Dressing for Pleasure - Ridhi Mehra

Bringing together bold colours, contemporary influences and unique silhouettes, Ridhi Mehra is a luxury womenswear designer based in Mumbai. The fashion designer who started her eponymous label at just 23 in 2012 has since become a recognized name when it comes to heritage pieces. Interested in translating age-old motifs into modern products, Mehra is often inspired by eclecticism and craftsmanship of the cultures she encounters. She is also concerned with innovation and sustainability and often utilises unusual materials in her pieces. Ridhi Mehra gives an exclusive insight into her life as a well-known fashion designer, about her process and Indian fashion.

You studied business, then how did fashion happen? What excited you about it? And how did you carve a niche in the market full of incredible competitors?
I pursued a full-time course in business management from the University of Nottingham, UK. After graduating, I returned to India and joined my mother and aunt to assist and handle the business aspect of their venture.

Fashion was the core of their business, and I immediately got drawn to it. It piqued me immensely. To become adept at it, I decided to pursue a course in Fashion Designing from NIFT, and the rest is history.

In an interview, you said that design is all about self-expression; could you tell us what your designs speak about Ridhi Mehra?
Yes, design or any other form of art, for that matter, is all about self-expression. Ridhi Mehra Label is a reflection of who I am. What I have kept as the central theme of the design language is balance. My designs are minimal yet impressive and effective. They are equally subtle and glamorous. This balance, coming from the perspective of being an introvert yet enjoying my time outside and exploring the unknown, is what manifests as my distinct design approach.

In the past few years, the fashion industry has seen conversations happening around stereotyping people through their sartorial choices, specifically in movies. Be it portraying LGBTQ community people, defining sanskaar, or even speaking out loud for guy beauty, we have seen changes, but there’s a lot more work to do. What are your views on it and how would you say that designers could bring a change here?
Clothing is a powerful nonverbal communicative tool and form of self-expression that provides others with clues about our personality, culture, and so on, amongst numerous other impression cues. In short, style speaks. Today’s world is a much more accepting place, far more welcoming to the idea of NEW compared to a century ago. The fashion industry has been pivotal in the concepts of expression of self and free thought. Every designer, their work, their source of inspiration comes from a deep-rooted sense of society through their eyes. Creation is individualistic. So, a designer with awareness and responsibility can bring about a revolutionary and positive change in expression and acceptance.

Tell us about the inspiration and thought behind ‘Before Her Heart’?
I have had the idea of coming up with a Prét line for a long time. Many factors, including the shift to casual wear and the world inclining towards sensible, effortless outfits gave me the final nudge and I took the plunge, so to speak. I wanted to create a line that’s easy-to-wear with ready-to-slip-into outfits. Also, with summer around the corner, a collection that’s breezy, comfortable, and reflective of the freshness of the season fits just right.

Furthermore, as a brand, we’ve characteristically been into couture, and I felt it was time we’d diversify, hence the launch of a Prét line.

In your designs, we often spot a lot of belts or Kamarbandhs; any particular reason behind it?  
Traditionally, the Kamarbandh has always been worn with sarees by women since time immemorial. It has also been an integral part of a few regional bridal looks. My take on adding this accessory to ensembles was to amalgamate traditional with contemporary. This elegant accent from the past adds X factor to modern silhouettes, reason enough for me to make it one of my signatures.

How would you say Ridhi Mehra designs define today’s woman?
Ridhi Mehra designs are not about defining but celebrating the spirited woman of today. A winner, a believer, a creator and an independent, empowered source of light, vitality and vigour - that’s the woman RM label adorns and adores.

What cuts, hues, silhouettes, and details do you love to work the most on?
I can’t really pick any one favourite. My idea of creating any piece specifically revolves around putting together different design elements, from unique cuts to details to playing with a colour scheme that reverberates and also reflects the soul and essence of the individual piece and the collection as a whole.

Which celebrity is your favourite muse and why?
Every RM lady is special and this is not an order of favourites but more of an acknowledgement to all Ridhi Mehra ladies for making every season a spectacle.

To name a few: Diana Penty, Malaika Arora, Esha Gupta, Lisa Hayden, and Kiara Advani.

What is your most favourite Ridhi Mehra piece or a collection and why?
As I said, I can’t really pick a favourite. All my collections and creations hold a special place in my heart. Designing is a wonderful process that I love involving with. Dedicating my time and intentions to creating a collection, picking out a befitting colour scheme, deciding on the range of silhouettes - every step of it demands meticulous attention and efforts and I truly live for the creative rush that comes along. Be it Reflections or our most recent and first-of-its-kind in our repertoire - prét collection or collections before them, every individual line and every individual piece have my heart. I dedicate almost 3 - 4 months to come up with a line and the whole idea behind creating a particular silhouette is that a woman can associate with it, seam to seam.

When you say that there is a certain feminity to your designs, what do you mean; could you tell us more on these lines?
The grace, elegance and allure brought to light through our silhouettes. A flattering design that compliments, accentuates and at the same time lets you own and express your true self – that’s RM’s femininity recreated for you!``            - Srivalli