This self-taught fashion designer has styled celebs like Deepika Padukone, Irrfan, and Anushka Sharma

Self-taught fashion designer and founder of La Fantaisie, Rachel J Amirtharaj was in a conventional 9-5 job with the Ministry of Science and Technology before she decided to start her own fashion label.

She says being an unconventional person herself, it was rather tough for her to follow a monotonous routine. Rachel assured herself that choices are not for everyone, but for those who are brave enough, and set out on a path, that she finds amazingly rewarding today.

Rachel Amirtharaj – Founder of La Fantaisie

“My father was the rector of a church in a community of over 200 families, and I saw people who dressed well were respected, whereas those who dressed poorly were ignored. This experience made me realise clothing has a language of its own, and it also holds power that you can control how you are perceived, and over what you communicate. Apart from this, my unfulfilled desire of wearing a beautiful ball gown for my wedding propelled me to get into the industry,” she recalls.

Not all glitz and glam

Rachel Amirtharaj

The initial days were filled with struggles, and Rachel says that while fashion design looks very fancy and glamourous to people, it’s not.

“There’s a lot of struggle involved. During my initial days, I learned that marketing could only bring the consumer to your studio, but actual sales depend on the final product and the end-consumer experience.”

Rachel, who holds an MBA from IIM-Bangalore, learned to improve her product line, take into account constructive criticism from her loved ones, team, mentors, and feedback from her clients.

La Fantaisie by Rachel specialises in Christian bridalwear, and the designer chose the segment because it was niche. While the population of the targeted clientele is only three percent in the country and didn’t appear to be a glorious idea to her at first, on research, the numbers told a different story.

Rachel has a studio of her own in New Delhi, and an ecommerce portal where customers can place orders.

She says women are her inspiration, and with each of her collections, she tries to enhance their beauty.

“With thousands of beadings, the opulence and the wild beauty every woman poses; it should be revealed in her dressing on her big day in such a form that her fearless, yet feminine self could be created to flow when the silhouette moves,” she says.

Of life and emotions

Rachel Amirtharaj

A Rachel Amirtharaj creation

The designer works with a team of nine people to help her curate and design outfits for the bride.

“The designs are inspired by various aspects of life, emotions, surroundings, and the essence of being humane. La Fantaisie by Rachel is a very authentic, yet customisable brand that believes that the customer is the queen, and designs each and every outfit keeping them in mind. The couture is targeted to would-be brides, bridesmaids, grooms, and more,” she adds.

A major milestone in Rachel’s seven-year career as a designer has been as a stylist for stars. In 2013, she styled Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Shergill, Mahi Gill, and Soha Ali Khan for Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns.

“Going forward, I got back-to-back opportunities to work with bigger names like Deepika Padukone for Finding Fanny, Anushka Sharma for PK, Jacqueline Fernandes for Kick, Parineeti Chopra and Ranveer Singh in Kill Dill, Neha Dhupia in Santa Banta, and Amy Jackson and Rajinikanth, along with designer Ror Rodriguez for Enthiran 2.0, among many others,” she says.

Rachel is happy that bridalwear in the country has evolved over the years to match the changing times and choices of the people.

“The modern Indian bride embraces tradition, but does not conform herself to the idea of how a traditional bride must look and behave on her big day. With this, the attitude towards clothing and bridal apparel has seen a significant change as today’s women want to embrace the culture, but not the societal norms,” she adds.

She foresees some exciting trends like the adaptation of softer shades gaining more prominence in trousseaus, integration of protective designer face mask and other gears, and, most importantly, minimalistic yet elegant cuts and clothes that enhance the features of the bride.

Like every other venture, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the wedding industry as well. 

Rachel believes lavish weddings are becoming leaner, and we are getting back to the basics by becoming more mindful and meaningful in our approach, where the focus is just the love and warmth between the couple and not external ultra-glam affairs.

“Our business has also been badly hit. The shops are closed, but we are glad that our digital presence has brought the consumers to our doors. The sales are as low as 20-25 percent, but we are in business because people want to wear our creations on their special day,” Rachel adds.

Her strategy to adapt to these unprecedented times is to focus on improving her delivery channel. Rachel is also working towards making the La Fantaisie website a little easier to navigate, facilitating an easy online shopping experience for her customers.

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