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Couture queen

Picture by Rupinder Sharma

Everyone says that I was the first Indian to make a mark in the world of fashion internationally. But I think I was the ‘first idiot’. For, back in the early ’90s there were no mentors and all that I had was a passion to make a mark in the fashion industry.

I got very little help from established people in the fashion industry in India since everyone was busy trying to find their own way — and I was lost. I decided then that if I ever found my feet, I’d like to be useful to anyone who needed my help.

A big turning point came in 1993 when I got an opportunity to train under French embroidery maestro, François Lesage, in Paris. He became my history master in fashion. It was his efforts that got me entry into the front row of couture fashion shows in Paris.

Another turning point came when I organised the first India Fashion Week in 1997 in Delhi. The three-day event showcased the work of 25 young designers.

Post this all I could dream of was being part of Paris Fashion Week. And in 1998 I presented my first collection in Paris. Getting in wasn’t easy because the French believed that India was only a land of snake charmers. Another huge problem was that Indians were perceived to be copycats who ripped-off designs of other fashion designers and sold them at half the price. But I found my path eventually.

In 2010, I received the Chevalier de ’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a civilian award by the French government, for my contribution to the fashion industry. This was a landmark achievement.

I believe in having fun with fashion. It may look as though my life has been really structured and planned but, truth be told, I actually planned on nothing. Even now, I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.