Sartorial Styles: Ramya Girimaji

Text by NAMITA GUPTA

They know their warp and weft and are creating drama with their simple yet stunning silhouettes. Chic, contemporary and creative, these fashion designers from Bengaluru are creating waves across the globe for their new-age concept-based couture clothing and innovative prêt wear. Aesthetic and awe-inspiring are some of the words that best describe their creations that can bring life to any wardrobe. Bridging gap between Indian and modern contemporary cuts and styles, these fashion designers are ahead of their game in designing timeless classics.

Ramya Girimaji, The Attic Gray

1) Where did you study design from? How did you realise your affinity towards fashion design and how did you decide to take it up as a profession? 

I’ve always loved experimenting with my clothes, so when a family friend asked me if I wanted to help her with her boutique, I was naturally interested. On the very first day, casual interest turned into true love. Every single part of the design-through-execution journey was absolutely fascinating. The ultimate prize, of course, was that delighted look on the client’s face! Even the most menial tasks were enjoyable. It has been a long road from there to here. It has been ten years, and my passion for all things sartorial has only become stronger. Of course, none of this would’ve existed without my mother’s unflinching support and technical expertise. She was already running a couple of very successful businesses with my father when she agreed to become my partner. Since she is also a highly trained seamstress, she became my teacher and business guide.

2) What were the challenges that you faced initially? 

Not being a trained designer was a challenge initially. Mom helped me put together a great team of artisans and that helped a great deal. Even then, since I was a complete rookie, my arc was a slower one. That, at times, was frustrating. Many years later, as the company progressed to retail, I realised my brand wasn’t going to be easy. I don’t design cohesive collections. Each outfit has its own storyboard. As a result, my racks on the whole tend to look like a Jackson Pollock painting! It makes for a very unique shopping experience, but marketing it is a big challenge. For example, how do you come up with one lookbook for the season when you produce 4-5 new designs every week?!

3) How did you overcome them and how has the journey been since then? 

I decided from the beginning to be completely honest with my clients about my lack of training. I decided not to accept payment unless they were completely satisfied. Not only did my initial clients come back despite some of my mistakes, they became my biggest cheerleaders. They are still clients, and more importantly, friends. At the back end, I systematically started to learn the basics from my own team of artisans. On weekends, mom would give them advanced training in cuts, construction and embroidery and I would absorb everything alongside them and ask a million questions. Nothing has changed till date. I continue to be a willing student and that really helps me and my design sense grow. I overcame my second challenge by simply accepting it the way it was. I didn’t want to change my way of designing, so I turned The Attic Gray in Koramangala, Bengaluru into a playground for up and coming designers. I built an in-house team of extremely talented young designers who can express themselves without being bound by the traditional rules of the fashion world. Our basic motto is ‘clothes, not fashion’. Apart from our own brand, we showcase a bunch of external designers who each have their own unique style. So now, our biggest challenge has turned into our biggest strength!

4) What have been some of the highpoints in your design journey? 

My job has allowed me to travel a lot and dress some highly accomplished people, but truly, the highpoints of my design journey have been when I’m allowed to be a part of someone else’s personal journey. When, for example, I can help a new mother feel more confident in her new body. Or when I can help somebody be proud of their curves instead of feeling the need to hide. Or when I see the look of joy in the eyes of a young girl who realises she can wear whichever damn colour she wants because her own colour is truly beautiful. Fortunately for me, there have been many such highpoints.

5) What are some of the striking features in your outfits that set them apart from the other designers in this space? 

Three qualities set us apart- First, our most valued quality is valuing quality. Second, we do not believe in the rules of colour, body type or age. Anybody can wear anything and look fantastic as long as long as they feel fantastic. Third, we don’t believe in trends. The designers at The Attic Gray use clothes as a medium of individual expression – be it a retail garment designed by any of our designers or bespoke outfits that reflect our clients’ unique personalities. Some of my design team’s truly unique designs come to mind. Like Devika using pieces of stained glass on white satin to represent her client’s favourite spot – Saint Chapelle. Or Tanya painting a stunningly beautiful red-tipped black quill on a pure white gown to poignantly represent letters of blood written by soldiers at our border. Or Nikita blazening the entire silhouette of the Taj in super-intricate embroidery across the super-flared skirt of a bridal ghagra. Our new addition, Ashwini, is currently working on a garment that represents a popular riddle because the client loves the Batman villain, The Riddler! Keep an eye out for that one! Many more of these crazy outfits are made right alongside extremely traditional bridal lehengas, understated kurtas, elegant drapes and crisp fitted suits. I like to think of our design space as a sort of halfway house for fashion deviants. We provide sanctuary for those who have cast off the shackles of the rules of fashion. Basically clothes, not fashion