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In Conversation with Bridal Wear Designer Raakesh Agarvwal

It is always encouraging when our readers write in to us and it’s equally encouraging when the most talented names from the wedding and bridal fashion industry share their feedback. Bridal wear designer Raakesh Agarvwal is one of them; he follows our FB page and blog regularly and takes the effort to write to us.

In the last few years, the Delhi based designer known for creating ensembles that are high on the ‘glamour’ quotient has maintained a low profile. “There have been a lot of professional and personal challenges” admits Raakesh “but while designing clothes has always been therapeutic, the whole interaction with a bride, and putting together her ensembles for her big day, gives me joy I cannot find in any other pursuit”, he emphasizes. The Marwari boy who grew up in a traditional business family in a small town in Andhra Pradesh, and who later realised his dreams by moving to Delhi, talks about designing for destination weddings, and what it takes to become a sought-after bridal wear designer.

A sequin sheeted and crystal worked fish-tail Lehenga in pink and silver lehenga adorned with embellishments and a corset blouse with crystal bead embroidery.

Traditional sequin sheeted orange Lehenga with crystal and bead embroidery and embellished with green crystal tassels at the edge of the blouse and veil.

Q- How do you work with brides—do you personally meet with all of them?
We retail our ready-to-wear lines at multi designer stores, but for our couture line all interaction is managed from our studio in Noida. Most of my bridal clients prefer to meet me personally. I also travel overseas occasionally for bridal appointments but if I can’t meet an overseas client the initial interaction takes place over email, and for the final design meeting, she flies down because bridal designs are a lot about ‘touch and feel’. During the meeting I talk about their inspiration, and try to know more about the colours, fit, style and embroidery they like. Some brides are very articulate, while some or not. I show them a lot of samples and quite often we combine elements from six different ensembles to create what they are looking for.

Q- Are you participating in any bridal shows/ fashion weeks this season?
No, we are not participating in any bridal shows or fashion weeks. Since our bridal line is highly customized we might participate in a Bridal Exposition where a bride will be able to spend more time interacting with us.

Pink coloured embroidered Lehenga adorned with a variety of embellishments and crystal embroidery, accompanied by a shimmering veil with embroidered panel borders and crystal tassel edges.

A lehenga with a defining fish-tail shape in Red with shimmering sheer fabric with sequin sheeted fabric lining and a corset design with an overlapped shoulder strap on one side and crystal bead work in varying shades.

Q- How have destination weddings changed the design brief?
I love destination weddings because designing for it is usually more challenging and fun. Brides having a Destination Wedding don’t go the traditional route because everything gets planned and designed keeping the destination in mind. As the bride and guests are travelling, they wish to carry very light clothes, so it’s not about how heavily embroidered the outfits are, but more about how well they are cut and styled. If the wedding is taking place at an international Destination they can’t carry too much jewellery so they decide on the jewellery first and then get the clothes designed based on the jewellery. Also, since the wedding is a more intimate affair, they are okay with experimenting with ‘sexy’ cuts and fabrics. For instance, I am designing clothes for the bride and her family and the wedding is at a beach resort in Thailand. For the pool party, I have created translucent kaftans and skirts in chiffons with bejewelled bikinis. If it was in India, it might have designed gota lehengas and leheriya dupattas.

Q- Bridal means big bucks but there would be a big challenge to making a mark in this space. What advice would like to share with emerging designers looking to get into bridals?
Yes, bridal business is big bucks, but it is equally challenging and difficult to break into this category. Very well-to-do families usually prefer highly recognized designers like Sabyasachi, Tarun Tahiliani, JJ Valaya and Rohit Bal. This is because they know what to expect, and aren’t always keen to experiment when it comes to weddings. Nowadays, there is a trend of ultra HNI families even hiring the services of one of these designers to style the entire event which is usually a three or five day extravaganza at a farmhouse, palace hotel or luxury resort. One can aim to be a part of this tier or even the next rung with sheer talent, hard work and persistence. Probably in the first year as an emerging designer, you may design for two brides, but if you do it right with all the personal attention that goes into couture, I am sure you will design for around ten brides the next season. The trick is to be patient, ensure personal attention to every ‘minute’ detail, establish your trademark with designs that are traditional, and yet have your signature style.

Q- Do you see any difference in the way NRI and India based brides interact with you, or do their demands vary?
There isn’t a significant difference as such, but through my personal experience I feel NRI brides trust the designer a little more, and quite often don’t ask too many questions. However, I understand why so many brides get stressed about the ‘Dream Lehenga’. So I try to be patient and listen for as long as I can, and then I tell them to sit back, relax a bit, and not turn into Bridezillas!

Dull golden coloured lace Saree paired with a fully embellished halter neck blouse along with backless pattern with tie-ups and overlaps in the centre.

A brightly coloured Lehenga in yellow with intricate red and green embroidery in a defined pattern paired with a bandhini (tie-dye) veil with an embellished border.

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