The date was November 14, 2018. Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone tied the knot in Italy and Bengaluru’s designer K Radharaman of House of Angadi shot to fame.
As per the Konkani tradition, Deepika draped a splendid red Kanjeevaram, gifted by her mother Ujjala, and chose a golden one for her Bengaluru reception. The Padukone family had together visited Angadi Galleria, House of Angadi’s retail outlet, and requested to see bridal sarees from ADVAYA; an engineer turned fashion designer Radharaman’s exquisite sari collection.
38-year-old Radharaman belongs to the weaving community of Padmashalis, court weavers of many royal families in the South, practising the tradition for 600 years now. Radharaman’s father R Kothandaraman made saris for Indira Gandhi and Nargis Dutt and created a full handloom weaving facility. His son is now blending linen and khadi with Kanjeevaram and creating designs, which he thinks will outlive him.
However, both Kothandaraman and Radharaman, though quite popular among the elite in the South have remained relatively low key, as it can take several days to weave one sari.
However, when designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee clarified, on his social media accounts, that Deepika’s wedding sari was not his and was designed by Radharaman, the quite label was suddenly the talk of the town. How did that go, the leap of fame? Radharaman speaks with LuxeBook about his tryst with popularity, its pros and challenges, its efficient management and the design house’s future?
What have been the pros and challenges of the sudden popularity?
As I see it, there are no cons to the popularity of a design label. If the designs are unique, of great quality and innovative, popularity is a boon. It allows the label to continue doing what it’s doing. The cons only present itself when you take the focus away from what made the label popular in the first place and buy into your own hype. Post the celebrity wedding, the definite pro for us is that the queen of sarees, the Kanjeevaram, came into focus with Deepika sticking to her South Indian roots while also being fiercely unique in buying not just any generic Kanjeevarm but an ADVAYA to wear for two main functions of her wedding, instead of only donning lehengas. The con has been that we have not been able to keep up with the demand as it takes many days or even months to prepare each sari. Thankfully, we have customers who have the patience to wait for an ADVAYA.
How did the publicity prove advantageous to your label?
We have been clothing South Indian brides and NRIs for many decades now. Over the past four years, we have also seen a growing demand from brides from other parts of India, especially Delhi and Mumbai. Most of our customers, including celebrities and royalties, have learnt about the brand through word of mouth. Since November this trend had amplified manifold, especially when customers recognised that the saree was a personal purchase done by Deepika Padukone and not gifted by us or anyone else, to her.
The mix up on Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s Instagram account seemed to have brought more attention to your brand. Did you focus on digital media marketing for your label before the grand event and do you now?
I must admit that I was not on any social media platforms, nor Whatsapp. However, our showroom Angadi Galleria has an Instagram handle and tags ADVAYA. As we were in the process of revamping when the mix up happened, the store didn’t tag ADVAYA. However, we do plan to launch ADVAYA on social media very soon. I am aware that digital media makes it easier for us to communicate the brand personality, to interact with customers worldwide and get the satisfaction of seeing our products being worn by customers who tag us. All of these help us immensely.
What are the plans for the future?
We are amid a rebranding exercise and expanding our production to cater to a broader audience. Many of my friends in the design community have been telling me to take ADVAYA to the fashion weeks and other multi-designer showrooms. I have shied away from it for this long as our design and production process is tediously slow, and the demand for the product is higher than the supply. The immediate challenge is to bridge this gap.
I have worked extensively in genres such as Kanjeevaram, Banarasi and Kota, and this year, I am expanding my design intervention to other genres too. Success in design interventions is a gradual process, but we shall get there.
Eventually, I want to build a design house that encompasses different design disciplines held together by a natural aesthetic. That would be a dream come true.
What is the USP of your sarees?
I belong to the Padmasaliya weaving community. We speak the language of the weavers. I have often felt that the creative process is intuitive and the sense of aesthetics that I impart to my designs is a gift from my forefathers. Across the globe, people of some nationalities are credited with a keener sense of fashion and design. There may be others who are equally knowledgeable about techniques and yarns and may even be able to render a design but, ultimately, I think it is the aesthetics that sets a designer apart.