Garments of Grandeur - Kunwarani Ritu Sinhji

A successful model who has worked with several high-end brands in the country, Kunwarani Ritu Sinhji has plenty to offer to the fashion industry. During her modelling stint, she married into the royal family of Wankaner in Gujarat. But owing to the time constraints that come with parenthood, she started an eponymous fashion line, Kunwarani Ritu, which wasn’t as taxing as her former work. And what initially began in a small way has now flourished into a niche brand for exclusive Indian wear that Bollywood and other elite have wholeheartedly embraced.

How did you get started?
I launched the line when my daughter was born, starting with kids’ outfits only, in Lucknowi Chikankari. Over time, demand for brocade jackets increased, as my clients wanted to transform their old costumes into something more modern. So I began to make brocade jackets and also offered chiffon sarees. But today, I’m known for my block prints and textiles like brocade, Chanderi, Benarasi, and mulmul. I have my own printing unit and the cotton fabric that is used is very pure. I try to mix old aesthetics with a more modern sensibility.

Why fashion?
Fashion has been an important part of my life. I was 17 when I started working as a model, and I worked with top designers and brands in fashion and beauty. I walked the ramp for around 200 fashion shows all over the country. I had to slowly stop modelling because it was very time consuming, and my next best option was clothing!

Being married into a royal family, did you ever find this line of work challenging?
Not at all. Although my family is a little conservative, they’re very supportive. They are among those royal families who accept modernity. As long as you have good values that’s all that matters, which I learnt from my parents. And hence it was very easy for me to fit in. When I initially started, even my mother-in-law was very involved in it. I still take her advice today! I have great support from both my parents and in-laws. Being a stylist and a model myself, working in this field was easy and came naturally to me.

What was your biggest fear before starting your own line?
There was no fear before, but now there is! I source to all the top outlets in Delhi and Mumbai, and people compare me with some of the best designers. Every three months when I come up with a new line, it’s a challenge to outdo my clients’ expectations. But I love and enjoy doing that. Now I’ve incorporated zari and zardosi handcrafts into my creations, which include blockprints too. My work is picking up in the international market, too. They appreciate my work and I feel proud about it!

Where do you go for inspiration while working on a new line?
In the house (laughs)! In royal families, many costumes are 100 years old in pure gold zari and creative patterns. I try to revive and recreate them, which is a hit among my clients. Since I also design the outfits to suit a more conservative look with a modern twist, the demand for my clothes is high. I don’t have many sleeveless and backless designs. I do patterns like high necks and collars and nicely done cuts, which reflect the royal way of dressing. My family from various parts of the country keeps sending me pictures of unique styles from old outfits that catch their eye. I’m currently designing outfits in velvet, which was a classic style back in the day.

I draw inspiration from history and background while designing a new line. Now I’m also coming up with men’s line and poshak (bridal wear), too. And reviving old sarees is a constant and something I enjoy doing.

What’s your go-to recovery method after a long day?
Working out. That’s how I de-stress!          – as told to Sumana