Lines are a leitmotiv in Ruchika Sachdeva's designs. Rendered in neat top-stitches, razor-sharp pleats, and bias bindings, clean, geometric lines adorn many of her garments " not the heavy embroidery, sequins or beading that are elemental to Indian luxury.
Sachdeva founded Bodice in 2011, having returned home to Delhi after completing an undergraduate course in womenswear design at the London College of Fashion and internships at Vivienne Westwood and Giles Deacon. In a country where high-end fashion is largely associated with occasion wear, the then 23-year-old designer wanted to offer an alternate approach to luxury: stripping off ornamentation to focus on pain-staking construction and harnessing Indian artisanal techniques to create utilitarian, comfortable garments that can be worn forever.
Ten years since, the designer's minimal style has made fans out of fashion editors, stylists and buyers the world over. From being named 'Forbes 30 under 30', 'BoF 500' to winning the International Woolmark Prize in 2018 " she has attracted the kind of global attention that few Indian designers her age have.
British Vogue called Bodice "a bellwether for a new kind of generational change" following the Woolmark win. That tag is as relevant as ever as Sachdeva enters a new decade of her design journey this May. "There's always more to do and more boundaries to push," she says, reflecting on her career in an email conversation with Firstpost. Edited excerpts from the interview:
It is rare for young designers to define a design language and remain faithful to it without being subjugated by trends or commercial pursuits. How have you been able to stay true to your founding intentions?
I need to take a bird's-eye view of Bodice " keeping a check on how the brand transitions and remembering our initial long-term vision. All creatives need to question why they do what they do, especially at socio-cultural junctures like the one we are undergoing. What has helped me stay true to my intentions is aligning my design practice with contemporary times.
You have a tattoo that reads, "more is less, less is more". Is this your approach to luxury?
The very fabric of Bodice questions just how much is necessary. We are constantly evaluating where we can simplify and pare down. But we are big on technique " the kinds of fabrics we use, the weavers and the artisans we work with, and the entire production process. Luxury lies in the time, effort, and skill that go into making something. While there's nothing wrong with ornamentation, a luxury garment speaks through its design techniques and construction. Luxury is that which lasts " it impacts how you feel and makes you fall in love with it for a lifetime.
How did your education prepare >you for your role as a designer and businesswoman?
Perhaps I wasn't prepared to be a businesswoman when I started. I took the plunge with Bodice because I had a vision as a designer. I wanted to make something I couldn't find in the Indian market and offer Indian women the possibility of dressing well without giving up on comfort, utility, and minimalism. My education and internship experiences gave me the technical tools to bring my design knowledge to the best use. But like many people, I learned through the crests and troughs of my career, and I am grateful for them.
Your latest collection >'Ready. Set. Play' at LakmÃ© Fashion Week 2021 was colourful and loud " >a >deviation from your fondness for a neutral palette. How has the pandemic >influenced your creative thinking?
I think it has made me keen on taking risks, experimenting, and delving into the invigorating process of creation with a renewed energy. The colours reflect that, along with my own need for
more colour in my wardrobe to boost my mood and energy. The playful vibe of the collection comes from the thought that we don't need to treat every action with a sense of consequence and eventuality. Sometimes, it is okay and even enjoyable to let go of the preconceived image of what you want the result to be and just enjoy the creative process.
The pandemic emphasised the importance of designers not just as tastemakers, but also as major employers of artisans and craft clusters across the country. How do you approach this responsibility?
I approach it with simple common sense, to be honest. There is no way we can achieve our design vision without their skills and knowledge of time-tested techniques. We are not doing something anomalously great by supporting or employing them. It is very much a two-way process; we need them, and so do they.
Beyond fashion, what >inspires you?
Philosophies across different spectrums " how great minds before us, in diverse fields, thought and how they depicted it in their work. Meditation and movement inspire me. Architecture inspires me. Everyday life, too. Inspiration need not always come from something grand. Sometimes it comes from self-introspection " spending time at my studio by myself or with my dogs.
What are your goals >for the next 10 years?
To reinterpret, re-evaluate, resist being boxed within categories; and definitely, not think as far ahead as 10 years. The pandemic has grounded us in making us realise that the long-term plans we craft so meticulously can fall apart in the face of calamity. So, I want to enjoy where I am right now. But as a business, it is important to think of the future as well, and we will focus on developing better tools to help us adapt to unforeseen events.