Bridging the fashion divide

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Modern Australian designer Divya Rao finds inspiration in ancient Indian handicrafts

For someone who has just turned 30 years old, Divya Rao has achieved quite a lot.

Her fashion label Divya R, started just two years ago, is on the cusp of taking on the world; her designs were introduced to the Big Apple in a pop-up store in New York in February, and are sold in shops in Melbourne, Singapore and online.

While she moved to Australia in 2006 to study fashion design at RMIT University, Divya has far from forgotten her Indian roots. The up-and-comer tells the Indian Sun how she found success in a new land but still returns to the sub continent to seek inspiration and artisan skills.

Why did you get into fashion design?

Sounds cliché but fashion has always been my passion. I started sketching from a very early age and seeing my mum and grandmother sew all the time I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

How many collections have you done?

Two so far and I am launching the thirdone at Fashion Connect during Virgin Australia Fashion Week.

What would have been your career highlights, so far?

Being selected as one of the finalists at 2012 Debut Fashion Exposed – Melbourne has definitely been one of the major highlights so far, it has exposed me to endless opportunities and along the way I have made friends and met some influential people.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from everyday people, places I travel, culture, colours… the list is endless.

You recently designed a range of leather bags made in India. What is the quality of craftsmanship like in India today?

These new leather bags are amazing and I am very excited to have designed them.  The inspiration for these bags comes from my recent travel to India and the artisan’s talent and quality craftsmanship mesmerized me. Craftsmanship is the quality that comes from creating with passion, care, and attention to detail and I believe India has all of that to offer. It makes me wonder why one often sacrifices real craftsmanship at the platform of feasibility?

Do you think international fashion labels make the most of Indian artisanal skills?

India has been dumbed down and become known as the place where retailers make things for the cheapest price, yet few countries have such a huge resource of skilled craftsmanship. India has some rich and unique art and I think most of it is still undiscovered so the best is yet to come.

Do you think Australians have any misconceptions about modern Indian design?

India is a cosmopolitan country with people now spending huge amounts of money on designer clothing and women wearing the latest trends, I think most developed countries don’t realise just how rich the structure of contemporary India is and how well established some of the Indian designers are, around the globe. Australians certainly don’t have a full appreciation of all the opportunities available and I hope these gaps are filled.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on my fourth collection, which will be high-end eveningwear with a lot of bling-bling! I try to produce different styles each year and this time I am concentrating more on embellishments and hand embroidery.

One of the most important factors to the success of Divya R over the next five years and beyond will be our ability to adapt. I am looking to stay for the long haul, grow slow and steady, and maintain my little part in our local niche. I also see my company expanding to the US, Europe and Canada.

Divya’s collections are available at Melbourne Central, Gnossem in Singapore and online at: www.divyar.bigcartel.com

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Australian Magazine)

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