You Can Have Anything You Want in Life if You Dress for It
What you wear has a deep impact on you. While some may choose to downplay fashion and the importance of dressing up, there is no doubt that clothes play a role much more critical than just shielding and covering your body. Clothes can make and break your confidence, bring out your individuality and tell a lot about you. If you are dressed for it, you exude the confidence that you are ready for whatever you are hoping to achieve. To trivialize fashion is synonymous to being indifferent to the years of efforts put in by the society in reaching where it is now. That being said, it is important to wear what you feel most comfortable in. Your clothes tell your story.
Wear Clothes That Matter
India is a country of diversities and this includes the way we dress. Every region has its own history, culture, skills and styles, and this is often reflected in the way Indians dress. Every region has clothing that is created using traditional skills passed down through the generations. The ethnic treasure of our nation needs to be preserved, especially since there is so much to preserve. There are crafts and skills that are dying and artisans who fail to make ends meet because we are unable to tap into their true potential. With time, our preferences in fashion have evolved. However, our ethnic heritage in terms of clothing never goes out of fashion. When talented designers like Sonal Kabra, make a conscious effort to make a melody out of fashion, sustainability and traditional skills, the outcome is bound to be phenomenal.
Sonal Kabra: Modern Designs with a Traditional Twist
Sonal Kabra was no stranger to the world of sewing and fabrics thanks to the creative women in her family. She took inspiration from her childhood memories and experiences and took it a step further by studying and specializing in Fashion Design. On her trips to some villages in India she was deeply inspired by the workmanship of the artisans and the deep rooted connections that they held with their culture and heritage. She combined their traditional crafts and skills with her modern designs to create beautiful contemporary apparels. With this, her label Sonal Kabra was born. The clothes are made with the finest of fabrics while ensuring quality checks at every level. We bring to you the story of Sonal Kabra in her own words.
"Everything that is real – people, places, architectures, cultures and traditions inspire me. Nature is a constant source of inspiration that continues to inspire me with its beauty."
Sonal Kabra – Owner, Sonal Kabra Designs
Interview with Sonal Kabra of Sonal Kabra Designs and The Neem Tree
- Q. Tell us about yourself and your background.
- Born in Rajasthan and brought up in Gujarat, I was deeply influenced by the culture, traditions and cuisine of both these places. Most of my childhood was spent living in a joint family where ladies would be absorbed in their sewing and craft hobbies during their free time. My fond childhood memories consist of frequent trips to fabric markets, craft shops to get them supplies and watch them use it in inspiring ways. Gradually I started loving my interactions with fabrics, colourful threads and trims and soon I knew this was my calling.
I graduated in Fashion Design and did my post-graduation in Apparel Design from the National Institute of Design (NID) and won a scholarship to study strategic design management from Polytechnico di Milano, Italy. Later I was told I was the youngest NIDian to win this scholarship.
- Q. What led you to create Sonal Kabra Designs and how did you go about it?
- I worked with some designers and design houses before starting my label. The functioning of the apparel industry was engaging but there were set parameters of what would work for them and what wouldn’t. I wanted to do things that I believed in even if it meant taking certain risks. That is when the label ‘Sonal Kabra’ was born in my mind.
It was in 2011, when I took up the challenge to bring my label into being. I set up a sewing machine in the servant’s quarter of my parent’s apartment which was otherwise used as a store room. This set up controlled my expenses which was important initially.
My debut collection featured a range of comfortable garments crafted using the dyeing technique called Shibori which got noticed by some of the finest stores across the country. Soon we were loaded with orders. Good sales were a big boost but also meant we needed to find a bigger place and expand the team. Gradually we grew and today we have a studio in Vadodara where we develop our own fabrics, create patterns and make clothes that get so much love from people. That’s how it all happened, organically.
We started stocking with some of the finest stores nationally and internationally. People who bought our pieces started getting in touch to know what we were planning next, what our new collection would be and when they could see the look book. That was the point when we decided to launch our own webstore (www.sonalkabra.com).
