Meet the Mumbai member bringing Indian fashion to the world

The back of a woman with the side of her head showing in profile.

Bodice founder Ruchika Sachdeva on how she is reinventing Indian garments for women worldwide

By Akanksha Kamath  Monday 16 March, 2020

In 2011, Ruchika Sachdeva founded her label Bodice. Just three years later, she won the Vogue India Fashion Fund, followed by an International Woolmark Prize in 2017, and the most recent addition to her personal wall of fame – the Designer Of The Year nod as part of the 2019 Vogue India Woman Of The Year awards.

Having done away with connotations of Indian fashion as colourful couture, Sachdeva’s formula of deceptively simple clothes laced with design layers (think heat pleating, old blankets turned into jackets, merino wool handwoven in the Himalayas) makes a bold new case for ready-to-wear clothing for women in India – and beyond.

Poised to bring Indian sensibilities to the global fashion stage, the Soho House Mumbai member spoke to us about what makes Bodice the bellwether of a new wave of Indian fashion.
A female model wearing a colour blocked dress.
A female model wearing a striped dress.
They say it’s the most exciting time to be a woman designer—be it Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri, Silvia Venturini Fendi at Fendi, Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé, Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy… How do you feel about this?
'I literally get goose bumps when someone says this. I’m now 32 and I’m at that point in my life when the woman I’m designing for is finally me. As a woman, everything I face in this day and age – whether it’s body image, societal pressures, balancing the personal and professional – it all comes together in the clothes I make. The reigning thought when I design is that everyone should look at the woman wearing a Bodice dress, really look at her and admire her, but also wonder why they are so entranced by her because she is dressed so simply.

It is that powerful, quiet confidence that is encapsulated in the dress. Our clients are mainly women from creative industries, but also lawyers and doctors. They want something formal and Bodice was built on the premise of workwear. The idea was to make something that lets them express themselves but still be taken seriously. They don’t have to try to be men, nor be boxed into being women. So we created clothes that allowed them to express both sides of them, the masculine and the feminine.'

2021 will mark 10 years of Bodice. As you look back, can you talk us through some of your highlights?
‘Winning the Vogue Fashion Fund in 2014 came just after three years of starting the label. I was so young and it definitely wasn’t easy talking in front of an audience, but it taught me confidence and gave me the funds I needed to keep going.

‘I built the Bodice store in New Delhi in 2018 from the ground up. It’s very simple, made with all local materials, and it has an expanse of green gardens and two simple structures. One is a studio where you can see the karigars (handymen) working behind a glass door, and the other doubles up as an event space, and sometimes hosts yoga sessions. I wanted to question and rebuild the format of brick-and-mortar stores. Could we make the viewer experience a collection of clothes differently and change their relationship with clothing? With fast fashion, we have forgotten the human connection and how long it takes to make something. I wanted to rekindle that connection between wearer and garment.
A female model wearing a dress with a marbling pattern on it.
A female model wearing trousers and a blouse.
You won the International Woolmark Prize in 2018, which was previously won by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. What do you think sets an Indian label apart on the global stage?
‘I think more than being an Indian label, Bodice stood out for its attention to detail. I kept everything in mind, from the woman who was wearing it, to the buttons, colours, and layering. There were two other Indian labels as part of the nominations that had already spoken to the jury about innate aspects of our country’s collective aesthetic, such as embroidery and handlooms. Of course, it always helps to have our amazing heritage, but what lifted Bodice was that it was a very unique view of Indian craftsmanship. It was a modernist’s view. Winning the Prize gave us visibility, taking us to all the markets we wanted to be in –Tokyo, Seoul, London, Dubai and more.’

What do you think it means to be a designer in 2020?
‘It would be unrealistic to think that you’re making a new product. Everything has been made before. My pleats have been done for years, and all I am doing is a permutation and combination. We are just interpreting it in the context of our generation and our voice. You have to ensure that you’re offering a product that people need. It has to be a design solution to an existing problem. In terms of sustainability, I’ve recently started growing my own vegetables and it really makes you realise how long it takes for one carrot to grow. It takes weeks and weeks – but how sweet it tastes!

Similarly, if you knew what goes into a garment, how could you ever let it go to waste? We are also starting something called the Bodice Reclaim Lab where we hope to find solutions to overconsumption. Meanwhile, collaboration has always been a priority for us. The idea is to go beyond fashion, and into other mediums. Whether it was our collaboration with Sofar Sounds for a musical evening, or ditching the runway for a fashion show at our studio, we really like to question norms.’

Images courtesy of Bodice
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