Designer interview

Rachana Reddy

Designer Rachana Reddy was halfway through an engineering program when a passion for design led her astray. She dropped the engineering course and enrolled at Cordwainers – London College of Fashion to study accessory design. After finishing her course, she returned to her home city, Bangalore, to launch her business. Learn more about how Rachana built her brand and why she thinks wood is the perfect material for her beautiful clutches.

Hello Rachana – can you please tell us a little more about yourself?

Bangalore is my home and I’ve lived here all my life. My family has always been very supportive of all things creative. I feel I have found my creative outlet and nothing can be more fulfilling than that. I believe it is very important to know your core and tap into its most original creativity be it for a designer, artist, writer or any creative person. Apart from fashion and design, I enjoy travel, photography, food and movies.

When did you know you wanted to become a bag designer?

I have always been inclined to art and design. I made a big career switch halfway through studying engineering to pursue my keen interest in accessory design. I went on to study at Cordwainers – London College of Fashion, which was a fabulous experience. For me, this is a very exciting medium to express my creativity and ideas.

Can you please tell us about the design process of your bags?

I have a natural affinity for wood: antique wooden furniture to wooden bangles and everything in between. When I launched my label, it was simply my natural inspirations coming together. The idea of carved wooden clutches came to me in a flash, so it was my “Eureka!” moment. I also work extensively with leather, Indian silks and am now experimenting with metals.

When you were setting up your brand, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

I face a different set of challenges as I come from a design background and am still working on my management and business skills. These are my biggest challenges at the moment:

Managing People: Labor management is quite taxing. I am learning to become a macro manager; earlier I would stress about little things about production people. Now I try to entrust them with adequate responsibilities and let them manage it efficiently. The same holds true with other employees.

Product development: I sometimes feel here in India, when it comes to product development or production everything moves at a snail’s pace, so getting things done on time is a big task. After one year running my own company, I can surely say I have gotten much better at negotiating and getting people to do what I believe in.

Distribution: It is all about the right product in the right place at the right time. It is a challenge if you are not on your toes.

Niche product: Since ours is a very niche product, the market generally takes some time to open up.

Marketing: With the extensive number of ways available to market oneself, it’s easy to get lost. I am trying to experiment smartly and figure out what works best. This takes time and patience and can sometimes leave you frustrated.

Can you please tell us about the design process of your bags, from inspiration to the final product?

My first three collections were my most natural inspirations coming together. I love wood, traditional motifs and clutches. Only when I feel strongly about a pattern, a color or a theme and I feel it has the capability of transforming into a visually appealing and creatively evocative design do I make it into a product.

When in a calm, peaceful state of mind, my best ideas crop up. It could be simple things like warm sunshine or a nice movie. I also love looking through architecture, design magazines or blogs; they help me get through my creative blocks.

Since we work with such distinct combination of materials a lot of time and effort goes into product development. Being mostly handcrafted, things like the choosing the right wood or material, perfecting the finish, the carving and other processes make all the difference. A team of skilled local artisans completes each of these processes with utmost care and a keen eye. It is a painstaking and meticulous process, but it’s very creatively satisfying. Considering none of the clutches weigh more than 400 grams and are still strong, you could imagine the work that needs to go into it.

Currently we make our clutches in limited editions to maintain a certain level of exclusivity.

Who is the Rachana Reddy woman?

Our pieces have a very distinct sensibility. It is like buying art: only those who connect with it and appreciate the artistic value will invest in it. Most of the pieces are statement pieces, so a strong yet sensual personality would be a great complement. In short, someone who appreciates art, has a global taste, experiments with accessories and is fearless in the choices she makes.

How do you describe your personal style?

It is a balance. I like to feel in harmony at all times, as I am stickler for feeling right in my gut, so I dress up in that manner. It is subtle yet strong, bold yet feminine. When I want to experiment with something, I always wear it with pieces that can balance the eccentricity.

Do your designs reflect your personal style?

Absolutely. I believe my designs would be meaningless and redundant if they did not reflect my personality.

I create from my soul and my designs are my biggest form of self-expression. My sensibility is deeply rooted in tradition with a very contemporary outlook. Each of the pieces is bold yet very feminine. The best compliment I have received is that my work is like poetry. I want my designs to evoke a strong emotion of some kind.

You live in Bangalore – where do you like to spend your free time?

Bangalore is where the traditional and modern come together to create a cultural melting pot. In my time, I have seen the city go from a quiet, peaceful, sparrow-abundant city to a very populated, cosmopolitan, sparrow-less city.

If you want to soak in the local markets then City Market or Shivajinagar Market would be an interesting experience. My favorite restaurants in the city are Olive and Grasshopper, but Bangalore also has great high-end restaurants and local ‘darshinis’ – India’s version of fast food joints.

I like hanging out around Lavelle Road. Lately I’ve been enjoying people watching at a local brewery, but on the weekends, I enjoy leaving behind the hustle bustle of the city and heading to my peaceful farmhouse.

Name three things you cannot live without:

Inspiration, a creative outlet and my family (including my cat and my boyfriend).

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