CHENNAI: Shuba Jagan, a diploma holder in Fashion Designing started her boutique SJ Designs in Thiruvanmiyur with the help of her mother in 2005. It was a time when ‘statements’ were generally associated with politicians speeches and not style. Thirteen years down the line, while SJ Designs has ceased to exist, CE spoke to Shuba about what led her to start Pehnava, an exhibition that brings together various designers under one roof, and how she contributed to open up the city to more designs and designers.
What was Chennai’s market like when you started your boutique in 2005?
Chennai was backward when it came to fashion. There were barely any events where we could display our designs. The exhibitions were either really small scale or were on the expensive side which used to get organised at hotels. There was no middle path which hurt ventures like mine. It was only after going to exhibitions in other cities that I realised how much had to be done to get the city on the map of fashion.
Is that what led you to set up Pehnava?
I launched Pehnava in 2007 as I realised that there was a need for more exhibitions so that both customers and designers did not have to travel to other cities to shop and or exhibit their products. Also, it provided designers with a platform to interact with customers directly. The first exhibition was held at CP Arts Centre with just 10 designers. Now I have more than 200 designers who work with us on various exhibitions and these include established designers from across the country, fresh graduates from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) to even homepreneurs. I believe in giving everyone a chance to display their work.
How has the city evolved in terms of fashion?
There has been tremendous growth in Chennai when it comes to the fashion circuit. People are becoming extremely fashion conscious and know how to carry themselves, regardless of the occasion. Earlier, people were extremely reluctant and did not accept things easily. Today, they are far more welcoming to change and are willing to experiment. The city is now one of the great markets that designers are keen to explore.
What is one of the key characteristics that you possess that helps you organise these large-scale events?
It is the ability to socialise. I speak to everyone personally and is in constant touch with them. As an organiser, it is essential to know your vendors, clients and the market that you’re catering to. It is important to be able to channelise what the market needs and also know what the designer possesses, in order to strike the perfect balance.
How long does it take to plan an exhibition?
It takes about three months of work and dedication to put up a successful show. It involves a lot of work from the entire team. I am blessed that I have my mother as my strong anchor which is a huge help as well as relief. Apart from that, I make sure to schedule my timings in such a way that I can dedicate adequate time to my work and family. I have been able to strike a good pro-life balance by doing this.
When is the next Pehnava exhibition?
We are having the 46th edition of Pehnava on February 9, 2019 at the Chola Sheraton Hotel. We will have over 35 designers from places like Jaipur, Mumbai, New Delhi, Agra, Chennai, Malaysia and Dubai. Since it will be peak wedding season, the collection will reflect a spring and festive/wedding collection.
What do you like wearing the most?
I love Indian traditional wear. I feel saris and salwar kameez are the most comfortable and stylish options for Indian women.
Any tips for the festive season?
With the upcoming party season, I would advise people to pick up anything from the collections in the market because trends keep changing and what is in the market, is in vogue.