Renowned Kolkata pianist & designer Rajlakshmi Syam releases her newest collection
Pigeonholing city-based designer and celebrated concert pianist Rajlakshmi Syam’s breadth of work into a checkbox would be an anomaly on all counts. The best way to relate what she does would be to describe a breakfast date we had with her at her Ballygunge studio. We dropped in recently to get a look at her new collection, and we were quite awestruck by her creativity. Her label Rajlakshmi offers a bespoke range of ethnic and fusion wear for a niche clientele, which includes everyone from Tolly glitterati to cultural attaches.
“It’s wonderful how my music and my work as a designer travel hand-in-hand quite seamlessly; I perform in concerts all over the world, always sporting one of my own designs. I remember once in New York, I was asked by a friend to give up the sari I was wearing during my recital, as she loved it so much! I also always perform during all of my own shows as well, which I don’t think you see every day!” the designer tells us. Interestingly enough, the designer is also a human rights activist, and the Indian Postal Department has issued a postage stamp in her name to honour her accomplishments!
As celebrated as she is as a creator, Rajlakshmi tells us that she is actively trying to expand on her social entrepreneurship skills. “I employ around 250 people, some of the most skilled karigars, from in and around Kolkata; some of them specialise in zardosi, some of them are good with Kantha, and so on. I think, this is what gives my creations an edge. But I also make sure their wives and children aren’t sitting at home. I make sure their female family members make an independent living, sometimes employing them as finishing artistes or training them from scratch,” the designer explains.
Rajlakshmi started work as a designer around 2008, and soon started working with some of the leading names in fashion who wanted to explore her expertise. She finally started her own label in 2012, though she continued working with couturiers across the country, and continued her collaborations with artisans and weavers, as well as with up-and-coming designers. The designer, who studied brand management at the University of Queensland in Australia, tells us that she gets her Kantha work from a group of people in Shantiniketan, her Ikat from looms in Orissa, and outsources her chanderi from Gujarat, while she has just finished working on a set of Pashmina shirts, which are a hugely popular hit in the international market.
Her new collection has a strong focus on wearability, and yet is quite dreamy and indulgent in its detailing. We spotted some amazing zardosi blouses, bejewelled tops, and net and crepe-satin saris in summery colours. She showed us an off-white sari with an ornate woven Benarasi applique, ghicha and zardosi detailing. Besides her celebrity Tollywood clients, she says, “I also get a number of millennial customers, who are always looking to explore their aesthetic. They wear everything from zardosi belts to tank tops made of homegrown fabrics, and they always keep me on my toes!”
Check out Rajlakshmi’s collection by appointment. Prices on Request