Ridhi Mehra defines contours of luxury with her first bridal wear edit Nooreza that marks a decade in fashion
With Lisa Haydon as muse for the drop, Ridhi speaks to us about pushing boundaries in luxury lifestyle, dabbling in prêt wear and more.
A decade back around this time, Delhi-based designer Ridhi Mehra started her eponymous label, at just 23. Since then it has redefined Indian dressing by elevating it with European influences. In her decadent world, a traditional sari becomes a sari-skirt paired with an embroidered dupatta, lehengas come in cascading tulle skirts tracing Parisian couture trends, and fusionwear dresses are met with flouncy drapes and fine cuts reminding one of a French soirée ensemble. With that, Ridhi does a reimagining of Indian wear with a global appeal that caught the attention of celebrities like Madhuri Dixit, Esha Gupta, Alia Bhatt, Mrunal Thakur among others. Over the years, the designer has dropped over 20 couture collections — a feat to remember for a label which has established her as a high-end luxury womenswear designer in India’s ever-evolving fashion landscape. Each of her past couture edits like Beginnings, Echoes, Raeza, Reflections and more vary thematically but bear her penchant for elegant details, minimalism and a fine balance of ‘traditional meets contemporary’ approach.
While all of her previous collections were a vivid expression of her creativity, Ridhi wanted to be more elaborate this time to mark the 10th year anniversary of her label. The result, she came up with the most magnificent bridal couture collection of her design career with her 21st drop titled Nooreza. Telling us about the edit and how it’s a recollection of the past, the designer tells us, “When we were marking this collection on our calendar, we wanted to do something different that we haven’t done before. And couture is one thing that I have always wanted to explore more. I was pretty much designing it in my past collections as well, but on a smaller scale. With our anniversary, as we complete a milestone, I wanted to dedicate one collection entirely to crafting haute couture to mark the occasion. Nooreza is like a stroll down memory lane that lets me look back at the most spectacular styles from my journey, reimagined with a contemporary approach.”
Expect Nooreza to have show-stopping elements of Ridhi's last decade — fringes, ruffles, feathers and more — adorning rich fabrics like tulle, organza, georgette, chiffon and tailored into an array of outfits like saris, lehengas, sari-skirts and co-ords. Telling us about the design process, Ridhi shares, “We have done a lot of floral motifs. Floral is our signature but it’s not exclusive to us and everyone has their own way of interpreting it. We have revisited a lot of elements that worked for us in the past like fringes, feathers and more. The collection is meshed with jewelled enhancements, monotone pastel hand embroidery, organza embroidered 3-D detailing, and appliqué thread work. We have also used pearls, crystals, sequins and embroideries like zari, katdana, resham and dori to lend a superlative degree of finesse. It turned out to be a collection that encapsulates all our best memories.”
Speaking of memories, the designer collaborated with good old friend, actress and model Lisa Haydon to be the muse for Nooreza. “I asked myself what I wanted to do differently with this collection and the answer was to revisit old memories. Lisa is a good friend and was a showstopper for our first show at the Lakmé Fashion Week decades ago. She is flawless and seamless with her work and the way she handles her personal life. She represents a modern woman — a great example of a doting mother, loving partner and a strong woman who is a true fashionista,” Ridhi says.
Exploring new horizons
Raised in a business family, the Delhi-based designer thought business is her calling given the family’s lineage. She went on to pursue graduation in Business Management from the University of Nottingham in England but when she returned, her mother and aunt’s fashion enterprise led her to have a change of heart. “I never imagined being a designer. I come from a business family and used to look up to my father thinking I am going to follow a similar path. When I came back from studying at Nottingham, my mother and Masi (aunt) were into a fashion venture and I joined them on the business aspect. That grasped my interest in fashion. But I had to understand the technical side of designing, so I enrolled myself into NIFT to study fashion designing.” While being in Nottingham did not largely influence her design sensibilities, it inadvertently led her to push the boundaries of traditional Indian wear. A reflection of it can be seen in her prêt wear collections like Wildflower, All My Heart and Yours Truly where she has transformed the way we look at Indian silhouettes. She tailored them into suave casual wear where a chanderi sees a modern spin in a bustier paired with pants, ombre silk is tailored into a beguiling kaftan, jewel-embellished organza shirts are strutted on ramps with chanderi pants and many such re-imaginings. The designer believes that using the same elements innovatively is what makes the difference.
