Being born and brought up in the UK, Suman Bajaj was blessed to have the best of the East and West as powerful influences & yet she found that there was something missing in both. When she set up her label, she married Europe to India and created effortless grace in the form of her most favourite attire, the saree.
Suman’s work comprises of two lines – SumSum her pret line and Suman Bajaj, her couture line.
“With color and cuts that have an international appeal, her work comprises of global designs with ethnic aesthetics. Her prêt line is clever but quirky and not for the shy wallflower! It is the blend of ethnic and western in her collection that has appealed to the fashion conscious allover the world and bought her clients from Spain, UK, USA, Singapore, The Middle East etc as well as India. Suman Bajaj is an up and coming Designer from Delhi whose garments are a wardrobe must have for every woman regardless of her shape and size.”
“My brand is a wardrobe staple for not just Indian women but women around the world. My sarees are effortless style statements that are all about less being more. “
Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
In a few short months, I will celebrating a ten-year affair with Delhi, India. Today, there is not a lot one can’t find in Delhi but it was not always that way. It is amazing how much we take for granted in the UK. Ten years ago, finding basics like shower gel and margarine was a challenge. And try waking up at 4 am to fill your water tank only to find that there is no power.
So why did I move here?
In all honesty, I can’t pinpoint what it was that had me packing up my life and moving to a city I had seldom visited. I recall being incredibly lonely and feeling as if I had nothing to lose. I was sick of pretending I had my life all “sussed”, when I clearly didn’t. One cold and frustrating Monday, I impulsively told a friend “I’m selling my apartment and moving to India.” True to my word, I did. I had no job and nowhere to stay, yet my gut told me it was the right thing do.So here I was in a city I knew nothing about, convincing myself I had to make this work. Help had come to me from the most unlikely friendships, but it was mostly my own adamant arrogance not to fail that pushed me to grow. When I think back I surprise myself, it is amazing how resourceful humans are when they need to be. Funny thing is I don’t recall ever feeling sad or sorry for myself. In fact moving to India made me see how much I had taken for granted. The mass population of Indians live below poverty line and moving here, opened my eyes and for the fist time in my life I realized how blessed I truly am.
What made you fall in love with designing?
Back in the UK, I fell into fashion at a very young age. Coming from a big family, I longed to recycle the hand-me-down clothes my sisters would give me so that they felt new.
What made you move into designing sarees?
Soon after arriving to Delhi just over ten years ago, I discovered Hindustani city slicers had abandoned the sari. Instead of choosing to opt for unflattering gowns, I felt compelled to use my experience to bring “sari back.” Six months later, The Suman Bajaj easy drape sari label was born. I created a one-size fits all, easy drape saree that made the saree comfortable and alluring to wear.
I started from my rental with one tailor, spending a large chunk of my savings on materials. Going with my gut I decided to design a niche line of sarees that had the simplicity of a gown and the grace of a sari. My philosophy for fashion being one size fits all and looking good should come from within and not from your wallet.
I now retail from most luxury multi brand boutiques all over the world.
What are the main features of your collection?
My collection includes pockets – as featured in Vogue, the slim sari that can be worn in three ways and the best part is they all drape in less then 20 seconds.
What inspires you?
Dressing a celebrity is every designers dream. I have dressed quite a few, Madhuri Dixit was one but to be honest I get more of a thrill draping everyday women who, like myself, had forgotten that they are beautiful, brave and exceptional. These women are my inspiration. I watch how a woman’s face lights up, unable to believe how good she looks in my drapes. I love fashion only because it has the power to empower.
I understand fashion to be more than a trend, it is an expression.
Having more women wear sarees over an evening gown is my biggest inspiration but what inspires my designs is the joy of making a women feel beautiful and so I set out to create beauty.
What is the inspiration behind your latest collection?
This season is all about going back to basics and celebrating man over machine. It is about working with handlooms and turning to age-old fabric making techniques, that may take longer to create but tell the stories of the amazingly talented artisans creating art in their very own homes.
What tips do you have for woman who want to wear sarees?
Asian women are curvy and tend to carry their weight from hips up, making them the perfect candidate for a sari. And yet, we are all different, So when choosing a fabric think about how the fabric and colour will work on you.
If you have short legs, wear your sari high wasted, sticking to a single colour that elongates you.
