It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.
Odd to start a blog about Indian fashion with a quote by one of my all-time heroes, Ian Brown of The Stone Roses, a Manchester indie band, which I listened to endlessly as a teenager in my bedroom at home in the North West of England. It’s a quote I now live by.
I grew up watching Coronation Street, scoffing chip-butties drowned in salt & vinegar, smartening up for the local carnival and taking trips out to see Blackpool illuminations. A fairly normal Northern upbringing. Except I also celebrated Diwali, listened to Kishore Kumar, gathered around our tiny TV with my massive family to watch Sholay, served chai and mithai to guests and ate chapattis with my hands.
To my Indian family, I was a coconut, too gora, destined to lose our cultural values. To everyone else, I was exotic, different and destined to fulfil the part of one of the three kings in the nativity. Unfortunately for some, I was also an abomination.
To my teenage-self, I was a mortification. Didn’t fit in, didn’t dare to reveal my difference more than the obvious. So I learned to develop separate identities which never collided, never coincided.
Then I grew up.
I finally understood what Ian Brown was saying all those years ago, British Asian is where I’m at and I’m ready to share.
So, as my chip butties now get a spicy masala kick, my clothes get a taste of the vastra.
Fashion is the biggest representation of identity I know. I love clothes. I want my clothes to represent me. I didn’t want my wardrobes to be separate, I didn’t want to be something I’m not. Uncomfortable and unfashionable at desi events, or totally gora all day, I couldn’t find a brand that spoke to me as a British Asian woman with a keen sense of fashion, desire for comfort and which provided me with the shopping experience I deserved.
So, I set one up.
I began by researching, looking into what was happening in the designer fashion scene in India; the cuts, the designs and even the styling. I was so excited by what I saw. I found designers who had modernised the look and feel of traditional Indian fashion, but maintained their roots in quality fabrics, high standard of manufacture and with flattering silhouettes.
I realised that with some clever styling, these clothes could be worn repeatedly and celebrated, not just left at the back of the wardrobe for single-use, occasion wear.
After a few test pop-ups, talks with designers, experiments with styling and a strong focus on brand building, RANI was born. We curate lines from designer brands who fit our brand ethos and have an ‘always-on’ collection of RANI separates and basics to facilitate styling and mix-and-match.
The name is important to us, not just because of its meaning, but we’re the female power of our (Raja) family. We celebrate strong women (and men) who want to succeed in their chosen path, care about what’s going on around them, have a great sense of style and who embrace the multi-cultural world, and wear our clothes. We are building a community of these people who identify with the brand and are interested in the concept of slower fashion. These people may or may not have an Indian background, but certainly appreciate the strength of the fashion and creativity arising out from there and its people.
*This blog is written by the co-founder of brand RANI, Akta Raja.