Introducing Gulabi Trunk – personalised styling for the new age bride

Introducing ‘House Of Blouse’ – Your Blouse, Your Way

House Of Blouse | The Maharani Diaries

The quest to find a tailor who can stitch the perfect saree blouse is often a struggle for many Indian women. “Too tight”, “too loose” or “it’s not fitted” are just a few of the complaints I have had time and time again, but these woes were over once I discovered the fabulous House Of Blouse.

House Of Blouse is a one of a kind online shop built for women to create, design and customize their blouse through an in-built web-app called the ‘Style Creator.’ This brilliant concept was the brain child of Bangalore based, Rachana Reddy and Roopa Reddy who like us experienced similar frustrations.

Shoppers are given the luxury to select any blouse style, sleeve, neckline, length and more according to their tastes and budgets. Choose your fabric or fabrics from their colourful gallery and work away. In just a few simple clicks you have created your dream blouse.

In just a little over a year, the online startup has come an incredibly long way. The compliments are flowing in from all corners of the world. Women are embracing the platform and now with a striking saree collection, the team are destined for a very bright future.

Being a huge fan of House Of Blouse, I caught up with Rachana and Roopa to learn more about their success story.

Rachana and Roopa Reddy

From left: Rachana and Roopa Reddy

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you fell into the fashion industry?

Rachana: I got accepted into a well-known engineering college as soon as I completed my pre-degree, but my heart wasn’t into it. So I took the risk to drop out of the college and pursue my creative calling in fashion design, specialising in accessory design. After I graduated from the London College Of Fashion, I launched my own label ‘Rachana Reddy Accessories.’ I wanted to do more and was bubbling with ideas and concepts, and from one of those ideas, House Of Blouse was born.

Roopa: I went to college study a Bachelors in Architecture, but soon after made the switch to work for an early startup in their Marketing/Corporate Communications department. After a long stint living in the United States, I returned to India and enrolled into a Fashion Design course. We often discussed starting an online venture. And while I was working for another company, Rachana told me about this brilliant idea for customised blouses online and I got on board with it.

What has the response been like so far?

The response has been great with marketing effort being primarily on social media. The best part of it has been the feedback. Hearing from our customers who are thrilled with their products and the ease of ordering a custom blouse online. We were really kicked when a customer recently stated “The designing experience was exciting! It’s like Xbox for girls!”

Currently, what are the most popular styles of sari blouses and do you have a particular favourite?

Roopa: Our yellow sheer boatneck blouse sells like hotcakes and seems to be the most popular ‘Ready To Shop’ style. But boatneck styles in general have been our best sellers. Rachana’s favourites are collared sleeveless hi-neck and the mirrored corsets as they can be styled in a myriad fun ways. Me on the other hand likes the ‘Criss Cross Crop Top.’ This style is so versatile and comfortable and looks the best when made in a floral lycra lace fabric.

How and where do you source your material?

Our head of sourcing is Radhika Reddy. She does all the hunting down of all manner of fabrics and always keeps an eye out for fabric trends and sources. We are sourcing fabrics from Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi right now. We also custom order a lot of our fabrics. We have big plans in the future for getting traditional fabrics from all regions of India among others.

Is there an art to designing a sari blouse? What sort of advice could you give to women stuck on what style to choose?

We have a few helpful articles on blouses for different body types as well different occasions on our blog. But I think easiest way is to start with an idea of if you want a bold and skimpy style like a halter neck or spaghetti strapped style or a conservative style like a sweetheart or a U-neck. Or even a mid way balance, like a conservative neckline, but a sleeveless style.

HOB | The Maharani Diaries

Once you have made this selection, go on to experiment away with various fabrics. We have seen some really unique fabrics combinations by some of our customers.

HOB | The Maharani Diaries

Don’t shy away from using a different fabric for the sleeves, collars and armbands. Our Style Creator makes it very easy to try out different fabric combinations and see what they look like before investing and ordering them.

You’ve recently launched a beautiful sari collection. Tell us a little about the sari styles you have available and what has been popular?

We had a lot of people ask us to carry saree pairings and options as sometimes they don’t have anything to pair their HOB blouse with. So we launched a small collection of sarees some months back with pre-designed blouse pairings and received a good response immediately.

We started off with versatile drapes made out of satin, crepe and georgette. As the last festive and wedding season came by, we introduced Gadwal pure silks and silk cottons which have been sourced directly from a weaver in Gadwal.

There are also lightweight kota silks which look festive and are great if you don’t want to wear a heavy saree. Our limited collection of leheriya sarees have been very popular thus far and we still receive requests for those.

What do you think will be the hottest trends with sari blouses over the upcoming seasons? Will the mix and match trend continue?

Sari blouse styles have evolved in recent times. People are investing in interesting, well crafted and versatile blouses, which can be paired in a number of ways, for instance with the obvious choice, a saree, a lehenga, as a crop top and even with palazzos. The mix and match trend is spreading to all corners of India. I recently heard of an aunt in a remote village who gives a separate contrasting blouse piece while gifting a saree (which comes with it’s own blouse piece) and advises “Please stitch the contrast one as nobody uses the blouse pieces which come with a saree anymore.”

HOB | The Maharani Diaries

The sheer yoke trend is really hot at the moment and looks like it will stay awhile. With a myriad of options in yokes, such as cutwork and netted thread work, such blouses can even mimic the trendy Maharani style blouse.

“Maharani” style hey? Like the sound of that! Aside from India, where else in the world are your customers based?

We have had a lot of interest from the United States, that being one of our biggest consumer base of late. But we have had orders from UK, Canada, Singapore and Middle East as well. The most interesting being a bridesmaids package ordered by a customer in UK using the same fabric for all 6 of the bridesmaids but customised as per individual styles, necklines, sleeve lengths and, of course, the measurements.

What’s your style philosophy?

We are big on individuality and believe that everyone should have a chance to express their own individuality and originality. We LOVE a lot of our customer creations and often ask ourselves, “Hey, how come we didn’t think of that?” It’s such a treat to see unique customer creations on a daily basis.