If you are worried about a soft tummy opt for opaque fabrics to or printed fabrics to hide the issue. Go for a corseted blouse that not only covers the belly but also pulls it in.
Our saris typically flare from below the knees balancing the body into the perfect hourglass. Correcting your sari mistakes is simple and can make your draping experience a real comfy hit.
Make sure your petticoat is tied super tight so that it holds your saree perfectly.
Avoid safety pins – they rip the fabric. Instead, try a cool belt or reusable velcro tabs.
Pad your blouse and ditch the unsightly bra straps
Wearing a plain but elegant wedged heel will help you to walk more gracefully.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?
The pitfalls of fashion are realising tthat this is my business and not a hobby, so one must buy smart designs backwards with the point of sale price in mind.
What do you think are the keys to professional and business success for women in India?
For a woman to do well in business, she needs to be very organised and be able to find balance. Set realistic goals and stay on top of your growth plan.
I believe one must always follow their dreams but be aware of the fact that knowing your craft better than your team is important. Study your craft work, hard to develop yourself so that you can manage your team by leading by example.
So if you love the allure of a saree but the draping scares you, then here are a few helpful tips from the ace fashion designer and easy drape sari queen Suman Bajaj that promises to have you reaching into your mother’s closet for the six yards of sensual.
Learn : Anything worth having is worth working for. Learn the simple art of wearing a sari. Draping a sari is not that difficult and the pleating is actually a really good way of keeping arthritis away as it’s a mini hand workout! That being said, if you are fed up with your pleats sitting on the floor instead of your body, have a seamstress stitch your pleat in place for you. That way all you have to do is drape and tuck!
Rethink : If the fear of looking like your grandma is keeping you away from the sexy sari then rethink your drape. Simple styling can change a normal sari from what to wow! For instance, who says you have to wear your sari with a blouse, when you can wear it with a bikini, t-shirt, polo neck and leather jacket! Make your sari wearing experience all your own. Rock it with a boot, statement jewellery and send the traditional sari into the 21st century.
Get your petticoat right : Scrap the tent like line and get your shape on. A simple nude Lycra tube with a modest split is the perfect partner for a sari. It hugs the body and allows the sari to sit without sticking or slipping. Make sure you tie it nice and tight above where you want your sari to sit and then pull it down into place. If your sari is transparent, think about using a contrasting colour or opt for a fabric with a bit of sparkle to give it another unexpected dimension. I also love going for petticoats that have layers of tulle fabric that flares out from under the knee, pushing the pleats into a dramatic lehenga. A skin fit legging is also the perfect partner for a more modern look.
Right length : Make your legs look like they go on forever. Wear your heels before you drape so that your sari is the perfect length. A wedged heel is the ideal style for a sari. It will allow you to add a few extra inches and keep you firm on your feet. Try to keep your stilettos free from anything that will catch a hold of your fabric.
Know your body and pick your fabric well : If you are a little bit on the larger side, go for a print or fabric that is a little bit more opaque but flows well. Pick the darkest shade in the colour to shave off a few pounds. Carry your sari a little higher on your waist and think about adding a little fabric at the start of it to create more pleats.
If on the other hand, you are slim, wear chiffons and lightweight fabrics that flatter your svelte self. Pick fabrics that are not covered in thread work and don’t drag you down.
Avoid pins if you can : They are not fabric friendly! If you must use them, opt for nappy pins with a safety lock so you’re not getting the ring caught in your fabric. To get the sari sitting correctly you can use a belt around your waist or loop the fabric through your strappy blouse strap. If you must use a handful of pins make sure you get some help to hide the pins or you will spoil not only the fabric but your entire look.
Keep accessories sleek : If you want your sari to be the hero, play down the jewellery. You are wearing a sari and not a Christmas tree, so no decorations required. Take a tip from Coco Channel and always take one accessory off before you leave the door. Less is more!
Keep the mystery : Don’t wear your sari too low or show too much skin. What makes a sari so sensual is the mystery of a single piece of fabric draped in a way that it give away only a little of what makes you a woman. Keep it that way.
“I feel Indian women are a lot more informed about luxury brands from all over the world but sometime take their styling tips from editorial glossy magazine shoots. They forget to make that look their own and play it down.”
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