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Her perfect gowns are every bride’s dream. The rich and famous buy her creations. Designer Sanjana Rathnam, Founder of No Ordinary Bride reveals her journey to Lubna Parveen

Sanjana Rathnam redefines the customary wedding gown, creating outfits that are both modern and timeless. Her collection incorporates signature fluid, feminine and romantic elements that make her designs special. Over the course of the last decade, Sanjana continues to design collections that are lavish, chic and true to her aesthetic.

The Spark
Sanjana graduated in journalism from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. However, fashion had always been her passion; she went on to pursue design studies in Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, specializing in costume and theatre design including evening gowns. She had the privilege of interning with some of the best fashion houses like Donna Karan and Richard Glasgow. She says, “In a way this opened up a lot of opportunities for me. While pursuing my design studies, I toiled hard to understand the international market and build contacts and network there.”

The Endeavour
After graduating, she decided to stay back in the US to gain work experience. With her specialty being hand embroidery interpreted for the western clientele, her efforts were an instant hit and since then there has been no looking back. Soon a joint venture with Richard followed, who was considered the king of bridal wear then. This created ripples in the fashion industry. Today Sanjana has design teams working for her in India and even in the UK and the USA. She decided to make Bangalore her base with a standalone No Ordinary Bride. Besides weddings, her made-to-order gowns here are available for all occasions.

The Glory of Gowns
Drawing inspiration from the 30s and 40s era, her creations reflect the old world charm and its glamour besides being adorned with exquisite embroidery, her signature touch. “I was always passionate about bringing the richness of our cultural heritage to my gowns,” she says. However, her designs had to be adapted to suit the West, as they are not experimental with motifs and colours. According to the designer, it requires a lot of deep insight to come up with a new idea to create something unique with white on white for the bridal gowns.

She recounts her learning experiences with Richard who was very particular about detailing, quality, construction and feels lucky to have imbibed his attitude for work. She wanted her tailors and factory workers to train under his guidance so she requested him to come down to India and he did so for three months on his first visit. He stayed with them and used to be in office right at 8:30 am and work until late in the evening. He returned to do a review after six months, to make sure the artisans were following the techniques correctly.

In India, people have the mindset to ‘adjust’. However, Sanjana wants to get this thought out of their heads. She is very particular that it has to be a work of perfection, which has no puckering or wrinkles and that everything has to look perfect on the special day. The biggest challenge for her was to sell Western gown to Western clients. She explains, “A Western gown has to look completely Occidental. It cannot have elephant and peacock motifs on it. It should have embroidery but in the right way.” With Valentino as her all-time favourite in the global arena, she feels his gowns are the essence of femininity, sensuality, and grace. She humbly states, “My signature gowns are about clean lines and a perfect fit. It should fit you so beautifully that you should feel it is a part of your body.”

The Couture Curry
Her gowns feature details such as embroidery, pleated silk tulle, Swarovski crystals and lace. No Ordinary Bride caters to a broad range of brides from classic to modern and embraces all attitudes from romantic to dramatic. Sanjana reveals about incorporating old French couture techniques like corsets and bones. Importing everything that goes into making her gowns, she gets silk from Italy, bones and corset from USA, lace from France and Swarovski crystals from Europe.

Sanjana feels that India is a huge market and has great potential. “The girls here realize the importance of looking beautiful and are not conservative about spending. Indian brides love to play with colours and understand that a wedding may be a one-day affair but that picture sits on your wall forever. Therefore, it is important to look fabulous and perfect,” she observes.

On Top of the World
Sanjana says that as the wedding day is the most important day of a woman’s life, she tries her best to give them that special feel. “At the end of the day, a bride is a bride. Irrespective of her culture and ethnicity, all brides have the same value when it comes to their wedding. Moreover, they want to look equally special on that day.”

With fierce competition all around how does she stay on top of her game? “Persistent innovation and raising the bar in terms of designs keep me motivated.” In the past decade her venture has made a mark for itself in the USA and the UK; she plans to come up with her stores in Chennai, Cochin and Hyderabad soon. She has not only designed for some of the biggest international celebrities but her collections are also available in almost all the international high-end boutiques.

After having achieved what she set out to, is there any goal yet to be attained? Sanjana says she intends to fulfil her dream of styling for movies someday. She encourages aspiring designers to follow their dreams but gives them fair warning, “Don’t think it is just glamour. It is all about blood, sweat and tears.”

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