So getting back to your question, our personal style philosophy would be to be true to who you are, colour outside the lines, experiment endlessly, don’t get influenced easily and find your own style!


Well said. Finally, what are the top 3 reasons why women should order a sari blouse from House Of Blouse?

The ease and convenience of the entire process. You can order the exact style of blouse you want sitting in your PJ’s, and have it delivered to your doorstep. Spares you from running around, picking fabrics and dealing with tailors. You no longer need to conjure up your entire design in your head or go a designer to have it done. You can visualise your design using our ‘Style Creator’ and you can play with designs endlessly before you decide and order.

Last but not least, you don’t have to worry about ordering styles as bold and experimental or as big or small as you please, without anybody else giving you their two cents of unasked for advice.

Welcome to The Maharani Diaries, Rachana and Roopa and the entire team at House Of Blouse! Congratulations on your success so far and all the very best for your future endeavours. Cannot wait to work with you on future projects.

For further information, follow the links over in our vendor directory.

Stay tuned for our fashion editorial featuring two gorgeous saree blouses from House Of Blouse!

Introducing ‘Numaish’ – Discover Style

Numaish Cover Photo | The Maharani Diaries

Manisha Kumar is the woman behind quite possibly the most acclaimed fashion and lifestyle exhibitions in the U.A.E. She is instrumental in bringing high end designers as well as artists to showcase their work through the popular fashion and art exhibitions.

Established in 2012 Numaish exhibitions brings western and ethnic designer wear, accessories and jewellery fresh off the runways, this shopping extravaganza is a one-stop fashion destination that fulfils every bride’s shopping needs.

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

Now in it’s fourth year running and on the back of another successful summer edition presentation, the Numaish shows are living up to the hype and building an excellent reputation with both organisers and exhibitors.

We caught up with the lovely Manisha to learn more about Numaish and find out what’s next for these hugely popular shows.

Tell us about yourself? What inspired you and how did you develop it?

Manisha Kumar | The Maharani DiariesI have been passionate about fashion since a very young age and had always dreamt of being a part of the industry one day. I started in the banking sector and then did a complete 360 to move into marketing and events management. Numaish began in 2012 with the intention of bringing eminent and emerging South-Asian designers to Dubai showcasing their seasonal collections in fashion.

We want people to have access to this designer fashion and so far the response has been fantastic. Shoppers get an opportunity to meet and receive personalized styling tips from designers from India, Pakistan, London and also UAE.

Could you give us a little insight into the Numaish Talent Hunt?

Our path-breaking initiative gives emerging designers a platform to showcase their creations alongside well-established designers, providing them a jump start in their fashion careers.

We give them free space, provide the marketing and PR for them as well and it’s kind of like a launch pad for them to get an idea about how the customers in the region will react to their products. This is an amazing initiative that has proved to be very successful.

Your first international edition took place last year in Singapore. Tell us a little about it and why did you choose Singapore?

Singapore is similar to Dubai in many ways in terms of demographic, weather and lifestyle. There are exhibitions that do take place in Singapore, however this event was something different for the shoppers.

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

We had a good mix of designers to fulfil the South Asian expat’s needs for Diwali and Eid. Over the years Numaish has been renowned for its association with ‘revivalist’ designers who are preserving the craft of traditional textiles and making a significant economic impact to the weavers in the villages of India. We presented these designers in Singapore with their latest collections designed by traditional art forms.

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

Numaish | The Maharani Diaries

It was an honour and a privilege to present the fist international edition.

The feedback was overwhelming and we want to strive to take the brand globally with a diverse range of new and seasoned designers.

How many designers have you worked with so far?

We are proud to say we have provided a platform to over 600 designers to establish their brands in the UAE Market.

Our designers have included the likes of Gaurang Shah, Ritu Kumar, Anushree Reddy, Masaba Gupta and Anavila.


We particularly like to showcase work from women entrepreneurs. Numaish provides an opportunity to talented women designers with limited resources to showcase their designs in an international market and give them access into the global fashion industry.

Why are such events important?

Numaish is a one-stop fashion destination aiming to fulfilling shopping needs. Shoppers not only have the opportunity to meet their fashion idols, but they will also receive personalized style tips from fashion week designers.

There are often many misconceptions about these shows. Many people often have reservations about it not being affordable. Mrinalini Chandra for Numaish | The Maharani DiariesWhat are your thoughts on this?

We strive to work with designers who are give us affordable designer wear. So, it’s not going to pinch your pocket. Their designs will be reasonably affordable as well as wearable.

What has been your greatest achievement to this date?

I love hearing stories of people who have purchased their outfits from a Numaish event. I feel a sense of accomplishment and it’s a great feeling to know that they had a great experience at my show. Shoppers’ perceptions have changed. No longer do they have to travel all the way to India. Numaish is a one-stop shop and the exhibitions take place during the festive season, that being Diwali and Eid. So it’s the perfect time to shop.

Apart from the fashion shows what else do Numaish organize?

I also host an art fair once a year where I get artists from India and the rest of the world to showcase their work. It’s like a global art fair.

Who is/are your favourite fashion designers?

I have a long list of them actually. Too difficult to narrow down. I like to work with designers who value tradition and are reviving age-old textiles, such as Gaurang Shah. Ritu Kumar of course is another favourite of mine. I’ve worked with her on many occasions. She’s a very classic designer and I love her designs.

What’s next for Numaish?

We want to go international and develop an online portal to give shoppers who are further away the access to the brands I love to work with.

CEO, Manisha Kumar with a happy customer.

Manisha with happy customers

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with us Manisha. All the very best with Numaish and we wish you all the very best for future shows.

Have you attended a Numaish show before? Let us know all about it in the comments below.

For further information about Numaish, follow the links over in our vendor directory and stay tuned to our events page as well.

Introducing ‘ Cuckoo For Colour ‘ – where fashion meets watercolour

Cuckoo For Colour | The Maharani Diaries

Self-taught artist, Aparna Ram had an interest in illustrating from a very young age. An investment associate by profession, she spent several years working in the traditional finance sector in London before moving to work abroad in India. Although this work was rewarding, she felt herself missing home and moved back in 2014. She returned to the industry but most recently decided to step back from the 9 to 5 routine to pursue her interests and focus solely on cuckoo for colour .

