When India was just a decade old, when people were still rejoicing the feeling of being free, Usha Raghunathan, now a well-known fashion designer in city, became the first woman of south India to get the license to be a private pilot. “My father who worked in civil aviation department motivated me to become a pilot. He was broad minded and brought me up like a son. That made it easy for me to enter men’s territory,” she says.
At the launch of her new collection LAST, Usha recalls how she enjoyed her stint as a pilot. “It was a six-month-long course in Chennai. I was only 18 years old. After reaching the training centre on cycle, I would put on my helmet, goggles and speaker. After getting into the open cockpit of Tiger Moth, the plane, I would fly and I would be on top of the world,” she laughs. While most traditional Indian women of 90s feel that their life is confined to home after marriage, Usha, though filled with positive energy was nervous that the same thing will happen to her. “But I was lucky to get a supportive husband who did not stop me,” she says.
She ventured into various fields like writing, television compering, interior and furniture designing after her marriage. Though she loved doing all of them, she stuck to textile designing as she enjoyed it the most.i
“I started off with designing fabric in 1983 and launched the trend of designer Kanjivaram cotton sarees. I replicated the designs from my Kanjivaram silk sarees into cotton sarees.”
After completing 30 years in the field, she decided to quit designing sarees and stuck only to blouses. Her new collection, consists of cholis (blouses) – a few that contain Ahemdabad embroidery on cotton fabric and others which are made of bandini fabric.
Though the name of the collection, ‘Last’, might suggest that it is her last collection, Usha says, “There is nothing called last in my life.”
The traditional lady who has designed sarees and blouses for Bollywood celebrities like Rekha, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and many more, is now working on designing blouses on Ikat fabric.
“I launch new collections every first Sunday of month and my next collection will be something in Ikat fabric.” Her last collection was on Kalamkari fabric.
Ask her why she chose to design only sarees, the mother of two explains, “It is always good to do something in the field that you are familiar with. I am a saree person. I am very fond of unusual sarees. So I took up designing sarees on cotton fabric which I like best,” she responds.
So what is Usha’s message for women who think that their life is over once they grow old? “There is no full stop in life, there can only be a comma. Life goes on until you are alive so live it till the end,” she advises.