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!

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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!

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.

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 cuckooforcolour@gmail.com.

My work is available to purchase through my website or via Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/cuckooforoclour. 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.

Much like the business 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.

We recently had an opportunity to catch up with director of Aan By Arti, Ms Arti Badhwar, to discuss her journey into the world of Indian fashion design.

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

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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.

 

Leena Mistry of bespoke wedding stationery business, Ratanji Rani, is a woman of many talents. An accountant by profession, 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 creating custom invitations and wedding stationery for many years. She is now based in the beautiful beachside suburbs of Sydney, Australia and continuing her passion for creating gorgeous stationery. We caught up with the face behind, Ratanji Rani to discuss all things wedding stationery.

You could say for us Aussie-Indian brides, we are fairly limited with choice when it comes to high-fashion Indian couture. We either have to turn to online shopping book a flight to India. 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 young designer, Kiran Lally’s Instagram account a few years back. The first thought that sprung into my mind was, “wow, an Indian fashion designer in Australia!”

The mehndi or “henna” party is one of the most important functions for a bride in the lead up to her wedding day. But until only very recently, finding an artist in Australia was a challenge. I caught up with one young and immensely talented artist by the name of Alisa Parveen, who gave me an insight into her amazing work as well as share some common myths and misconceptions about henna.