When we stumbled across her Instagram account not too long ago, we instantly fell in love with her work and commissioned Aparna to create some beautiful fashion illustrations for our Lakmé Fashion Week Spring/Summer features. Much to her delight, her work instantly captured the attention of well-renowned Indian fashion designers such as Anushree Reddy. Aparna has also been painting bridal portraits which we think make for such unique gifts for your friends or family members to treasure for a lifetime.

Now well and truly in the thick of the new year, Aparna is keeping herself busy with exciting new projects in the pipeline. 

We’re incredibly excited to be working alongside Aparna and are also pleased to announce that for a limited time only, Cuckoo For Colour are offering readers of The Maharani Diaries an amazing 15% discount off any order. Simply enter the promo code MAHARANIat the checkout. The perfect way to treat yourself for the new year.

Who or what inspired you to begin painting?

Aparna Ram | The Maharani DiariesDuring my childhood, my colouring books were my best friend. I remember having to spend summers at my grandmother’s house in a village in South India and there being not much in the way of entertainment. So I would bring colouring books and colour one or two pictures everyday. When I ran out, I would copy the pictures onto spare pieces of paper and colour those. So whilst my interest in colouring and painting had always been there, it wasn’t until high school, when my art teacher began to encourage me that I began to take it more seriously. Unfortunately I moved schools shortly after and the arts class was already full. Luckily my parents found me an after school art teacher in our local area. She was a sweet old lady and taught me to paint with pastels. I’ve painted on and off since then.

Tell us a little about the type of projects you work on.

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve officially signed a publishing deal with Rainy Day Reads Publishing who will be publishing my first book later this year featuring a collection of fashion illustrations inspired by Indian fashion and cinema.

When did you develop an interest in fashion illustration?

Even when I wasn’t painting, I was following fashion bloggers and illustrators online. I’ve always found fashion to be inspiring and a lot of fun to illustrate. I have been experimenting with my style since my twenties. I think it was only natural that when I started painting again, I leaned more towards fashion than any other subject.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere! I could be browsing through a magazine and find myself wanting to interpret an image using watercolour. I also find photography to be very inspiring and of course Instagram where I follow some brilliant photographers, trendy fashionistas, high end fashion designers, travel blogs and so on.  

Aparna’s India City Art Desk Calendar features custom illustrations of major cities in India.

What is your creative process when illustrating? How long does it take to complete one drawing?

I begin by warming up with some quick sketches to get the blood flowing to my hands. If I’m doing fashion illustration, I’ll look up some poses online and start by breaking it down. Once I have sufficiently warmed up, I’ll reference the outfit I’ve bookmarked and sketch out the illustration in pencil. At this point, it’s still rough, so I’ll trace it and then trace it again onto watercolour paper. Then I’ll go in with the paint. I don’t time how long it takes for each one, but 2-3 hours from warm up to scanned image is probably not far off the mark.

Aparna Ram | The Maharani Diaries

Are there any artists or fashion illustrators whose work you admire?

Katie Rodgers from Paper Fashion is someone who’s work I’ve been following long before I picked up painting again. I’ve seen her work evolve and like her, I’d love to be experimental  and try adding mixed media to my work. Megan Hess is another artist whose work I just love.

Who are your favourite Indian fashion designers?

It probably comes as no surprise but I’d definitely put Sabyasachi up there as one of my favourites. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when he signed my illustration at the recent Aashni + Co Wedding ShowSome of my other favourites coincidentally have names beginning with the letter ‘A!’ I love Anushree Reddy, Anju Modi and Anamika Khanna.  

Great taste Aparna! Your illustrations have received much attention and praise from the likes of fashion designers, Anushree Reddy and Nishka Lulla. How does it make you feel?

My first reaction is usually one of disbelief followed by screaming! Once I have calmed down, I begin to experience a number of emotions. Firstly, gratitude that they’ve noticed my work and appreciated it and a little pressure which in turn strives me to work harder.

I absolutely adore your bridal portrait paintings, invitations and the greeting cards you have created in the past. Will this be ongoing work for you? What are your future plans?

I love illustrating bridal portraits especially for brides whom I know personally. It’s such a unique gift to give and I love seeing their reactions. I recently worked on another Indian themed calendar which is currently available to purchase online through my website.

The next couple of months will be dedicated to working on collections of fashion illustrations. I’m also keen to work on more bridal portraits, so will be promoting that side of my business as well. 

Aparna, thank you so much for taking the time out to chat to us. We wish you lots of success with your future endeavours. What’s the best way for people to get in contact with you for custom designed paintings or illustrative work?

They can reach out to me via Facebook or direct message me on Instagram. Email me of course at

My work is available to purchase through my website or via Etsy at If you don’t find a print you like there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Aparna has a beautiful range of photographs, illustrations, cards and a gorgeous Indian themed desk calendar available to purchase via her website, Cuckoo For Colour. Don’t forget to enter the promotional code at the checkout!

For further information, follow the links over in our vendor directory.

Introducing ‘Aan By Arti’ – the best of east and west

Aan By Arti | The Maharani Diaries

Aan’s director, Arti Badhwar is heavily influenced from the glamour and heritage that surrounds her, from Bollywood’s own blue eyed boy, director, Mohit Suri (her cousin), to the seven generations of her family who were committed cotton and ginning mill owners spanning across undivided India.

One important lesson Arti gained from business, was the importance of good fabric and regional understanding of culture, which can be detected in her high fashion designs. Her trademark style is to combine traditional Indian design with western aesthetics.

Much like the name, Aan’s diaspora appeals to the global woman; strong and powerful, yet graceful and feminine. She is a woman who values art and elegance and would never compromise on finesse.

Arti and her team pride themselves on providing excellent customer service. She has just recently launched a brand new eye-catching collection and her team is all set for another busy year.

