You were born and raised in the South of India. Were you already thinking about studying fashion as a child?

I was born to a doctor dad and an educationist mom in a small town called Vandavasi in the South of India. I did my schooling at my mom’s school and moved to a bigger city called Chennai. As a teenager, I was just another simple, talkative and fun loving small towner. Then, I actually started to study architecture!

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How did you discover the fashion world? When did you decide to become a fashion designer?

Though my undergraduate education was in architecture, I built a strong career in media for five years as a radio jockey, producer and even television anchor! So, when I had to move to Shanghai, due to my husband’s job, I couldn’t continue my career in media because of the language barrier.

I had very few options in English, and had to choose between MBA  and fashion designing. I decided to go with the latter,” says the chirpy former RJ and TV host from Vandavasi, who studied architecture at Anna University before pursuing her passion for media.

Therefore, I decided to study. I couldn’t find any course related to media taught in English. While researching, I came across the website of IFA Paris. The courses were interesting and being a creative person, I decided to study fashion and learn a new craft.

Then, you entered IFA Paris in Shanghai and obtained a Bachelor in Fashion Design degree. Few witnesses remember hearing you say that IFA Paris changed your life. Is that right? How and why?

IFA Paris was definitely a life changing experience for me. I studied fashion for the first time there. I went back to student life, did a second bachelor degree, leaving behind a career. I did all these in China, where I couldn’t speak the language. The decision wasn’t easy, but that is one of the best I have made. IFA Paris really transformed me, from a novice in fashion to a confident graduate able to run my own business successfully in the United States, the very following year of my graduation. The training I got in IFA Paris was 360 degrees. It taught me not only the design process, but also how to make clothes and market them. I take this opportunity to thank my teachers of IFA Paris from the bottom of my heart. I owe them big time for all the knowledge I gained from them. They were not only good teachers but also, great mentors, friends and well-wishers.

“On my first day at the Shanghai campus of International Fashion Academy (IFA) Paris, i was surrounded by youngsters fresh out of school. But I didn’t feel out of place; they were all very friendly. I think I knew within a few hours that I had made the right choice,” says Vino, seated in the lobby of ITC Grand Chola on a short visit to the city last week. “We had French couture professionals teaching us everything from the basics of pattern making and sewing to marketing. It was a 360-degree training, and looking back, I can’t believe how much I improved over the three-year course.”

And improve she did, enough to win her the Golden Laureate Award of her batch, for her graduate collection called Patang (inspired by the kite festivals of India), which was showcased at the Shanghai Fashion Week in October 2014. In the same year, she was a finalist in the China International Fashion Designers Creation Contest. Her work also found a favourable mention in the Chinese edition of Vogue magazine.

Tell us about your work

When her husband was transferred to Detroit on a two-year assignment, Vino followed with their son, and there, continues to pursue her new career. She runs her studio out of home, where she does all the work herself, from conferring with clients and sourcing material to cutting and sewing. “So you can praise me if it’s good and blame me if it’s bad. I don’t have anything to hide behind! Textile designing is a passion of mine, and I do it myself; I love the freedom of playing with colours,” says the 35-year-old.

“Very early on, I realised that fashion designing was no different than architecture — we either dress buildings or human bodies. The understanding of the structure is what’s important,” she explains, when asked how she found it so easy to adapt to fashion designing. Her latest collection, W, which was featured at the WALK Runway Fashion Show in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, pays homage to celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his signature windows. Her designs are structured and have a lot of movement. As for the colour pallette, Patang featured bright splashes of pinks, reds and yellows, whereas the WALK collection plays with browns, blues and beiges.

Vino prefers designing long dresses, jackets and evening gowns, and is getting used to sporting her eponymous label. In the long term, she plans to move back to Chennai and get into costume designing for films and television. “I want to travel a lot and learn, and later in my career, I would love to mentor young designers. That’s my goal,” she says.

You were recently in New York to show your new collection at the Brooklyn Fashion Week. How was it? Which elements of your life inspired this new collection? It also seems that you maintain a special link with the United States…

I was invited to show my collection at the prestigious Fashion Week Brooklyn, on their 10th Anniversary. I showed my Fall/Winter 2016 collection “Buoyancy”. The collection was inspired from the zenith of humanity that helped my city, Chennai, to bounce back from recent historic floods. I hand sketched the iconic buildings of my city and made textile prints out of them and had blue piping as an element cutting through them, depicting how floods tried to break us into pieces and still we stood together, with humanity as a binding force. I gave a speech on the runway about the theme and showcased the collection. The collection was well received by the audience, with a standing ovation. In my case, The United States is the land of opportunities. If you are talented and hard working with the right attitude, The United States welcomes you with open arms.

How would you define your brand and the fashion scene in India?

VinoSupraja is a brand which believes that fashion is a wearable emotion and art. I see fabric as canvas and garments as sculptures to express myself. My collections have strong inspirations and deep meanings. India is a very diverse country with a strong cultural tradition of its own. I am currently working on finding a fine balance between my design aesthetics and traditional couture techniques of India.