This year, we are celebrating 10 years of our label Sonal Kabra.
- Q. What is your design process, where does your inspiration come from?
- I start with inspiration. Everything that is real – people, places, architectures, cultures and traditions inspire me. Nature is a constant source of inspiration that continues to inspire me with its beauty.
I keep collecting or taking pictures and bring them together on the table at the beginning of my design process. That leads me to the brainstorming, doodling and sketching sessions. I then create textures on the fabrics using various mediums like appliqué, block printing, embroidery, Shibori, etc. These textures then go on my sketches which later transform into a garment. Comfort, quality and sustainability remain at the core of my design process.
- Q. How do you bring sustainability into the process?
- Sustainability for me is not just about the end product. It starts from the very beginning. We procure our fabrics consciously. Our work enables us to bring people from different walks of life together and make clothes that tell a story. With each collection, we ask ourselves how do we bring more people together to create more work opportunities. The other day in my studio, I overheard this young girl who was fixing buttons in the garment talking to her colleagues about how that piece alone brought people from 3 states and 3 generations together during the process of making.
Sustainability is not only about resources. It has different dimensions. For us, maintaining long term relationships and taking care of the emotional wellbeing of my team is also a part of creating a sustainable environment in my studio. For example, we do not believe in giving rigid timeframes to our karigars. They are encouraged to help each other, take breaks, play the music they like, have a laugh and take time off when their families need them to be at home. Trust and open exchange of ideas are very important to me. I have observed that when people are happy, efficiency is taken care of automatically. We are working constantly to make our products and surroundings 100% sustainable.
- Q. How do you ensure the quality of the clothes?
- Quality is of utmost importance to us, and not just on the outside of the garment but equally on the inside. We follow a precise procedure at each step to make sure quality is perfectly maintained. People who join us are first given training which makes them conscious of the work they would be doing. Quality control checks happen at each step to make sure the product made is of utmost quality.
Sonal Kabra's Hottest Selling Products
Sonal Kabra has a collection of elegant apparels that have been designed and crafted to ensure high quality and sustainability that makes them a perfect ethnic choice for the modern woman. The fabric, hues and style leave you mesmerised. Have a look at some of the apparels from her collection.
Black Cluster Shibori Kurta (Set of 2)
This is a graceful front-open long jacket dress in cluster Shibori pattern. There is a separate matching slip in mul fabric. The kurta has 3/4th sleeves and is made of pure cotton silk fabric. It is a comfortable fit kurta and is available in black colour. It has been handmade by artisans in India and is available in all sizes from XS to 4XL for ₹ 7,200.00 here.
Yellow Lace Trimmed Kota Dress
A flouncy tiered dress in Kota fabric with lace yoke and 3/4th sleeves, this pretty yellow dress is made on order. The fabric used is cotton dobby. The dress has a loose and comfortable fit. It can be purchased for ₹ 5,520.00 from here.
Indigo Shibori Kurta (Set of 2)
Do not miss this A-line long indigo Chanderi kurta in shaded diamond Shibori pattern with handmade mirror work and flower shaped buttons. It has a front placket with side pockets. A separate soft mul slip is included. Made of pure cotton silk fabric and handmade in India, it is a made on order kurta that is available for ₹ 11,992.00. You can place an order here.
New Products by Sonal Kabra
- Yellow Pintuck Cotton Shirt with Slip: This chic cotton dobby & Kota shirt with front placket, 3/4th sleeves, comes with a soft cotton matching slip. It is available in sizes ranging from XS to 4XL and is priced at ₹ 4,500.00.
- Indigo Block Printed Handwoven Chanderi Kurta with Pants : This beautiful and comfortable kurta that is hand block printed in gold with gotta accents comes with attached matching indigo mul lining and pants with elasticated and draw string adjustable waist band. It is available in all sizes and can be purchased for ₹ 7,900.00.
- Finely Handwoven Orange Linen Saree: This exquisite orange coloured linen saree with zari weaving that comes with a matching blouse piece is available for ₹ 5,600.00.