We had the opportunity recently of catching up with the name behind Aan, Ms Arti Badhwar to discuss her journey into the world of Indian fashion design.

Welcome to The Maharani Diaries vendor directory Arti. Tell us about your journey. Who or what inspired you to create Aan?

My family has been in the cotton and ginning milling business for seven generations and I’ve been told that it’s in my DNA! In all seriousness though, I found that there was definitely a gap in the market for handmade luxury products at reasonable prices and that’s what led me to start Aan.

Aan By Arti | The Maharani Diaries

Your outfits are incredibly versatile – a beautiful blend of contemporary and traditional style aesthetics. Can you tell us a little about Aan’s design aesthetics?

For this I would like to share a comment that one of our customers wrote when we had re-launched our brand. “Love your work. I trust in the knowledge that all your pieces are made with love. Always the right mix of sophistication, glamour and sass”. This sums up the philosophy of Aan.

Do you have a favourite from the current season collection?

It is very difficult for me to choose, as you could imagine. However, if I had to choose, it would be either the oxblood sari gown or the velvet gown in the same colour. Another one would have to be the black cocktail lehenga.

Where do you draw your inspiration or creativity?

As a designer, I don’t think that many people realize this but we are constantly thinking about our craft. My inspiration could come from anywhere for example; a recent visit to the Taj Mahal inspired some of my embroidery patterns.

Wedding season is in full swing at the moment. What do you believe are the current trends in bridal fashion and are there any tips can you offer to future brides who are currently in the middle of their wedding shopping?

Without a doubt, lehengas and gowns. For brides as well as bridesmaids. They say the only thing that is constant in life is change but one thing that has remained constant is that the bride looks most beautiful in a lehenga.

The ‘big fat Indian wedding’ has become more elaborate with time and this has been reflected in the rise of the gown. We have been crafting wedding gowns for mostly the European market for the last 10 years. As you can probably tell, this season I am partial to oxblood colours. I believe strongly that for brides you can never go wrong with timeless red, pink and gold hues.

What sort of services do Aan provide for future brides?

For our customers we are very hands on and we style brides right from their wedding attire through to their footwear and even provide links to certified jewellers. We love to assist wherever we can and treat our customers like family. Aan specializes in hand embroidery. So, whether it is zardosi, gota, sequins, aari or Swarovski, we offer made to measure couture and are open to input from the brides to enable us to create their dream wedding outfit.

How do you source your fabrics?

At Aan, we work with a mixture of traditional Indian fabrics and the remaining fabrics are imported from Hong Kong.

Aan By Arti | The Maharani Diaries

Describe your own personal style philosophy.

Be comfortable and confident in whatever you wear!

Who are your favourite designers?

Alexander McQueen, Eliie Saab and Rohit Bal.

If people wish to get in touch with you, how can they do so?

It takes 6-8 weeks per outfit depending on the work required. You may contact us via the numbers provided or email us directly at We are open to appointments at our London studio or alternatively, if you are based in Delhi you can take a personal appointment with me in the city’s heart of the bridal centre, South Extension 2.

London: +447764561976

Delhi: 9810705776

We look forward to hearing from you soon!


If Aan’s gorgeous collections have caught your fancy, visit our vendor page for further information.

Introducing ‘Sal Singh Photography’ – fresh, unique and timeless photography

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

It gives us great pleasure to introduce to you, The Maharani Diaries first Indian wedding photography vendor, Miss Sally Singh.

Based in tropical Brisbane, Australia, Sally has an incredible eye for detail and captures beautiful, special and heartfelt moments, creating memories for couples to treasure over a lifetime.

Her natural and timeless photography style is a big hit with Indian couples all over Australia and she has expressed a desire to cover weddings internationally.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Welcome to The Maharani Diaries vendor directory, Sal. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you very much.

I am a Punjabi girl who was born and raised in a small country town by the name of Murwillumbah in northern NSW.

After having completed high school, I moved to Brisbane to pursue my dream of studying photography. At the time, I realised that there was certainly a gap in the market for professional female wedding photographers in Australia. I was always passionate about arts and creating and figured that I would give it a shot.

It wasn’t until I started studying about different wedding photography styles that I really began taking my passion for photography more seriously. In my final year of college, I created my Facebook page and started uploading some of my assignment portfolios. It was through word of mouth that my photography work started attracting interest and attention from couples.

When I received my first phone call from a client asking me to photograph their engagement session, I remember being lost for words and feeling so overwhelmed. They mentioned to me that they were after a photographer who had a unique and different style to other wedding photographers. After capturing the engagement I then went on to photograph the couple’s wedding and many other Indian weddings after that.

3 years on and I haven’t looked back. I am now photographing weddings, portrait and events from different cultures all around Australia and I am happy to say that I am running a successful business.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

That’s a fantastic story. So, how would you describe your wedding photography style?

I like to think that my photography is warm, modern and journalistic. I enjoy making my clients happy and I feel that reflects in my photographs.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration stems from everyday life. I always take in my surroundings whether I’m walking down the street and I see a beautiful billboard advertisement or stumble across a glossy print publication. I believe that it’s all around you. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are also brilliant sources of inspiration for me.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

What are the ideal weather conditions for wedding photography?

Overcast weather conditions are perfect for a wedding or any portrait session for that matter. You might notice when you see my photographs, I love to capture dramatic and overcast skylines. The only way I can create this effect is with an overcast day. 

PhotosForPoonam_26Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani DiariesSal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

What are your favourite wedding moments to capture? 

I love to capture the bride’s first steps and looks prior to the ceremony and that moment when all the attention is purely on her. Reception dancing is a fun moment as well. A chance to see everyone let loose their crazy dance moves. Last but not least, the heartfelt moments between the bride and her parents. Timeless and precious moments.

What sort of services do you provide?

I offer a range of special wedding, portrait and event photography packages. I am primarily based in Brisbane, but I am more than happy to travel around interstate, Australia and the world.

I hold one-on-one free client consultations giving couples or individuals the perfect opportunity to ask any questions and to gain a personal insight into my work and photography style.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for couples looking for their perfect wedding photographer?

