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Meet city girl Sneha Arora, fash frat’s bright new star

Sneha Arora walks in at Venue 1 for a coffee date sharp at 5pm. She’s wearing a white shirt and jeans, typical working woman’s uniform. Flat tan sandals, a big (huge) leather bag in a trendy colour, the sort of bag that balances the worlds of function and fashion.

The music is too loud and we decide to move to Venue 2. This involves crossing the road and suddenly Sneha looks worried. “I am very scared of crossing roads,” she frown-smiles. The ubiquitous crossing-the-road picture on Park Street is no longer an option. The pedestrian light changes. She crosses tentatively. Venue 2 is as loud. Finally we settle down in Flurys for a cuppa. This time no roads were crossed.

A look from Leak, Sneha’s spring-summer 2014 line

Four-seasons-old (or two years in the fashion world) Calcutta girl Sneha Arora is the new face of fashion. The quiet-till-she-starts-giggling girl is making news all over, specially in the fashion week and magazine circuit. Her career jumpstarted when she was hailed as the next big thing at Lakme Fashion Week Winter Festive 2012 in the Gen-Next category and has consistently delivered since. Sneha, surprisingly, is far removed from it. “I am a very feeling-less kind of a person and don’t get excited or sad about anything. I don’t know if I have made it. I do know that I have a long way to go.” Fashion people are not often this zen.

The design stuff happened to her by accident. After St. Teresa’s Secondary School (Kidderpore), while studying for the medical entrance exam, she chanced upon a NIFT entrance form near her coaching centre. “I picked it up on impulse, filled it, posted it and forgot all about it. The NIFT situation test clashed with the CBSE medical exam but that year the paper got leaked and I was free to take the NIFT test.” She passed it and ranked too — a “decent 71”. In 2008, she graduated from NIFT Calcutta.

The plan was to gather work experience before launching a label. She moved to Bangalore to work with Madura Garments, menswear for two years and womenswear for one. “It was a very difficult decision to quit, the comfort of the salary and all that. So one day, just before the appraisal papers came and I saw the money, I quit!” The eponymous label came soon after.

Her clothes, westernwear for women with an unmistakable menswear influence, are available at stores in London, Hyderabad, Nagpur and her New Alipore studio. Strong silhouettes, clean androgynous lines, great finishing and conceptual prints. She clarifies that her prints are not to be confused with quirky. She sent two pieces for the LFW jury, one garment had 3,000 stitches and the other was a print. She got selected and in August 2012 Sneha Arora made her debut by sending off seven looks on the LFW ramp.

“It wasn’t until two seasons later that I got extremely sure about my decision. I am glad I carried forward my corporate, structured sensibility. This is what I do and I won’t compromise my design DNA. If I have to compromise, I might as well do a job and earn money!”

Not compromising and sticking to her signature style has taken her places, most recently to the prestigious Whose Next competition, a trade fair in Paris. Sneha was selected by the website www.notjustalabel.com and has crossed the first level of this four-round contest. The next round is slated for July and in the 2015 finals two winners will walk away with a whopper reward — creation of a business plan worth 20,000 Euro!

A moment from the debut collection Paradigm

She’s not a Bollywood buff (“Sonam Kapoor wearing my garment will be nice but it’s not the end. The clothes matter”) but she is a fan of design genius Rajesh Pratap Singh and had a fangirl moment earlier this year. “The LFW finale started bang on time this year. People hadn’t come in, so I got a chance to watch Rajesh Pratap Singh’s show from the front row. I was like, this is it!”

And the giggles take over.

Shradha Agarwal