Please tell us about yourself
Menaka was always passionate about fashion and art. Although while growing up her parents felt that fashion was something she should pursue as a hobby more than a career. But Menaka was determined she completed a degree in Psychology for their sake and then went chasing behind her dreams only to start her own clothing line today. For those of you reading this story we have one message, “The distance between your dreams and reality is called action“
What did you study?
Armed with a high ranking Honours degree in Psychology from St. Xavier’s college and a year and a half work experience in a Customer Care capacity in the corporate sector, Menaka Premkumar completed her second undergraduate degree in Knitwear Design Technology from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai. She thereafter worked at Sepia as a fashion designer for a year and a half where she met her soul sister and future business partner Disha Patel.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Menaka, a psychology graduate, always loved to draw and sketch, which lead to her taking a course in NIFT, while Disha comes from a family that’s always been into fabric and went on to do a course and later an internship in Milan. The girls met while working together with Sepia, “I was fed up with working in retail,” says Menaka, “And I always knew I wanted to get into couture.”
And get into couture they did. Their brand Soiree, named so because, “We wanted to create clothes that would be worn to mark an occasion. Also we wanted an international feel to the name. So we thought why not the French word for evening — most celebrations do take place in the evening and France is a fashion capital of sorts,” says Disha.
How did you start on your own?
Disha Patel and Menaka Premkumar both pursued diverse interests, until their love for embellishment, penchant for sharp and sensual silhouettes, obsession with high fashion and an inherent passion for luxury brought them together in their quest to create a brand that reflected these values. Innumerable tete-a-tetes involving countless cups of coffee, chocolate and conversations about couture later, Soirée was born. Soirée Couture is a reflection of a heightened sensibility of luxury, complemented by an eye for the latest trends, with roots in the ultimate essence of classic style. The duo conceptualizes their garments as masterpieces that adorn a woman. Each piece speaks of the union of art with luxury.
Taking individual clients’ orders, crafting outfits for birthdays, weddings and other celebrations is how they began. Once they established a client base, they set up their first formal exhibition at Pune, which got them a very enthusiastic response and a strong fan following. Another exhibition and a few home trunk shows later, they decided to take the plunge into their biggest dream – showcasing on the ramp. “2014 saw us accepted to present ourselves at Blenders Pride Bangalore Fashion Week Spring Summer Showers 2014 and the luxury demi-couture resort line we showed there won us a lot of accolades and appreciation. Since then, there’s been no looking back.” – Says Menaka. Ask Menaka to describe her day and she’ll explain how her days fly by with a crazy whirlwind of sketching, designing, pattern-making and developing prints and embroideries – doing what she knows best and loves best! The duo generally work on instinct – whenever they find themselves personally in need of a particular item of clothing, they see an opportunity. Where there is a gap in the market, where demand is not met with adequate supply, they jump in. They create clothes that they themselves need and want to wear and that has worked out well for them. “While designing we always try to create more of the kind of silhouettes, techniques and drapes that are unexplored and to create embellishment and surface development that is unique so that no client of ours feels that there are numerous replicas of her garment in the market.” Says Menaka, who understands how important it is to every woman to own that one garment that is transformative and unique to her only. Kind of like Cinderella, at the risk of sounding clichéd
Tell us about your work
The designers are artistic people who love sketching and their designs are reflective of these leanings, “Our prints are all originals and the fabrics have a lot of ornamentation and embellishment. We want our every piece to talk,” adds Disha.
The girls admit that they are very different from each other in many ways including in their style sensibilities, “Menaka is mellow, I am fast,” grins Disha. “She likes flowing clothes and pretty prints, I like crisp structured styles and neutral colours. We try to incorporate both in our work.”
Their debut collection for instance, which was released at the Bangalore Fashion Week recently manage to integrate two distinct aspects — one fitted separate piece balanced by a free flowing detail/separate.
A lines, and fit and flare cuts, are offset by experimental fabric techniques, fluting, sculptural surface ornamentation, draping technique and over layering — the intermittent hints of structure providing contrast and sharpness to the primarily smoothly gliding fabrics.
Sensual, finely detailed and all woman, the collection titled The Gilded Lily is all about celebrating femininity, “Gilding a lily means adding unnecessary ornamentation to an already beautiful thing. Just like a lily, a woman is inherently beautiful and we wanted our clothes to make her more so. We wanted to beautify what is already beautiful,” smiles Menaka.
“Also since it is Spring-Summer we have used a lot of floral motifs, including the lily,” adds Disha. “The colour palette is inspired by flowers too and moves from pearl white and seashell pink to frothy lemon, luscious melon, coral and carnation and finally culminates in a burnt rosewood hue for depth.”
Currently they work from home and create customised clothes. They are looking at expanding into smaller boutiques but insist that they will strive to maintain a degree of exclusivity.
“We want to design for someone who enjoys and appreciates luxury. Garments are part of memory. Every time you wear it, the lovely feeling should come back,” says Menaka.