– Find out your photographer’s style.

– Ensure the photographer is a professional who has a portfolio or his/her own shots and who isn’t an amateur with just a simple DSLR camera.

– Your wedding day is the most important day of your life. Do not be afraid to spend the money. Wedding photos will remain with you for the rest of your life and are the only memories you will cherish from your special day.

– Make friends with your photographer. Get to know them. The photographer becomes part of the family on your wedding day.

– Create a checklist of what you would like your photographer to capture on the day.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries


Is there any advice you’d give every bride and groom prior to their wedding day?

– Indian weddings don’t always run to schedule or plans, so be organized and have backup plans for everything.

– Give everyone in the family a running schedule of events on the day, so everyone is on the same page.

– Create a family portrait session checklist. Provide this list to one member of the family and get them to shout out the names. This keeps the photograph order flowing and no one misses out.

– Try to relax on your wedding day. Have fun and don’t stress about the little things. What’s done is done.

– Organise endless meeting with your vendors to ensure all is sorted prior to the big day.

– Appoint a personal assistant for the day. Whether it’s your wedding planner, friend, bridesmaid or brother. Give them your phone so that they can answer any calls, vendor contact details, your make up/tissues/bobby pins etc. This person will be your ‘go to person’ on the day.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

Do you have a favourite image you’ve taken recently?

One of my absolute favourite images would have to be a portrait session I held with Harj and Eshar at Harj’s farm in Woolgoolga, NSW. This image was captured 5 minutes before a big downpour and you can see the dramatic clouds.

Sal Singh Photography | The Maharani Diaries

What are you looking forward to most in the lead up to wedding season?

I am definitely looking forward to capturing many more special memories for my clients and of course meeting new people.

Finally, what’s next for Sal Singh Photography?

I am not sure what the future holds at the moment. I’m currently living in the moment and loving what I do.

I do have the desire to move to another city to broaden my services, capturing the wider market. I do also wish to photograph international weddings one day.

Sal, thank you so much for giving us an insight into your brilliant work. Here’s wishing you all the success for the future.

If you would like to get in touch with Sally, visit our vendor page for further information.


Introducing, Leena Mistry of ‘Ratanji Rani’ – bespoke wedding invitations, rakhi’s & more!

Ratanji Rani | The Maharani Diaries

Leena Mistry is a woman of many talents. An accountant, a part-time beauty therapist and if that isn’t enough, a stationery designer!

Originally from the UK, Leena always had a creative side to her. She has been hand crafting rakhi’s (threads) for raksha bandhan (Hindu festival celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters) as well as custom invitations and wedding stationery for many years.

Now based in the beautiful beachside suburbs of Sydney, Australia, she is continuing her passion for creating gorgeous stationery whilst also successfully running Ratanji Rani – The Beauty Room.



Welcome to The Maharani Diaries vendor directory, Leena. Tell us about yourself and your amazing talents?

I’m British born, currently living in Sydney and married to an amazing man. I had a standard Indian upbringing and an education in accounting. I was always creative but I don’t think it fully unleashed until after my year out travelling and a few years in the working world, I realised I had little interest in climbing the corporate ladder. I wanted to be my own boss and experience as much in life as I could (life is short as they say). I wanted to learn something different on the side so I took evening classes in massage therapy and beauty.

Back in London it was actually quite difficult to strike the right balance. I would work as a full time accountant and then in the evenings I would either be with a client or making stationery. It was tough and a little tiring but it is a passion of mine, so I had to make it work.

When we moved to Sydney, my priority was to find a balance between all of this. So I chose to take on part time accounting and spend the free time on building the business. I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s support – honestly he has been my rock! It can still be a struggle, but I really value the time with loved ones and now I get to spend evenings with my husband and friends.

Leena Mistry of Ratanji Rani | The Maharani Diaries

How and when did you start Ratanji Rani?

I turned my hobby into this little venture three years ago. I wanted to share my love for natural beauty, wellbeing and traditional crafting with everybody. I always knew I wanted to set up my own venture and after creating the stationery for our own wedding, I felt that it was time to give it a go.

Could you tell us a little about the story behind the name, ‘Ratanji Rani?’

Well I actually set up the business in memory of my maternal grandparents, Mr Ratanjibhai and Mrs Rattanben Mistry, so it’s a name close to my heart and full of childhood memories. Growing up, my mother’s side of the family would often spend weekends and holidays together. My dads side of the family is very male dominated which I love, but it was always refreshing to have some sisterly company.

The girls all had a traditional Indian upbringing (meaning learning how to be a domestic goddess and mastering how to make the perfect round roti), so during our visits, we would help my grandmother, mum and aunty. Naturally the older we became, we would enjoy spending more time getting ready and catching up on gossip than finishing our chores. My Mum and aunt would always tell us to hurry, calling us “rani’s”, meaning queens! The rani name surprisingly stuck and we’d always joke that we were the Ratanji Ranis’ – Ratanji Queens.

Such a delightful story. Take us through the various styles of wedding stationery you create.

Well, I’m not an expert digital designer, (I am slowly learning with help from my very talented cousin, Mitesh) but what I do have, is a passion for traditional crafts. I love to source pretty papers and patterns, incorporate old crafts like binding, embossing, stamping and wood block printing. More importantly, I handcraft each invitation from the first cut to placing the last embellishment.

My styles are simple. A fusion of modern print and traditional finishes, which is perfect for the modern bride looking for something a little different.

What is your design process when creating wedding stationery for the couple?

I love to sit with my clients and discuss their ideas, work with them on a one-to-one basis to create stationery that is unique to them. Sometimes it isn’t always possible to meet, so if the client is abroad or living in another city, I try my level best to keep them updated at all times. If they already like something they see, then that makes my job easier. But more often than not, I’ve found my clients come to me, as they are looking for something unique and personal.

Do you prefer that the couple has an idea of what they want to create for their wedding or do you like to work with a blank canvas?

