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Fashion Talk

Sheetal Batra

Founder
Label - Sheetal Batra

Without design, the world would be chaotic

Launched in 2002, Sheetal Batra’s eponymous label pays homage to India’s rich cultural heritage through handcrafted, intricately embellished pieces. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, she shares about her design philosophy, memorable projects, and her future vision for the brand.

Fibre2Fashion: What inspired your transition from being a hobbyist to becoming an established designer with nearly two decades of experience?

Sheetal Batra:

I started my work as a passion project, derived from the compliments I received for my personal wardrobe. However, every passing day at the studio determined how much I wanted to do this.
My inspiration were truly my muses, disguised as some key clients who came and went. As I was able to design something to truly fit their personality and my style together, I learned more about myself, about the brand I was aiming to build, and the embroideries I was trying to re-introduce to the world.
The day I saw my first Kashmiri Tilla collection ready and on the stands was the day that I transitioned, from a hobbyist to a designer trying to re-interpret and revive this lost art form.

 

F2F: What inspired you to focus on reviving traditional Indian designs with a contemporary touch? How do you incorporate this vision into your collections?

SB:

I got married in the 90s and the one thing my mother wanted to drape on me was a Kashmiri shawl for a cold November wedding in the hills. The beauty and intricacy of the shawl made me wonder about all the hidden gems made by women in the corners around the country.

The more I looked, the more the art forms inspired me, and I wondered each day—why aren’t more women wearing these? I realised that while the intricate details were almost amusing, the designs’ language couldn’t keep up with what a modern woman wanted to wear. That’s where my quest for reviving beautiful art forms and adding a contemporary touch to them came from.

In terms of incorporating these, I work meticulously to learn about the traditional motifs that appear in the true art form and then work with my master embroiderers to contemporise the styles in my own unique manner.

F2F: Your brand is known for its impeccable vision and professionalism in transforming designs into works of art. Could you elaborate about your creative process and design philosophy?

SB:

My design philosophy is very simple, and it is a sentence you’ll see very often in my brand’s language. We focus on an authentic Indian aesthetic that aims to bring out the luxury of a bygone era.

As for the art, I credit that to my embroiderers who sit with me for hours, to bring my vision to life, along with just a little bit of magic. Talking about my process, I stick to a single question that I ask and re-ask myself as I design, “Can this be worn 25 years later by the brides’ daughter?” I aim to create something timeless and build a woman a piece that becomes part of her heritage. Asking that one question is the key to my design language.

F2F: Millennial brides seem to be a significant part of your clientele. How do you cater to their evolving fashion preferences and needs?

SB:

I build my collection with embroideries that last on silhouettes that are for now. That’s the reason my brides come to me; for an heirloom that has tons of character, combined with silhouettes of the time.

F2F: Could you share a memorable story or project that epitomises the essence of your brand’s vision and mission?

SB:

One of my most loved stories has been of a bride who didn’t know what she wanted. She lived abroad, and didn’t understand Indian ethnic wear, and was also getting married in 3 weeks. She stepped into our store on the persistence of her mother, with no love for an ethnic outfit. As we spent two hours together, she left the store learning about Kashmiri Tilla in depth. She was proud to have it as a part of her wedding look. Her words were: “It was more than a design; it was a little part of India.


It’s a simple story, but it focuses on the fact that we aim to accommodate and understand our consumers while also educating them about India’s tremendous art forms. She fell in love with her outfit, and also became a big reason for us to love what we do even more.

F2F: Your brand offers various personalised services, such as custom tailoring and private design/styling sessions. How do these services enhance the customer experience and set your brand apart?

SB:

We believe that customers do not always check boxes such as S/M/L and trust that they do know their bodies best! We aim to provide a free of charge custom tailoring service that helps us stand out. Giving the right fit to the consumer can change the garment, the look, and the journey of the customer.


We also offer private design and styling sessions for the same reason. We believe that while our designs are made to be accommodating for all, a certain change in silhouette, colour, or addition can add to the comfort of a client. Every client is different, and we will continue to do our best to cater to them.

F2F: What does the statement ‘Design is intelligence made visible’ mean to you?

SB:

Every day as I sit on my desk, I pencil in every free moment. Every sketch is a design; it is different and aims to evoke an emotion. Design is intelligence in every sense. Without design, the world would be chaotic. Design is for everyone.

F2F: What strategies have contributed to your brand’s global reach and expansion in the past five years, including collaborations with international stores?

SB:

We have rapidly grown as we expanded into the digital realm during COVID-19. This new learning curve proved to be one of the key decisions for our brand. The global reach is expanded by our website delivering across the world along with collaborations with top physical stores in Dubai, Australia, the US, UK, Canada.

F2F: Can you provide insights into your marketing and promotional strategies, particularly your participation in exhibitions and events?

SB:

Exhibitions and events have been at the core of my brand strategy. With an evolving media world, we do reach many across the globe. However, I believe that the right way to reach someone is to allow them to touch, feel, and experience the luxury of the outfit. The brand usually does exhibits around the world and India, and treats them as pop-ups meant for women to really experience what we aim to offer.

F2F: How do you envision the future of your brand? Are there any forthcoming collections or collaborations that particularly excite you?

SB:

I envision a future where every bride in every home has a Kashmiri Tilla piece in her wardrobe. I hope to see people appreciating the art form I love the most. As for the brand, I believe that the future holds exciting collections with different art forms and experimental combinations!

How do you envision the future of your brand? Are there any forthcoming collections or collaborations that particularly excite you?

Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
Published on: 12/10/2023
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