With high quality linen amped up with delicate embroidery, brand Saisha is finding fans with the city’s 40 somethings
Shaila Bhale Rao has never shied away from trying something new. An entrepreneur-turned-designer, she’s had her fingers in many pies—from manufacturing drinking water to retailing furniture. And now, at 54, she says she’s come full circle, to what she’s always loved, fabric and clothes. Designing an exclusive line of linen tunics targeted at those 40 and above, the year-old brand Saisha has been an open secret—news of which travelled by word of mouth among friends and acquaintances. Till now. “I don’t want to do anything in bulk, where I lose out on quality and the personal touch,” begins Rao, explaining that she never repeats a design. “I don’t even do the same patterns in different sizes as I don’t want clients bumping into someone else with the same thing.”
Sitting on an antique wooden couch in her home studio in Kotturpuram, Rao recalls how, at the start, she had gone to The Linen Club and Club Burgoyne and bought all the colours she’d liked in high-end Irish and Italian linen. “I spread them out and then figured out what colour and detailing I’d like to see on them—embroidery, lace, appliqué,” laughs the history graduate from Stella Maris, who, out of sheer interest, had started out designing and manufacturing silk and khadi fabric with weavers in Madhya Pradesh. “I take inspiration from everything I see and buy—like a Japanese kimono I saw (reflected in a tunic with an umbrella motif) or some pretty lace I picked up in Bangkok,” she smiles, handing me a pretty grey linen-and lace-tunic, the last piece from a popular line. I’m curious, doesn’t she want to try another fabric? “No, I love linen. It’s elegant, suits our climate and even when it crushes, it is a nice crush,” she says, laughingly adding that she’ll stick to her long-sleeved designs that reach mid-thigh as “these are for my age group, who want all the unsightly parts covered”.
Bold and the beautiful
While the present line consists of a lot of florals—I especially like some bold ones detailed in white cord against cobalt blue—Rao says she does a lot of geometrics, too. “I love shaded embroidery and fabric, so you will find a lot of them in my work.” Though she doesn’t intend to bring out separate collections, she assures me she will keep adding to her line every month or so. “For winter I did a lot of blacks and electric blues. Now for summer it will be whites and pastels,” she says. Like a pretty pink tunic with her favourite polka dots motif that a customer picks up, just as I say goodbye.
Rs 4,500 to Rs 6,500. At Kotturpuram.
By appointment only. Details: 9840084666
—Surya Praphulla Kumar