I do love to work with a blank canvas. In fact I am in the midst of doing exactly that for an invitation I’m working on at the moment. It does help if the couple have an idea, no matter how small or silly they think it might be. I have had some brides bring in invitation samples of a concept they like. Every couple’s wedding is an opportunity for me to create something new or to mix and match my previous designs. I love that each order has been slightly different from the others.

Do you like to keep up to date with the latest trends in wedding stationery?

Yes, most definitely! I’m always researching and getting inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram and reading great bridal magazines/blogs. It’s good to know which colours are on trend or if certain themes are arising amongst the creatives. I don’t necessarily follow it but it always gives me ideas to experiment and create.

What advice can you give to a couple when choosing their wedding stationery?

Be prepared to pay a little more than you expected for your wedding stationery. Amazingly, a lot of couples don’t budget well for stationery and it ends up being one of their bigger costs. Keep it simple but striking. Having one beautiful element on your stationery can tie in your whole wedding theme and that’s what I’m here to do for you.

Be open to ideas and don’t be afraid to share your own ideas too. Handmade stationery takes a lot longer than a digital print process, so when planning, ensure that your invitations take the first priority on the ‘to do list.’ It’s good to start this process early with your stationer if you are opting for the bespoke range.

Ratanji Rani | The Maharani Diaries Ratanji Rani | The Maharani Diaries

You also create cards for various other occasions and beautiful hand made rakhi’s for raksha bhandan. Tell us more about that.

It seems the era for putting pen to paper is slowly dying so I love it when clients get in touch and ask me to make a custom greeting card. There are still a few of us out there who enjoy writing and sending things by post. Making other paper goods, keeps my creative mind active and allows me to experiment with new and old traditions. I really enjoy it.

Raksha Bandhan has definitely grown over the years! I’ve been making my own rakhis since high school. I’m very family orientated and my brothers mean the world to me, so making rakhis for them is special and my little way of saying I love them. A few years ago, I had a few requests from friends and I posted the photos on to my Facebook page and well, since then I’ve had a lot more requests.

I use 100% cotton and traditional macramé knotting techniques to hand make each rakhi. You may often find me making rakhis on the bus or in a café, just to make sure I keep on top of orders.

I believe in giving back too, so every year I donate a percentage of my rakhi sales to the Meningitis Trust. My younger brother had meningitis when he was born and without these guys, he wouldn’t be here today. I am very lucky and forever grateful.

What do you enjoy most about creating/designing and have there been any memorable moments to date?

What I enjoy most is bringing ideas to life. I love the freedom to experiment and test my ideas. Not everything works out but that’s all part of learning.

Some of my memorable moments have actually been learning. I learned an old tradition of book binding and incorporated it into my stationery. I also had an opportunity once to have a go at letterpress printing using the traditional plates. That was amazing!

Who or what inspires you?    

Lately fashion has been a huge inspiration for me. From the amazing designers on the runway at Lakme Fashion Week to the modern geometric prints I’ve seen on the rails at Sportsgirl and Country Road (Australian Fashion stores).

I find a lot of inspiration on my travels too. For instance, patterns engrained on trees, the vivid colours of the ocean, printed fabrics or even tattoo art on indigenous Maori people.

Being Indian and learning about my own culture and background is also very inspirational. We come from a heritage of great craftsmanship, and its fascinating!

Thank you so much for your time Leena. You are so inspiring and it goes to show that with a little determination, you can achieve anything in life. All the best for the forthcoming wedding season. If people would like to get in contact with you or purchase your creations online, how can they do so?

Thank you.

The easiest way to get in touch is to send through an email (even just to say hello). I also have an Etsy Shop where at the moment I sell a selection of my paper goods and rakhis but I’m hoping in the next few months to add my wedding stationery collection on there too. For the social butterflies, there is always Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If any of Leena’s work caught your fancy, follow the links on our vendor page.

*Aussie brides to be, Ratanji Rani will have a stand at The Annual Wedding Expo at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday, 23rd August 2015. For further information visit the Wedding Expos Australia website here.

Introducing Kiran Lally of ‘Couture Mantra’

Couture Mantra by Kiran Lally | The Maharani Diaries

Many Indian women often turn to either ordering their sarees or lehenga outfits online or opting to fly all the way to India to do their shopping. I suppose you really have to turn to social media sometimes to discover what hidden talents are out there.

I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across Couture Mantra’s Instagram account, early last year. The first thought that sprung into my mind was, ‘wow, an Indian designer in Australia!’

Kiran Lally is a young architecture student cum – fashion designer who hails from Melbourne, Australia. It wasn’t until a trip to India that Kiran decided that she wanted to start designing bespoke Indian wear. She has been designing Indian wear for the past 2 years and hasn’t stopped since then. Kiran is an incredibly determined young woman who is eager to showcase her designs on a bigger platform in the not too distant future.

I caught up with founder and owner of Couture Mantra, Miss Kiran Lally to gain more insight into her work and find out what’s next for her designing career.


Tell me about your journey and how you came to start designing Indian wear?

I started working as a building designer, but was always fond of fashion design. My mum has always been my biggest influence. She is absolutely amazing at every thing she does. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.

My mum is an exceptional seamstress and always had a desire to become a designer. I feel as though I picked up interest in designing from her.

How I came to start Couture Mantra was during a trip to India a few years back. I was shopping around and no one was designing Indian clothing that I wanted to wear. So instead, I decided to design pieces myself.

What services do you provide?

Couture Mantra provide custom made pieces designed in Australia, by myself. 90% of outfits are made in Australia. Our tailoring services are one of a kind and we offer worldwide shipping.

Customer satisfaction is our first priority and we ensure this is met by providing 24/7 customer service.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My inspiration is driven from the people who surround me. Also, from my culture and even music.

Designing is something I am incredibly passionate about. What started off as a dream has become a reality and I am so thankful for that.

Do you have a favourite designer?

Sabyasachi Mukherjee is definitely one of my favourite designers. He creates spectacular ensembles using beautiful fabrics, decorative embellishments and detailed embroidery. I am also very fond of Satya Paul’s signature prints.

What drives your work ethic?