Telling us how India has pushed the boundaries and made inroads into the luxury lifestyle, she shares, “Prêt has come up big in India and there is a huge scope for it which was not the case earlier where we would probably go for a Zara or H&M for casual wear. But now we have a lot of homegrown talent who are ready to experiment and tap on new markets in lifestyle. Be it fashion, food or cinema, we have a presence in every field now. I think what Indian designers are doing here is of international standards. While fashion has come up globally, India specifically has stepped up its game in luxury lifestyle.” Ridhi reflects on how the coming generations have opened the horizon of imagination for designers, “When I started, the industry was very different. People would go to a limited number of designers they were loyal to. But when I embarked on my journey, the industry was on the cusp of change. People were exploring new designers and design concepts. Over time, their desire for newness has exponentially expanded. For instance, back at that time, lighter silhouettes would work well, but now people are ready to experiment with vibrant colours. They are experimenting with fusion wear like a sari with a ruffled blouse, skirt with a jacket etc. They are also open to tone down colour palettes of neutral shades like ivory and champagne. In fact, in the last one year, I’ve observed a lot of liking for these muted colours.” Owing to the change in preferences of people, Ridhi’s label which was initially into traditional wear with saris and lehengas at the core has now gravitated towards this modern interpretation of Indian aesthetics. “For instance, initially we would design a lehenga with a blouse and dupatta but later, we felt it is not adding to the spice. So we went ahead and added a jacket to the ensemble to give it a modish look,” she elaborates on one of the pieces from Nooreza.
Inspirations in a globalised world
The designer started her label in 2012 when a label’s success was not just dependent on design creativity and innovation but also on social media impressions, collaborations, fashion shows and more. The influencer culture was on a rise with international ones even gracing the front seats at Dolce Gabbana’s Spring 2010 show! Social media made it easier for people to access content, trends and influences from other countries and cultures. At such a juncture, Ridhi tells us anything and everything could act as an inspiration as the world became globalised with the power of the internet. “With social media, the world has become so small that the moment of revelation is almost negligible. For example, if you go to Paris or any foreign destination, you must have already seen a glimpse of it on social media or in movies or videos. So when I got back from the UK, social media and the exposure it lends was a big window to seek inspiration. You never know where the inspiration could come from. It could be a book, travel, something you saw on social media or just stepping out in nature. Creating something every season is a daunting task which requires taking creative stimulation from everywhere, not just from one source.”
While every day opens vistas for new inspiration, womanhood is one theme that has consistently absorbed Ridhi. With every collection, the designer hopes to make a woman feel powerful and confident about themselves. Her collections shine on the various facets of a woman’s allure — her dreams, hopes, struggles, milestones, and perseverance. From prêt-wear collection Yours Truly which is a love letter to neo-Indian women and Wildflower which celebrates her flamboyance to couture edit Echoes that spotlights her strength and ingenuity, and Nooreza that exudes her noor (beauty) — each of them is inspired by an aspect of womanhood. “They should feel lively and comfortable when they wear it. For me, comfort in fashion is the most important thing,” Ridhi tells us.
However, creating collections that are timeless yet are a breath of fresh air is an uphill task and the designer admits that. “The constant challenge that we face is innovation in design. It’s hard to keep bringing out something unique and to meet the expectations of people. But over the years, I have learnt that growth is gradual. Every day is a new experience where you keep learning.” On that note, we asked her about her biggest learnings and she tells us, “It is very important to build trust in your team as they are your core. Maintaining goodwill is something that will always take you forward.”
Your style statement on a usual day?
It will be any comfortable wear
One fashion mistake people make?
Being overdressed (laughs)
What do you do when not designing?
No time for hobbies (laughs)
Three must-keeps in your bag
Phone, lipstick, hair brush
Sum up Indian fashion in three words
Talent-driven, fast-growing, challenging
Last place you have travelled?
Nooreza is Rs.90,000 upwards. Available online and in-store.
Twitter: @ RanaPriyamvada