Where Can You Find Them?www.sonalkabra.com
Interview with Sonal Kabra (Contd.)
- Q. You use a lot of local weaves and traditional techniques. Why?
- During my education, I made some trips to the villages in India, where I got exposed to the communities involved in crafts like embroidery, weaving, dyeing, printing and sculpting. Their workmanship inspired me. This exposure played a role in shaping my thoughts. I was fascinated to know that India is the only country where craft, language and food preferences change every 150 km.
I get to witness the close connection of our artisans with their roots which not only fascinates me but also encourages me to stay connected with our culture and heritage. It makes me wake up each day with a desire to go to work and do something new and exciting.
- Q. How involved are the artisans in the design process, and what are some of the challenges of working with craftsmen spread across the country?
- I use crafts and give it our signature contemporary touch. Artisans are the roots of what we do. My design process changes with each collection. For instance, we have an active inhouse design team who works on Shibori and block print designs. Sometimes, we create design samples and guide the artisans for further developments. While at other times, we use their knowledge and expertise in helping us create exciting designs. Both ways, what we enjoy most is the exchange of design ideas and creative inputs.
In the times of the internet, working with craftsmen across the country isn’t very difficult. Communicating ideas is easier. Also, what amazes me is they have become so active in sending pictures at various stages of their work. They keep us updated when the loom is set, wooden blocks are ready, or the fabric is ready for dispatch.
- Q. You have another label, The Neem Tree. Please tell us more about it.
- We were doing classic silhouettes and intricate textures for Sonal Kabra. Somewhere I wanted to do a simple, everyday collection with breezy silhouettes as an alternative line. One day I was sharing my thoughts with my husband Samir Kulkarni, and he thought it was a great idea and asked if I had a name in mind. I said ‘The Neem Tree’. That’s how ‘The Neem Tree’ took shape in 2017.
- Q. What are your own interests?
- I like reading books. I have a knack for gardening. I love plants. I like to take care of them and watch them grow. I recently bought an ukulele and learning it has been such a joyful experience. I squeeze out time to arrange and declutter my space. Clearing my space lifts up my mood in a way that I cannot describe in words.
What's Next for Sonal Kabra and The Neem Tree?
It has been a wonderful journey so far. We have met amazing people and developed strong bonds in the process. We have worked very hard to explore different crafts and different techniques to delight our clients. We plan to take Indian techniques to a global audience in the coming time.
Important Styling Tips & Recommendations for Our Readers?
- Q. Please can you give some styling tips for our readers, on how to select colours, cuts and styles for different body types.
- Knowing your body shape is the first step for choosing clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable. Understand your body type so you can identify areas you would want to highlight and which you might want to play down a bit. You can define the area that makes you feel confident. If you don’t like garments that cling, an A-line cut dress, an empire waistline, flowy tunics and relaxed tops will be perfect for you. Get creative with your accessories to change the look from simple to classic or bold. Take time to experiment with colours, prints and shapes to find out what looks and makes you feel good. But buy only when the piece excites you.
- Q. If someone can only buy a limited number of designer pieces, what would you recommend they get?
- Buy clothes that are made to last. If something feels rough, it cannot feel good on your body. In a hot and humid weather like ours, go for natural fabrics so your skin can breathe. An ankle length gather dress in a lightweight fabric is highly versatile and can be styled in multiple ways. Go for a smart shirt that can be effortlessly combined with a casual jeans or a formal skirt and lastly, a light weave handloom saree is a must.
Comfortable Natural Fabrics with Contemporary Styling Are an Evergreen Fashion Trend
Sustainable clothing made from comfortable natural fabrics with contemporary styling and a hint of our culture is an evergreen trend which is not going to become outdated in a hurry. If you are looking for stylish formal or office wear, Sonal Kabra is one of the best designers out there which you should definitely explore and give your wardrobe a much needed makeover. Which of Sonal Kabra's designs did you find the best? Share your experiences with us and stay connected.