My passion and love for design. If you don’t love what you are doing then you will never put in 110% into your work.

What defines your style?

I have a very unconventional style. I prefer to push boundaries in terms of fabrics, work and cuts. However, if I had to pick one style it would be traditional regal style.

Keisha Lall in Couture Mantra | The Maharani Diaries


In what ways has social media impacted your business?

Facebook and Instagram are amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for these two platforms. My work has spread like wild fire with the designs and collections receiving so much attention and exposure. Couture Mantra works through word of mouth and I am grateful for that.

Would you consider also designing menswear in the future?

Yes, I do endeavour to launch a menswear collection one day. For now though, I would like to focus on womenswear.

What do you believe are the emerging trends in Indian bridal fashion?

The classic high necks, long sleeves and floral embroidery are here to stay. I am also loving the fact that mirror work is back. It’s great to see that we now have so many options with Indian wear. If you’re not a fan of bling then you always have the option to wear gorgeous lightweight prints.

Couture Mantra by Kiran Lally | The Maharani Diaries


Finally, what’s next for Couture Mantra?

I will be launching my first collection by the end of this year for which I am very excited about!

I have ordered a few outfits from Kiran and I must say that I was very impressed with her prompt service and her level of professionalism. She was incredibly thorough with her correspondence and she knew exactly how I wanted my outfits designed. Her hard work and dedication is reflected in the quality of the stitching and designs. For anyone who wants a bespoke, fitted and custom made designer outfit, I would certainly not hesitate to recommend Couture Mantra. – Poonam (Founder of The Maharani Diaries)

Kiran is currently working on her business website and should have it up and running soon with all her custom designed outfits available for viewing online. But, in the mean time, if you do wish to contact her, please do so via the following links -> 

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Facebook: Couture Mantra Melbourne

Instagram: @CoutureMantraOfficial


Introducing ‘WaliaJones’ – The New Home for Luxury Indian Clothing

Walia Jones | The Maharani Diaries

Would you believe it’s June?! Before you know it, the wedding and festival season will be here and you’ll be rummaging through your wardrobes trying to find that perfect sari or lehenga to wear at your friend’s sangeet party!

Fear not though. It’s time to rejoice. Over the next six months, we will be featuring some talented women selling designer Indian wear in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Up first, we are pleased to introduce you to WaliaJones. Garima Walia and long time friend Hanin Jones formed online retail fashion house, WaliaJones after discovering that there was a gap in the Australasian market for modern Indian designer clothing.

Their impressive catalogue features designer pieces from the likes of Anita Dongre, Payal Singhal and Sapana Amin as well as up and coming designers such as Reneé. Garima and Hanin pride themselves on providing excellent customer service for each and every one of their clients.

Walia Jones - Garima Walia & Hanin Jones | The Maharani Diaires


Tell us about yourselves and how you started Walia Jones?

Garima: While planning my own wedding I was constantly liaising with designers from all over the world. It took me months of web searching and two trips to India to find a handful of quality luxury designers that suited my taste and budget. Walia Jones - Garima Walia | The Maharani Diaries

Although there were several established websites that provided a platform for designers, they were all based internationally.

At the time, there was no one I knew of locally that could assist me with my Indian outfits.

Once I received my outfits, I was extremely impressed by the level of craftsmanship that was stemming from the local designers in India. I needed to get this talent into Australia and New Zealand!

Hanin Jones, my best friend, was constantly involved in the process to choose designers. By the end of it all, she was an expert in Indian designer wear too!

I work in Business Development and Hanin has a passion for Marketing and E-commerce. With our experienced roles and a passion for Indian luxury clothing, we created WaliaJones to bring the Australasian market unprecedented access to the most sleek, and fashion forward e-commerce portal.

How do you select your designers?

Hanin: We initially started with the designers that were involved with Garima’s wedding attire. The response from the Australasian market was so overwhelming that we decided to expand substantially.

We like to listen to the demands of the customers on the basis of what colours, silhouettes and styles they’re after and in turn search for designers who fit these demands.

We also receive enquiries from designers worldwide who want to be a part of our website. We then hand make curated selections that are chosen because of their exclusive designs and quality. Our designers include established designers like Anita Dongre, Payal Singhal, Ashima Leena, Atsu Sekhose and upcoming young designers. In addition to these designers, we also have a range of reliable tailors in India who assist us with our custom made orders.


What services do you provide?

Garima & Hanin: We have over 15 designers and this will be increasing in the near future. Apart from their exclusive collections, we also have a ‘made for you’ service. This service is commonly used for wedding attire and formal wear.

Designs, colours, budgets and timelines form an essential component of our consultations. Our WaliaJones consultants are based throughout Australia and New Zealand. We also have Skype consultations available for those who are unable to travel to meet us.

Although we may not have any stock of a particular outfit, we have several samples which will give you an indication of the fabric, embroidery and quality. We are able to ship to all major cities around the world and have free shipping for our Australian customers.

We pride ourselves on our customer service. Whatever your enquiry may be, we offer around the clock service and are open to answer all your queries.

Please tell us about your collaboration with Bollywood actress and Melbourne’s current Moomba Queen, Pallavi Sharda. What did she wear?

Yes, we styled Pallavi for Melbourne’s Moomba promotions where she wore Ramneet & Puneet. We also styled her for the launch of Melbourne’s White Night event where she wore Payal Singhal.

Where do you find your inspiration?

We both find inspiration in what we do by pure passion. We love what we do and love dealing with people and helping them find their perfect outfit. If we can take the stress away from a bride once she has found her perfect outfit, that is inspiration enough!

Describe your style?

We often struggle with answering this question because our style isn’t fixed. We are always open to stepping out of our comfort zone and switching up our looks. We have so many pieces in our wardrobe and because we’re the same size, it’s easy to mix and match.

We’re not fussed about designer clothing but the quality of the work and fabric are very important for the both of us. As is the tailoring and the fitting.

Would you consider also stocking menswear in the future?

We work with a few designers that do menswear but we are definitely thinking of expanding on menswear on our website very soon.

