By Suchita S.

20{Rashmi Varma, with a dress from her upcoming collection ‘Vasant & Garmi’}

Let me just start by saying Rashmi Varma is all kinds of awesome. She’s got an energy about her that can envigour the most weary, worn out, victims of manic Mondays. She’s lived all over the world, has a splendid collection of books on design and textiles, can speak with her masterji, the chaiwaala, a client, and an ever curious woman who asks way too many questions {me} with the same degree of warmth, sincerity and kwan. In fashion terminology, this lady’s fierce.

Cut the frills, the frocks, the sailing silks and chiffons. Pull out jersey, leather, suede, cotton and handwoven textile. Add spunk, Nars lipstick, eyeliner, studs and bakelite bangles. Talk about Breaking Bad. Read and research everything that interests you. Have the same love towards locally sourced clothes, as you do for Isabel Marant, Rick Owens, and Theirry Mugler. Create a collection of clothes that composes all the bits and pieces of the woman you are. Challenge. Challenge how a saree’s worn, that red is the new black {sorry folks, black will always be it}, that it’s a man’s world. Be fearless. And when you are, you’re a step closer to living the life of Rashmi.

Have a strong sense of self” she says, when I ask her for a piece of style advice she’d hand out. We’re chatting over chai and marie gold biscuits in her studio in Shahpur Jat; three tailors are busy at work, sewing costumes she’s working on for a Lisa Ray film and piece from her very first collection {click here for a peek} which launches in Feb/March of 2014. She’s always been fascinated by art and design; and after working in fashion and design for over a decade, she’s found that balance between avant-garde, cool, and functionality. “As an example of being ‘unfashionable’ but practical, I recently started wearing Birkenstocks, which for the longest time I swore I would never ever be caught dead in them…my feet are happy.”

She’s born and brought up in Montreal, and now shuffles between Toronto and Delhi. We spoke about the biggest cultural difference in expression through apparel between Toronto and Delhi, and she tells me about how people really hold themselves back in Delhi. Let’s be real – it’s not convenient to walk around Delhi streets in haute couture or anything that isn’t ‘modest’. This may not be the only reason, but it adds to the general reservation people have when it comes to being experimental with clothing and accessories in Delhi. “In Toronto, you can walk around in whatever you want, and no one cares. No one looks twice. Here, things are different. I’d love to wear a bright red lipstick and walk around Shahpur, but I can’t. My trustee dupattas come to my rescue here.”

With Rashmi – as a person and style wise – tradition meets contemporary. Old is interspersed in new. And in her designs, earthy fabrics come together in hauntingly beautiful silhouettes. She wears a lot of black, navy, grey and white. solids and metallics “… in a drapey and layered style. I also love pattern and embellishment but with a focus. And I love wearing things to death!” Catch her rock her 7 year old Dries Van Noten leather boots in the winding lanes of SPJ this winter… perhaps, wearing a bright red lipstick someday?

1
8
17
7
{Wardrobe must haves | All in black: leather jacket, dupatta/scarf, pants, boots, coat, drapey dress, drapey top, sandals, great foundation garments.}
13
{From Rashmi’s upcoming collection. Find more at www.rashmivarma.com}
4-2
9
rashmi varma is a clothes designer based out of new delhi. she's also a stylist and has worked on many projects in film and fashion
{Pictured above | “My favourite things from my wardrobe? Definitely pieces from my new collection – the red trapeze dress, the black saree dress, the black kaftan, my leather jackets, black Dries Van Noten boots, a black and white Jamdani saree, YSL navy blazer, black Rick Owens skirt that makes your behind look great, vintage Theirry Mugler safari suit with LD Tuttle brown ostrich feather shoes, vintage Canadian Army field jacket, white and grey Andhra cotton dupatta {pictured below}, En Inde jewelry, old family jewelry, Pamela Love hematite earrings, and my collection of vintage Bakelite bangles {pictured below}}
14
11-2
{As a part of her extensive book collection, she has extreme beauty: the body transformed, sarees, indian costumes, history of fashion, artist books … “All books that help with my design research!”}
19-2
{When in India, outdoor craft melas are a good place where you can generally find special things directly from weavers.” Pictured: Andhra cotton dupattas}
12
{“I love things like rose water, essential oils, clays and a fabulous moisturizer. Water and sleep a must. Genetics and brown skin definitely a major plus.” What make up do you use daily, and what about for the evening? “Eyeliner for the day… strong eye and/or strong lip at night and lately some aqua blue in my hair’s middle part which i call non-sindoor for fierce unmarried ladies. red or metallic coloured nails”}
16
{Spilling the contents of her bag | Burt’s Bees lip balm, Nars lipstick, En Inde cuff, Chanel Powder Foundation, home keys, IPhone}
rashmi varma is a fashion designer, stylist who's based out of Delhi and toronto.
15
Photography | Rushil Khokhar