From the traditional kolams to dancing mudras, Raji Anand, a self taught designer, imbibes all of what she sees around the city on her saris and jewellery. Talk about the gopurams, mridangams, or cycles and autos, and it has all been printed on her sari pallus already.
While her works revolutionise the motifs on saris, her jewellery designs succeed in creating a whole new genre. From hardware tubes to wire mesh, old coins and alloys, her jewellery is quirky and not for people who are used to being wallflowers. “The gypsy Boho style and reconstructed temple jewellery are in-your-face and would make anyone stand out,” Raji says.
Though in the industry for almost a decade now, the bubbly designer from Hyderabad fell in love with Chennai when she went for a five-day Thanjavur trip, organised by Prakriti Art Foundation, a couple of years ago. She attended concerts, saw traditional dance performances and kacheris.The experience stayed with her for a long time — long enough to translate it into her works.
Her sojourns as a kid to Chennai, she says, were restricted to temples. “So I was scared of settling in Chennai after marriage. After almost a decade now, I know for sure that there is no other place where one can go to temple in the morning and to a club that evening, all with ease!” says Raji, who has seen most states, thanks to her dad’s frequent transfer.
But if you ask the sociology post-graduate when she realised her penchant for designing, she responds matter-of-factly, “Oh, right from childhood!” As an army kid, she admits to have been roaming around a room full of sewing machines. These were used for providing vocational training for Jawan’s wives to make them economically self-reliant. Her second tryst with fabrics came when she started designing clothes for one of her four sisters, Bhargavi, a playback singer, for her performances. And things just took off from there.
Her sarees, which suit everyone ‘from the slimmest to the bulkiest’, has been picked by stars like Khushboo, Suhasini Maniratnam, Anita Ratnam, Vimala Raman, Anuradha Sriram and Sapan Saran among others. She has also worked with Sunil Menon, styling the looks for the models for his calender. A collection, which she gives herself a good pat for, is when she designed neck pieces for all the men for a Kothari wedding.
Raji adds,“I try to keep the gothic element down so that it pleases everyone.” She takes out her phone and shows a picture of a 60-plus customer wearing one of her pieces. She swipes on to show several others. She smiles to herself as she complements each one of them, by their names, in their absentia.
(You can contact the designer at email@example.com)