(October 9, 2021) Born and raised in India, settled in Hong Kong and based out of London, fashion designer Saloni Lodha is truly global in more than one way. If her designs have found a niche clientele among the who’s who of the world, she is still connected to her roots and it’s this perfect blend of Indian and modern that makes her a designer to reckon with in the fashion circle.
When she moved out of her home in Maharashtra as a teenager she had no idea that fashion designing was her calling. But serendipity put her in the right place at the right time, and as they say, the rest is history. With the likes of Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, Emma Watson and Jessica Alba proudly strutting in the designs of this Indian designer, Lodha has become the champion of Indian textiles in the international market.
But the journey of this Global Indian wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine as she had to steer her way to the top.
Wings of freedom
Born in Nashik in a traditional Rajasthani family, Lodha was raised in a conservative setup that had the women of the house restricted to household chores. Seeing the various ages live under the same roof, the close-knit environment of the house started her love affair with textiles as she always saw her mom and grandmom clad in a sari. Being a very visual child, her eyes were always drawn to colors and prints. “From the age of 15, I began cutting up my grandmother’s brocade saris to make dresses for myself and my friends,” she told Vogue in an interview. But a young Lodha wanted to free herself from the shackles of tradition and therefore made the choice of moving to Mumbai at the age of 16 to study advertising at Sophia College. “It’s a very conservative and religious life. I don’t know how, but I always knew I didn’t want that,” she told Financial Times. During those three years of college, she did internships and took as much freelance work as she could find.
Love for fashion – a new beginning
At 19, she met Giorgio, a banker from Italy, who she ended up marrying within a year. The couple soon moved to Hong Kong, and this was the place that played the perfect catalyst in giving wings to her designing dreams. She never intended to be a designer as her style quotient was mainly restricted to jeans and T-shirts throughout her college life. But her own evolution as she entered the glossy world of the Hong Kong expats gave birth to her clothing designs.
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“That’s when I started to think about fashion. All you could find there were these big luxury brands, so I thought I could make my own dresses and sell them to clients in a more personal way,” she told Fashion Network. She set up tiny pop-up shops to sell her dresses made of silk, cotton and brocade. This exposure helped her set sail for her future in designing and in the summer of 2003, she moved to London to do a course in fashion from Central Saint Martins. The British capital’s monochromatic fashion sense made Lodha think about adding a pop of color. “I realized I wanted to bring the spirit of India in some sort of way, but not in that obvious, hippie look. Here was India, the factory to the world — but there was not one single brand that retailed out of the top 200 department stores. That didn’t really make sense to me,” she told New York Times.
Her own global brand
So after spending a few years consulting for production agencies, she started her own company in 2008 with a focus on Made in India label. Her website reads, “The brand draws from the designer’s Indian heritage and its aesthetic is centred around a combination of color, artisanal craft and innovative cut and finish.”
The line was snapped up by top London department store Harvey Nichols and others followed suit. She launched her Summer/Spring 2008 collection during the London Fashion Week, but it was in July 2009 that the turning point in Lodha’s career came when Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame made an appearance at The Early Show in a red dress by Saloni. This put Lodha on the global map.
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“I just wanted to create a beautiful, contemporary brand taking the Indian aesthetic, which I grew up with, but modernising it with very simple silhouettes, something that anyone can wear anytime. You can wear it to go to work, you take it to the evening, but very affordable, and we wanted to use all the Indian handcraft and all the techniques – block-printing, weaving – but just to make it affordable because everything, at that point in the market, was so expensive,” she told Vogue.
Her label began creating the right noise in the fashion circles, and soon pulled in clients like Michelle Obama, Naomi Watts, Anne Hathaway model Helena Christensen and Samantha Cameron. If the creme da la creme were dressing up in her couture, luxury stores like Harrods, Selfridges and Barneys had stocks of her collection. In 2016, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, made heads turn with a Saloni Lodha dress for a function at Kensington Palace.
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With each passing year, Saloni Lodha brand started expanding its wings and making a name in the fashion market. In the last 15 years, Lodha has truly become a global name in the fashion circle as she beautifully infuses Indian textiles with western silhouettes making it a perfect blend of modern and rustic. “There’s a long way to go and I feel like I am learning how to do it every step of the way,” she added.