Designs for the Classic Woman - Mrunalini Rao

Hyderabad-based Mrunalini Rao has been in the design space for two years, but her confidence makes you believe she’s quite the veteran. Her brand specialises in Indo-Western wear and traditional Indian clothing, and is a hot favourite among numerous South Indian brides. We caught up with the designer at her studio in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, to get to the bottom of what makes her tick.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how your journey in the design space has been so far?
I have always had an innate passion for design and fashion, but because everyone in my family is either a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer, the idea of pursuing it professionally was initially out of the question. I knew that this is what I wanted to do, and only had the courage to tell my father, since he was the one who was most encouraging and supportive of my passion. And he is one of the reasons why even after I cleared my EAMCET exam, I went on to write the NIFT entrance test, and my passion led me to win multiple merit awards, including one for the best student. I did a couple of internships with export houses during the programme before joining Anushree Reddy to help with her eponymous brand. After assisting her for some time, I branched out on my own. The initial few months i worked at home but later I moved out into a studio.

Where have you exhibited your work and what stores do you retail out of?
I recently showcased my collection at India Beach Fashion Week in Goa, and I am hoping to make it to Lakmé Fashion Week soon. Although my studio is located at Banjara Hills in Hyderabad where I undertake personal orders, my clothes also retail at multi-designer stores in all the major cities of India, including Taamara and Origins in Hyderabad; Ffolio in Bengaluru; Mogra and Amara in Mumbai; Araaha in Nagpur;Mairah in Pune; and Anantam in New Delhi.

What inspired you to get into designing bridal wear?
I have always been particularly drawn to Indian silhouettes, which are my favourite. During my time at NIFT, I studied all the Indian arts and crafts, and handmade surface designs of each state, which hugely influenced my thought process and my affinity for designing bridal clothing. There is a certain timeless beauty in the way bridal clothes are individually handmade by karigars using Indian techniques. The effort that goes into making a piece like this is truly amazing. Bridal wear has always been my forté; however, I was drawn deeper into it while working for Anushree Reddy's eponymous label, whose aesthetic sense has had a positive influence on me.

In today’s day and age of ubiquitous designers, what makes your brand unique?
My designs are known for their unique and beautiful colour combinations, innovative embellishments, and contemporised Indian hand craftsmanship. And all that is topped off with a perfect finish, and most importantly, a comfortable fit. Wearing a Mrunalini Rao ensemble on your big day can help you feel both beautiful and comfortable.

What is your advice to brides-to-be?
It is a must for brides to plan their outfits for each occasion well in advance in terms of what colour scheme they want to use, and which silhouettes they want to wear. Many a time, brides complain that their outfits get repetitive, and this usually happens when there’s a lack of a clear vision and foresight about the overall trousseau that the bride wants for her big day.

Can you mention some of your celebrity clients?
Charmme Kaur was the first celebrity client to wear an outfit from my label. Following her were Avika Ghor, Trisha Krishnan, Ashwini Ponnappa, Lavanya Tripati, and Ritu Varma.

Who is the woman you typically design for?
Our designs are usually well received and worn by women in the 15- to 30-year-old age group. Our clothes do very well with South Indian brides who are looking to add a lehenga to their wedding trousseau.      

Who are your favourite designers?
I love Elie Saab internationally, and Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and Rahul Mishra in India.