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The little steamstress

Deepthi Talwar

Aarti Chandrasekhar seems quite at home in her small black-and-white
Aarti Chandrasekhar
Aarti Chandrasekhar
studio, surrounded by clothes and sewing machines. At home and contented. And no wonder, really. It's been only two years since she entered the world of fashion design and, already, the 25-year-old designer seems to have hit big time. As part of the preparation team for Miss World aspirant Rani Jeyraj, she has been commissioned to design Rani's outfit for the evening wear section of the competition.

The Miss World competition has several rounds on the basis of which the finalists are chosen. And the evening wear section is admittedly one of the more important ones. Which makes it all the more curious that a relatively unknown designer from Bangalore (a city which has a long way to go before it reaches the fashion consciousness of Bombay) has been chosen.

"It all started," Aarti says, "when Prasad Bidappa (Bangalore's fashion/model expert) suggested that I design the outfit." Bidappa has been familiar with Aarti's work ever since the Damania Design Awards were held in the garden city two years ago. Aarti was ranked third and, even though the national level finals never materialised, her work was noticed. "Prasad
Rani Jeyaraj
Rani Jeyaraj
knows that I specialise in evening wear," she says, "and Rani, for whom I have designed earlier, was very keen that I design her outfit."

Designing the outfit itself didn't take too long; "My creativity is spontaneous," explains Aarti. She decided not to bring in any element of ethnicity, simply because the look she wanted was something definitely international. Also, it had to be designed to bring out Rani's best features. "I've always wanted to do something fitted, like a corset; it really suits Rani. She has a very nice waistline." The gown, made from silk brocade and satin silk, is rust/bronze in colour, keeping Rani's complexion in mind.

Designing clothes is something that has always fascinated Aarti. She has always had an aptitude for drawing but, more than sketches, she would spend her time designing. With supportive parents behind her, Aarti went on to do a designing course at the Design School, Bangalore.

A few exhibitions followed her graduation from the course, but she soon switched to selling directly to retail stores. At present, Aarti has her own studio-cum-sales room. Her customers either buy the ready-made outfits she has on display or place orders with her. Aarti designs various kind of outfits, but has a special fondness for designing evening wear. "I guess I like the glamour," she laughs.

But designing, in Bangalore, is no glamorous game. Fabrics are difficult to source and getting the right material involves a lot of running around. Besides, the concept of designerwear itself has yet to take off in Bangalore. The average upper middle class
Aarti to work
Aarti at work
Banglorean is much more likely to buy an outfit that doesn't cost much, rather than spend a couple of thousands on one outfit, even if it is designerwear.

"The attitude, though, is changing," says Aarti. "The numbers may still be small, but there is a definite growth. Besides, fashion designing in India itself is just coming into its own. The last few years have see some kind of originality - that has not been influenced by the west - emerging."

At present, Aarti is willing to devote all her attention what is a very time-consuming career. Most up-coming designers would give their eye-teeth to have design exhibited in what is bound to be a much publicised event. But Aarti refuses to think of what lies ahead. "I'm satisfied with what I've done," she says, "I'm not thinking about what comes after this."

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