Mumbai 2014.

5. Does your current collection have a theme? How often do you come up with a new collection?

My collections have always been women-centric. Inspired by the free-spirited women of today, my current collection is called “The Run-Away Bride”. I churn out at least 3 collections a year.

6. Which ensemble/outfit would you like to be known for?

I am known for my sari gowns as I was one of the first few designers to bring out the new trend in the market. It instantly caught immense popularity as it is a perfect blend our culture with the western trends.

7. What kind of outfits do you specialize in?

I specialize in women’s couture wear. Evening gowns, saris, sari gowns, dhoti saris and contemporary Indian wear are my speciality.

8. Describe your customers, their age, background, taste?

I cater to a certain niche clientele that have a taste for couture and are looking for something different, those who are not afraid to experiment. With a vast age group ranging from 19-60 yrs, my designs are suitable for all.  Because I believe that in today’s date we live in a society where fashion is not defined by age.

9. What are you future plans?

Well there’s a lot on my mind in terms of expansion. But it’s always best to reveal things at the right time.

10. What was the first creation designed by you?

I have been designing since I was a kid for family and friends and as I grew older, so did my fondness for designing. But my first few most popular creations were my sari gowns worn by Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor. These gained a lot of popularity as they were something different introduced to the market.

11. What is the size of your team? How do you manage going on shoots while running a store and dealing with client orders?

I have a team of young assistant with tailors and masters.
Yes I do manage to go for shoots while running a store and dealing with clients as I style as well. I styled a couple of celebrities for their films which required my personal attention on shoots. I have styled and designed for Shraddha Kapoor, Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon to name a few. I have styled for the film Heropanti and will be styling the upcoming film Baaghi too featuring Tiger and Shraddha. Simultaneously I have styled a lot of celebrity shoots for magazines like Filmfare, Stardust, FHM etc along with  Ad-films for Sunsilk, Nikon etc.

12. Which season do you get the most orders?

Autumn winter is good as it involves a lot of festive occasions  including Diwali and the wedding season.

13. How do you deal with people copying your creations and making fake profiles in your name?

It’s really annoying. But as long as it doesn’t affect my business I don’t care. I take it as a sign of success.

14. Do you have any fans? What is the sweetest thing a fan has done for you?

It really gives a high when fans come to the store and wait for me to come just to see me and meet me. The fan letters and mails I receive give a boost to keep doing better.

15. Which celeb would you want to style or design for?

International celebs is my next aim.

16. Who is your fav celeb/ client so far?

Bipasha, Malaika, Dipika,Sonam,Shilpa and a lot more.

17. Describe your target audience.

All age groups.

18. Any fashion tips for college students? Dos and Don’ts

Just follow your passion and Go for it! Don’t fear from hard work.

Image Sources: 1,2