Divya Rao on India, a source of textile inspiration

coverpagefbAn experienced Fashion Designer, Divya Rao uses her artistic and creative approach in making and managing designs that suit her niche for simplicity and glamour.

“Divya R” is an emerging Australian fashion label focused on rich, exquisite and exclusive fabrics with impeccable cuts and hand embroidery.

Launched in 2012, Divya R has received recognition within the fashion industry by being awarded finalist in the Fashion Exposed 2012 Melbourne Exhibition for Emerging Talented Designer in Womenswear.

Her deep engagement and creative dialogue with the worlds of art, culture and architecture led to the inclusion of her design in the Silk Route, whom Divya considers an inspiration.

From an emerging design student to an established fashion talent, Divya will share her experience sourcing textiles and skills in India at the Australian International Sourcing Fair from 13-15 November at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

In this interview, she reveals one of the biggest barriers to overcome when entering the India market, and how to find the right Indian suppliers for your brand.

How did you start out in fashion design? can you give us a little history on your label and personal journey to this point?

Fashion had always been a part of my life. I grew up with my mum and grandmother painting, sewing and knitting all the time. It inspired me to start sketching. From then on I haven’t looked back.
My namesake label was born in 2012, even though it hasn’t been that long, it feels like I have been doing this forever.

Every time I went shopping I found myself wanting to buy something unique and different that no one else would have and I would end up sewing something myself. This made me realise a void in the market for traditional styles with a modern twist.

I guess once you start doing more of what you love, your mind doesn’t switch off and since I started my label I am continuously planning ahead, grabbing every opportunity that comes my way and learning new things.

inked-edit-2Your designs are influenced heavily by your home country, tell us about your heritage and what part of that life you infuse into your collections?

I have kept in sync with the varying times and have effectively brought creativity and innovation with each collection. Divya R holds the status of being a revivalist in the fashion scenario, which has successfully bridged the gap between conservative and conventional style.

What are some of the techniques you learned and now use from your studies at India’s National Institute of Fashion Design?

It is meant for those who have dreamed of joining the mesmerising fashionable world and for those who are inclined to become fashionable themselves. The institute has nurtured the skills and creativity and twisted my dreams into veracity.

Studying in India taught me a lot about traditional hand embroidery, beading and hand sewing which I think play such an important role in fashion nowadays. It’s the love for fashion that made me master some of these skills and I try and incorporate them in most of my designs.

What are the most sourced skills in India? Why?

One can find beading and traditional embroidery the most sourced skills in India, as these were indispensable skills that every girl or woman was expected to pursue. Thus, there is a long tradition. Beads! Beads! Beads! People all over the world love beads. They are used to make representations of meaningful objects, symbols, and stories.

Given your Indian heritage, you are able to connect with the culture and overcome language barriers, what advice do you have for people looking to source there? How can they be more culturally aware?

For the last couple of decades India has largely been viewed as an outsourcing destination where organisations from many countries could reduce their cost-base through transferring work to a country with a large number of highly educated graduates, who spoke good English, but whose wage demands were considerably lower than in the West.

One of the biggest barriers to overcome when entering the India market or doing business with India is definitely the cultural differences you will undoubtedly encounter. They do things differently in India. Indian business culture and etiquette is the product of thousands of years of the influence of Hinduism. Understanding the impact of a hierarchical mindset, the complex communication patterns and a myriad of other subtleties can help you refine your approach and hugely improve your chances of success.

Many organisations think they can simply transplant their normal ways of doing things into India and expect it to work – it probably won’t! Understanding the Indian approach, adapting how your offering fits into Indian needs and keeping your eyes open to the rapid changes that are happening in India, on a daily basis, are important to deal with companies in India.

leather-silk-dressHow can we determine which of the Indian suppliers are established partners? It can be a tricky landscape to navigate, what’s your advice?

When the century dawned, fashion was an exclusive enterprise, the pursuit of the wealth. In India the lower tiers of the society settled for garments that were, more often than not, entirely family hand-made-downs or stitched at home. With time, however, networks of neighbourhood tailors began to evolve into a retail history and the boom followed by boutique selling.

Today, garments are laser-cut by computers and sourced from all over the world and can easily be bought sitting in the comfort of one’s home via the internet. Although it is difficult to generalise about approach to business in India, there are certain factors which would seem to be almost universal in their applicability, this needs to be borne in mind when working with Indian contacts.

These topics include the fact that India is a country in which relationships are placed before business and thus the relationship phase of the business cycle could be considered to be the most important. 

In addition, the heritage of the caste system ensures that businesses are extremely hierarchically structured and that the boss is very definitely the boss.

My personal advise would be to research on the company as much as possible, connect with people via LinkedIn and build relationships.

What are some of the inspirations you seek from India? How do they influence your textiles?
Natural Fibres and colour.

India seems to affect people in the strangest of ways, for me it’s the colours, they are so vibrant – such a contrast to Australia in so many ways.

The range of exotic hand-woven silks woven by traditional weavers who have been associated with us for decades. Every yard of the fabric is made from spinning the yarn by hand. The warping and then the weaving are done by hand without the use of power. Since every yard is handled manually there will be some variation from one piece to the next. These are part of the inherent characteristics of their natural silks and contribute to its charm.


See Divya present ‘India – a source of textile inspiration’ at the Australian International Sourcing Fair on Wednesday 13 November

Divya tells of her personal journey and her professional progress and how she steered her label through its tentative early years. Building on a solid background in fashion design as well as commerce, entrepreneurship and marketing Divya brings a wealth of experience and creativity to the table.

Topics covered

– Working in India
– Cultural awareness
– Sourcing from established partners in India
– DivyaR: company product development

Learn first-hand how Divya managed to combine cultural sensibilities, fashion know-how and a desire to succeed in this not-to-be-missed session.

For more information on the Free seminar program, visit sourcingfair.com.au

2 thoughts on “Divya Rao on India, a source of textile inspiration

  1. I am so pleased and delighted to read your interview here,I remember your childhood days and your article has touched warmly my feelings and made me glad.I am proud of you sweetheart.Thank you Divya for making me proud.Congratulations Sweetheart!!

  2. Pingback: Outsourcing veteran’s top five tips for start-ups working with China | Exposed online

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s