Are there any designers that you’d love to work with?

There are so many designers that we want to work with. There are too many to name! We love working with both well known designers and younger designers, giving them the opportunity to showcase their designs on WaliaJones

Finally, what’s next for Walia Jones?

There are lots of upcoming designers that we have in store for everyone so stay tuned!

If any of the outfits appeal to you or you’d like to know more about their work, visit the vendor page for more information. 

Introducing ‘Henna by Alisa Parveen’ – a budding architect with a passion for henna

Henna, or ‘mehndi’ parties are one of the most important functions for a Hindu bride in the lead up to her wedding. But until very recently, finding a quality henna artist in Australia was a challenge. 

I caught up with one young, up and coming talented artist by the name of Alisa Parveen who gave me an insight into her work as well as share some common myths and misconceptions about henna.

Henna artist, Alisa Parveen | The Maharani Diaries

Alisa has been trading at markets and festivals in and around Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore. In fact, the architecture student/part time henna artist was just recently in Singapore for the launch of her book, titled, ‘The Henna Narrative.’ She also appeared at The Henna Circle Australia conference over the weekend in Sydney to run some workshops as well as attend a few herself.

The talented artist has 15 years of henna drawing experience behind her. A native to Singapore, she started applying henna frequently at the mere age of 9 at the Hari Raya Bazaar in Singapore as well as in her mother’s henna studio (Parveen Ayurvedic Beauty Care). She would watch the Pakistani women working in the studio and picked up the inspiration to try her hand at the delicate art of applying henna. In between attending school and studying, Alisa continued her passion for henna art by participating in events, festivals and facilitating bridal appointments.

Alisa’s designs are unique, intricate and look highly professional. She can differentiate between Indian, Arabic, Indo-Arabic, Moroccan and Western henna patterns. She loves to challenge her creativity and is always experimenting with new, innovative designs as seen regularly on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

‘The Henna Narrative’ was Alisa’s first publication and she’s still abuzz with the success of the book launch held a few months ago in Little India, Singapore.

“I finished my first book 5 years ago before moving to Sydney for studies. However, there was never a right moment to launch the book. I was travelling back and forth from Sydney to Singapore and it would never be for long periods of time. I desperately wanted to showcase it in my home country and preferably during the Diwali or Hari Raya festival. So, I sought approval and support from the National Heritage Board of Singapore (NHB) and finally the ball got rolling. Within 1 month, I completed the book featuring new, more updated designs, sent it to the printers and launched it during the South Indian festival, Pongal.”

The response from the book launch was beyond her expectations and she was elated that she managed to sell numerous copies of her book.

In addition to launching her book, Alisa collaborated with the Little India Shopkeeper & Heritage Association (LISHA) to organise Singapore’s first henna competition. She saw it as an opportunity for the henna artists of Singapore to showcase their work and expand their portfolio. This was the first of its kind and given the chance someday, she mentioned that she’d love to take part in it herself.

Whilst chatting to Alisa, I found her to be a well grounded young woman who shares equal passion and drive for henna and her architecture studies.

Henna by Alisa Parveen | The Maharani Diaries

You will often find Alisa creating brilliant works of art such as this at popular markets around Melbourne and Sydney.


Alisa feels incredibly calm, relaxed and in her element when doing henna. She loves creating and coming up with new patterns every week. It gives her joy when she can make someone else happy by doing something so effortlessly. She finds inspiration everywhere and also adds that architecture and henna design sometimes goes hand in hand.

“Inspiration is all around you, everywhere you go. I often find inspiration from my henna books from India, but I also love Instagram. The henna community on Instagram is huge and it’s nice to take a look on social media every now and again to not only connect with the artists, but to also see what they are creating.”

Nowadays, in Melbourne, apart from studying for her Masters degree in Architecture at the University Of Melbourne, she’s also constantly looking for opportunities to show her talent. Alisa has applied henna for many brides in Singapore and a few in Melbourne and Sydney. She has expressed a desire to work with more brides in Australia.

On the topic of bridal henna, I asked Alisa what she thinks brides should be weary of before selecting a henna artist for their wedding.

“I believe that you should be able to see the artist’s work before hand. If they have a portfolio or website where by you can see their work, that would be great. Ensure that the designs they show you are legitimate and their own work. This is extremely important as there are a lot of imitators out there. Finally confirm what type of henna they will be using. Some henna can often cause an allergic reaction in some people, particularly the ‘instant’ ink type which isn’t commonly used. If possible, have a trial done a month or two out from the wedding day.”

She also added that she doesn’t have a personal style and doesn’t believe in trends. For brides, she has exclusive designs which she offers as a special ‘bridal package.’ She will always do finer, Indo-Arabic henna work for Indian brides. However, the use of void space in bridal henna is becoming increasingly popular these days. She also added that some brides still love the fuller style designs, but every individual has different tastes and also an idea of what they’d like their henna to look like on the big day. Furthermore, it also depends on the religion or background of the bride.

Alisa only uses natural henna and specifically mentions that it’s the same henna for every client. There is no such thing as “bridal henna.” All her cones are made up the same way and she never compromises. She’s a perfectionist when it comes to applying henna and prides herself on the quality of her work.

Currently, she is based in Melbourne and provides henna services for public or private events held in Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore. Having just returned from conducting some busy Indo-Arabic and bridal henna design classes at the henna conference, she said that she’s going to now focus on completing her Masters course and once again return to Singapore. She expressed a desire to appear at more markets in Melbourne and would also love more appointments.

Alisa’s book, ’The Henna Narrative’ includes a series of more than 40 henna designs ranging from basic beginner designs to intricate bridal narrations and a peek into Alisa’s 13 years of henna experience. She sets high achievements for herself and would love to produce more books in the future, continuing her passion for this popular art form.

The Henna Narrative | The Maharani Diaries

Henna by Alisa Parveen | The Maharani Diaries

If you are a bride in Melbourne, Sydney or Singapore or someone who just loves henna and you’d like to get in touch with Alisa or get your hands on a copy of her first book, visit the vendor page.