Success Stories

Rachana Reddy’s Hand Crafted Clutch Bags

Do you know what it is to feel like holding poetry in your palms? Well, now you can, when you are a proud owner of one of the most exquisite handcrafted Couture Fashion accessories created by 25-year old Rachana Reddy.

A graduate of the Cordwainer’s – London College of Fashion, Rachana creates poetry and breathes life into her limited edition couture clutch bags. Her works reflect a perfect balance of tradition with contemporary, which are inspired by her cultural roots, architecture, travel, indigenous art forms from around the world.

Since her launch in winter 2010 and debut show at Lakme Fashion Week, Summer Resort 2011 in Mumbai, Rachana has received accolades for her unique designs and detail-oriented craftsmanship.

How did it all begin?
“I grew up in an environment where creativity was encouraged. I loved creating tangible things. At one point I started reworking and redesigning my old accessories –shoes, bags and jewellery and it was a natural progression from there. I had found an exciting medium to express my creativity. But I never thought of it as a career option until later,” says Rachana.

Rachana wanted to pursue Architecture and until date, she’s still highly inspired by architecture, patterns and interiors. She further adds, “Being very good in studies, I eventually got into Engineering in confusion. By a year later I decided I need to make a big switch. I was sure I wanted to do something in design and I looked back to see what I could be good at and I knew it instantaneously. At that point, Accessory design in India was also very nascent and I knew there would be a big market in a few years’ time.”

As soon as she managed to convince her parents, quit engineering and got into London College of Fashion, Rachana paved the way to a creative world that she longed to have and since then, there’s no looking back.

With an initial investment of about 3- 4 lakhs, Rachana started work from her basement. She used the money for machinery, hiring people and raw materials. She adds, “My first investor was my dad. I have a great support system with my dad, mum, brother-in-law and sister who offer business, creative and moral support.”

What makes them so unique
Rachana’s first three collections have been her most natural inspirations coming together. She loves wood and the rustic, old world charm about it and in her creations, she infused her love for traditional motifs.

“Only when I feel strongly about a pattern, colour or a theme and if I feel it has the capability of transforming into a visually appealing and creatively evoking design, do I go ahead making it into a product. If I am calm, in a happy mood and have my sketchbook with me, I can bring out the best in me. I can get inspired by reading, travel, architecture, culture and traditions,” says Rachana.

The very first creation
Rachana remembers her very first clutch which has now become her signature product – the Padma Clutch. The design came to her in a flash and she showed it to her sister and mother, who loved it and encouraged her to create more on the same lines. Eventually, Rachana took the design to a couple of fashion enthusiasts in Bangalore and the encouragement helped her move further.

Rachana further adds, “So when I am lucky I get the ideas as is, if not I have a slight idea of what I want to do, I just build around it, always ensuring I am creating around my core sensibility. I strive for perfection; I cannot take the smallest of quality flaws or bad proportions.”

Materials used

Rachana lists out four elements that bring life to her work and makes them so refreshingly unique.

One can’t help notice the clean cuts, graceful motifs, designs and the rich materials used to enhance the beauty of these handcrafted wooden clutches. This fusion of tradition with modern personifies a certain elegance and timelessness that one can’t find anywhere else. What makes these clutch bags exquisite, is that all of Rachana Reddy designs are produced in Limited editions.

One of the most important facets of these clutch bags is the manner in which wood, silk and leather have been combined together to give it an ageless charm and a sense of royalty. “Our clutches are made using carefully sourced teak wood, pure Indian silks and highest grade leather. Teak wood is known for its durability, strength and resistance to weather, insects, decay and hence holds its form for many years to come. It also maintains its gleam due to its special oil content. The organic beauty of wood is that which ensures that no two clutches are alike. Each piece is unique in grain, texture and colour due to natural irregularities occurring in wood and leather harmonise in,” adds Rachana.

The Artisanal Touch
The natural texture and beauty of the wood are maintained by the handcrafted designs by local artisans who painstakingly weave rich textures into each of these clutch bags. This is a refreshing change and enhances the beauty of the bags, as compared to mass produced, machine made ones. Look out for the signature engraving on the back of these bags for authenticity.

Nature & Sustainability
She further adds, “Wood is Mother Nature’s bountiful blessing to mankind, and one that provides enormously and ceaselessly to support an entire planet. As far as possible, we strive to use locally sourced, reclaimable wood in a responsible way, making each clutch a collectable and visually exquisite work of art.” Rachana’s clutches symbolise sustainability both in process and output.

Teak wood in itself is very durable, has a beautiful grain structure and is resistant to insects and water. Taking care is simple if you just ensure you don’t bang it hard or drop it harshly against anything. Silk can be cleaned with a slightly soapy wet cloth. Leather, if needed you could give t a coat of colourless shoe polish.

Challenges Faced
Rachana shares some of the challenges that she faces in her line of work and how she overcomes them.

1) Finding the right team: “That first person in your team who has confidence in your idea and works towards it makes all the difference. After much looking, I was lucky to find someone good. From there on, I built my team to 6 and its hard work to manage people,” quips Rachana.

2) Business/management skills: Since she has a design background, Rachana had to learn everything about the working of a business from scratch. Initially, she handled everything single-handedly, right from sourcing to managing accounts to design. Now she has a team to help her out so that she can concentrate on what she loves doing most – design. Rachana always tries to be a ‘hands on’, in every aspect to ensure she can overcome her weak points.

3) Consistent motivation: “Initially it was very hard, I felt like giving up with every little roadblock. But now that my label is taking shape beyond my own expectation, I hardly have any issues with motivating myself. Now when I look back, I believe living my vision even before I started my line has helped me. I adamantly believed that there was no plan B for me. This helped me spring back every time I wanted to give up, all through the initial stages of my business,” quips Rachana.

Currently, there are three collections that you can find on her Facebook page and her website.

Lotus Sutra: Autumn Winter 2010

‘The Lotus Sutra’ is Rachana’s debut collection of accessories that consist of wooden clutches with traditional motifs like lotus, paisleys, jali work etched and carved into them and filled in with luxurious fabrics. Each clutch comes packed in a beautiful suede box/velvet pouch, with a detachable chain/sling.

The Global Gypsy: Summer Resort 2011 ( Showcased at Lakme Fashion week Summer Resort 2011)

‘The Global Gypsy’ is an extension of her signature line of wooden and leather clutches. The Global Gypsy has a nomadic tinge to it and has various influences of ancient cultures and traditions from across the world. Infused with intricate symbols, colours and motifs, the Global Gypsy symbolises that even if they are influenced from different worlds, but the fact is they all share a similar soul.

*BEAM*(Capsule festive range)
An attempt to trap the beauty and play of light, *Beam * is capsule collection with studs, crystals, bright highlights and lots of bling combined with the signature wooden clutches, apt for the festive season.

Promoting, Marketing and Clients
Rachana tells us the secret behind her gorgeous website, “It was a combined effort by my sister and me to create my website. My sister Ramya Reddy happens to be a brilliant photographer and her photography makes the website and all the other marketing material stand out. I share a great creative collaboration with her.”

Rachana’s main clients are bold women who appreciate art and design.  My products have a very distinctive sensibility and art value to it. I have a lot of male customers who buy it for their wives and girlfriends, and I get very flattered when they say I make beautiful products. My first ever clutch Padma clutch being purchased, carried and appreciated was one of my most memorable experiences, followed by getting selected for Lakme Fashion Week and recently getting into the Paul Smith stores in London and Paris.”

So the next time you wish to create a fashion statement and make heads turn, grab one of these divinely limited editions wooden clutches and be the talk of the town!

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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