INTERVIEW: Sulakshana Monga unveils Vrindavan-inspired bridal wear at the new flagship store in Hyderabad
The store is located in Banjara Hills
The monsoon possess an enigmatic power to quench the thirst of a parched soul, yearning a long-awaited burst of creativity. It is during this season that some of the most inspiring works of art, be it design, poetry, or cinema, come to life, accompanied by stunning campaigns. In the world of fashion, the monsoon has consistently transported Indian designers into a flight of fantasy, mythology, and wishful thinking. This season is no different, as we witness designers’ mood boards transforming myths into muses. From Neeta Lulla’s latest collection Vrindavan Symphony, capturing the eternal love between Radha and Krishna, to Asha Gautam’s Bridal Wear 2023 Vrindavan, presenting a symphony of embroideries like dabka, kora, and resham on ethnic wear — their imaginations are fueled by the land of Vrindavan steeped in love, passion, and devotion.
Joining these esteemed designers are Sulakshana Monga and her son Dhruv Monga, who have just unveiled a new bridal wear 2023 edit, Regalia at their brand new flagship store in Hyderabad. This remarkable collection of 46 pieces, featuring 36 stunning womenswear ensembles and 10 regal menswear sherwanis, is a labour of love, crafted over a dedicated period of six to eight months. It beautifully weaves the opulent heritage arts and craft of India, such as miniature painting, onto the stunning creations, bringing to life the enchanting tales of Vrindavan. The vivid scenery comes alive with dreamy motifs of dancing peacocks, soft petal lotuses, gentle swans, floral adorned swings, figurines of Radha-Krishna and temple architecture, creating a stellar sartorial showcase of the ancient city in North India. Sherwanis with churidars and embellished lehengas are washed in a bright colour scheme, ranging from playful fuchsia pink and sunflower yellow to divine shades of scarlet red and vital tones of palm green and sky blue. Together, this captivating palette paints a canvas of emotions, narrating mystical stories that have been cherished and heard since childhood.
For Sulakshana Monga, painting such ancient cityscapes is not a new endeavor. The Bikaner-born designer has previously brought forth collections like Ode to Varanasi, Ode to Rajputana, and Bridal 2021 Persiana. Despite lacking formal education, she has carved out a remarkable journey in fashion spanning over three decades, with her sons Dhruv handling the design arm and Porus taking care of the business side. In our interview, we delve into the label’s new collection, their exploration of culture through fashion, and why Hyderabad seems to be the next-gen destination for all things regal in style, especially after their store launch.
Your collections often time-travel to olden cities. How has travel shaped your design journey and this collection?
Sulakshana: I take immense pride in our rich heritage and draw inspiration from our deeply entrenched roots. Growing up in the culturally vibrant city of Bikaner, Rajasthan, I witnessed my mother’s artistic flair as she skillfully crafted her clothes and my father’s passion for culture, which led us on delightful journeys across the diverse states of India. These trips exposed us to exquisite crafts, captivating museums and arts, leaving an indelible mark on my heart.After my marriage into a Punjabi family, where the Monga surname originates, I embraced a new way of life that introduced me to the enchanting beliefs in Lord Krishna and other Hindu deities. My mother-in-law’s enthralling storytelling of Hindu mythologies further deepened my fascination and love for these narratives, reflected in Regalia.
Why did you think of opening a store in Hyderabad?
Sulakshana: The city of Hyderabad is a stunning and promising hub for the fashion industry, witnessing remarkable progress as a society. It is gradually becoming a focal point, comparable to metropolitans like Delhi and Mumbai, where fashion thrives, all thanks to globalisation that is making city folks aware of the latest trends in the realm of fashion. We aspire to be an integral part of Hyderabad’s evolving fashion landscape. Opening a store here feels nothing short of a blessing!
Where have you travelled in The City of Pearls and what do you like in its lifestyle and culture realm?
Sulakshana: Until recently, my visits to Hyderabad were primarily for shows and events, limiting my exploration of this enchanting city. However, a recent visit to Taj Falaknuma changed my perspective entirely. This historic palace, transformed into a splendid hotel, left me in awe of its impeccable preservation of culture and heritage. The restoration efforts are truly commendable, and the experience was nothing short of extraordinary. During my time in Hyderabad, I also had the opportunity to witness the iconic Charminar. The bustling atmosphere surrounding this architectural marvel evoked a beautiful feeling.
Having started with a design career back in 1989, how would you reflect on the journey and the most challenging times?
Sulakshana: While my personal fashion journey spans three decades, this year is special as it marks 20 years of our label that started in 2003! The major difficulties came when I started creating clothes. At that time, formal education in the field was not readily available. Moreover, my early marriage led me to embark on the business aspect much later. But with unwavering passion and creativity, I was wholeheartedly supported by my husband and his family. Over the years, I’d say navigating the intersection of creativity and business has always been challenging, requiring a deep understanding of the fashion industry while staying true to our identity.
As the creative mind behind Regalia, tell us more about the new collection.
Dhruv: Regalia goes beyond just clothing; it’s a profound and magical journey into the world of Indian legends and history. The ensembles draw inspiration from the beauty of miniature paintings of Vrindavan that resulted in ensembles in Indian silks, chanderi and georgettes for both bride and groom. We have artfully incorporated mirror work, beads, and sequins into this collection to add a touch of glamour and opulence for a mesmerising visual impact. These exquisite adornments gave rise to an edit that celebrates elegance and versatility.
How do you see bridal fashion evolve in coming times — what will stay and what will become outdated?
Dhruv: Bridal fashion has a deep historical and cultural connection, which has kept it relatively steadfast. As we look ahead, a new age is on the horizon, led by Gen Z. This upcoming era will be marked by a refreshing wave of self-expression and individuality. In the future, bridal fashion will break free from traditional boundaries and embrace a more open and experimental approach. Brides of the new age will be free to explore diverse styles, incorporating their unique personalities into their wedding ensembles. This shift will herald a time of exciting innovations where creativity knows no bounds. However, the core essence of bridal fashion will remain rooted in rich traditions with a contemporary twist. Wedding wear will become an ever-evolving canvas of personal stories and expressions of love.
How do you ensure your distinct ideas get executed while still being under a brand name your mother founded? Don’t you fear the pressure of dealing with the legacy tag?
Dhruv: My association with the brand dates back to 2011. I embarked on this path at the young age of 18, which proved to be a valuable experience as it allowed me to learn from the grassroots level. Gradually, I delved into the various aspects of the fashion industry, gaining valuable insights along the way. Over the years, I have learnt that fashion is an ever-evolving journey of continuous lear ning and unlearning. Every step offers an opportunity to g row. With each new lesson, I am here to push boundaries and bring for th innovative designs that reflect ‘my’ personal style. All I can say is I cherish the process of discovery.
Price on request. Available online and in store. At Banjara Hills.
Mail: priyamvada@ newindianexpress.com