The thirst to learn, the willpower to explore, the desire to find, coupled with her love for the Indian culture is what served as an incentive for Ruchika Anand. This creatively skilled lady not only has her own clothing line but also a range of Kolhapuri chappals. (Is it cool or cool?) She makes and customizes the chappals, and adds to them an essence of rawness. We all know how Indian heritage is among the oldest, richest, most extravagant, colorful, soulful and extremely deep-rooted cultures in the entire wide world. Ruchika adds to her products an aesthetic charm and calls them “fancily raw”.
From seeds to vintage coins, you’ll find it all in her goods,
The rural touch she adds caters to all the moods.
The Kolhapuris are what she’s bringing back into the trend,
Her unique bent of mind is what the sparrow has penned.
Q. Were you always into fashion design? What did you study?
I studied fashion retail merchandising from Pearl Academy but that wasn’t enough to satisfy my creative side. I specialized in visual merchandising but because it didn’t have much scope in India I didn’t want to do it further. Then I went to study fashion portfolio in London College of Fashion. I specialized in styling, I worked with Red Tape as a men’s designer and stylist. I wanted to try something else too so I started working on leather handbags. I also did Femina Style Diva but after sometime my curiosity to learn more only increased and I did a makeup course in Mumbai. I’ve had my hands in all pies!
Q. What was your inspiration? Where did it all start from?
My inspiration came from the very fact that Kolhapuri chappals are considered to be a dying thing. In my opinion, it’s extremely versatile and you can wear it with any outfit. Initially, I had made it for myself but on receiving such appreciative responses, I decided to work on it, design it, beautify it and bring it back in trend. After coming back to India I wanted to do something that had my personal touch to it. So that’s how it started. I decided to design my own Kolhapuris. I decided to give it my touch. Initially I made two pairs of it, but then I thought- Kolhapuri chappals don’t have an age, it’s evergreen. So well why not?
Q. Is it your sole initiative? Can you tell us how you went about it?
My mom and I are partners in this; she takes care of the manufacturing part whilst I handle the designing bit. Clothing was our forte, we had a pre-planned clothing line. It started with the small workshop I had on my terrace with only three people working on the shoes and clothes. One being the masterji, the second person doing the hand embroidery work and the third one doing the machine embroidery work. It was never a boutique; it just started off with minimal embroidery work. The work now is very similar just on a larger scale.
Q. You told us about the mechanical process, is there a creative process behind it too?
I think the creative process would be travelling. It’s not only my inspiration but also serves as an incentive. I love travelling in this country because no other country in the world can match up to the kind of rich heritage, culture and the diversity that we have here. In India, the fashion is attached to our culture which is why I’m really fond of Gujarati and Rajasthani fashion. I’ve also travelled to the north-eastern parts of our country and noticed that they are so strongly rooted to their culture. So rich, so raw. I love exploring tiny villages in various parts of the country. I always use seeds, gems or small elephants or birds in my work just to add a tinge of rawness to it. Even while travelling I collect stones, shells, colorful rocks, cloth and make something out of it. And if you ask me to broaden my fashion lens outside India I think I really like Afghani fashion because of its beauty. Other than that I really want to explore countries in the Middle East because of their cultural richness.
I love travelling in this country because no other country in the world can match up to the kind of rich heritage, culture and the diversity that we have here.
Q. How do you think the Kolhapuris have evolved?
It was originally founded in the 13th century. Then in 1920 a family would make Kolhapuri chappals and send them to Mumbai. It is since then that Kolhapuri chappals are loved by all. There are designs in Kolhapuri chappals we are not even aware of. We only know of the basic ones here. Nowadays we don’t even wear the orginal Kolhapuri chappals, we just wear a few designs of it. And it’s no longer made of leather, it’s just some cloth used to make it look like leather. Nowadays there are block heels too which have the Kolhapuri look to it but it’s very different.
Q. What’s the most interesting feedback or the best compliment that you’ve received on your shoes till date?
It was when a group of middle-aged ladies were extremely delighted to see my shoes. They were probably under the impression that Kolhapuri chappals are extremely uncomfortable because of their hard soles but they were completely ignorant of the fact that it’s good for health. I felt like I was bringing Kolhapuris back into fashion all the way from the 70’s and that absolutely made my day.
Q. What are the challenges that you have faced in the designing process?
The biggest challenge was to find someone who was actually trained in doing the technical work behind the chappals, someone who could incorporate my ideas on the chappals. When putting it in the market it is necessary to know that your work is professionally done right. Sitting with that someone, teaching them the processes and techniques behind it was quite a challenging task.
Q. Is there a dream project yet to come to life?
I plan to start a jewelry line too. But I want it to be different, I want to gather bits and pieces of culture from all around the country and combine it together in the form of an ornament one can adorn. So I’m looking forward to visiting the Kutch festival because it’s just so big on jewelry!
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
We have our inclination towards the West. We literally ape them. And we tend to follow the fashion and the crowd completely ignorant of how rich and diverse our culture is. If the west can have a fashion statement of their own then why not a country like India have its own drapes? I think we should get back to our roots and work around it. Because a country like ours has a lot to offer.
It was not only an enriching experience with Ruchika but also a unique one. An artist so proud of her roots that she has the touch of Indian heritage in everything she does. One of the very few designers who elaborated and emphasized on the direct relation between culture, travelling and fashion. Ruchika, you truly enlightened us. And those of you waiting for her social media links, she’s on it. Meanwhile you can go check out her store Sitara at 110 Shahpur Jaat, Fashion Hub, New Delhi.