The actress is all excited about her new fashion line Kahani
This gorgeous actress and model built her career in Malayalam Cinema slowly but steadily through many memorable and strong characters. Her roles in ‘Jawan Of Vellimala’, ‘North 24 Kaatham’, ‘Annmariya Kalippilanu’, ‘Ishq’ and ‘Anveshnam’ to name a few, have proven that through the years, she has evolved as an actor capable of portraying various shades with ease. Her latest entrepreneurial fashion venture, Kahani came as a pleasant surprise to her fans and well wishers and Ritz catches up with the beautiful fashionista, Leona Lishoy who tells us about her exciting journey into the world of fashion!
Interview: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: SATHYAN RAJAN
What inspired you to create your own fashion line?
I have always wanted to have an alternate career path to Cinema. The plan was to start something related to art, maybe a couple of years down the line; inclined towards a production company or a series of art related workshops. But Kahani happened during a casual conversation with my friend, Manju Mary Augustine. She was shifting to Calicut and was looking out for a partner to set up a design store at Calicut. The thought of teaming up just came up out of the blue! Yes, after the initial excitement, I felt overwhelmed because though I am an MBA graduate, I realised that running a fashion store is something completely new to me. I have always liked fashion and wanted to learn designing but unfortunately, it never happened. So I did my bit to do some research into clothing, origin of fashion, fashion trends and so on. Now, I feel more prepares and am excited about the whole idea.
How involved are you in Kahani?
I wouldn’t call myself a fashion designerbutyes,sinceIaminthe entertainment industry, I am well tuned to fashion trends. I believe my clients are people who know me, have seen the clothes I wear and understand my sense of fashion. I am very excited about Kahani and I am helping my team every step of the way, right from sourcing fabrics, to doing brainstorming sessions about trends, design elements, fabric combinations and styles and of course in the management of the store. I feel social media presence is equally important for a business so I am focussing on the social media content as well.
What kind of styles can we expect from your fashion line?
It will be focussed on partywear, festivewear, indo-western styles and heavy bridal lehengas . We are currently taking customised orders. There would also be handpicked casuals, a limited edition of comfortable cottons.
How can customers buy or view your products ?
Customers can reach us through our Instagram page, Kahani or through our new design store at Calicut.
What kind of a Price Range can the customers expect?
I would call it an affordable range. The pricing mostly depends on the handwork that goes into a product. Hand embroidery is a beautiful art but it is very intricate and time consuming and that is what adds to the cost. But we are looking at price points that are reasonable and affordable.
Who is your Target audience?
I would say teenagers and women of all age groups. Through our brand, Kahani – we want to encourage girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin, to love their bodies without any inhibitions. Through our clothes, we want to make people feel happy and comfortable with themselves.
With Covid not really going away, it is an extremely challenging time to start a new venture. What is your strategy?
Yes most certainly, it is a very challenging time. For now we are taking only online orders . Photoshoots, displays and social media promotions are in progress and we are already seeing results. We have started getting orders even before opening the store, which is a very positive response. So I feel very confident now. I would say our biggest strength would be our highly skilled artisan team. Their work speaks of the quality and authenticity of our brand. Of course there have been challenges. Travel plans were put on hold because of the pandemic but now things are looking up. But we are hopeful that things will improve.
How do you plan to juggle both Cinema and a fashion store?
Only when I started getting into the nitty gritty of starting a fashion store did I realise that this is going to be tricky. Though it has been very time consuming it has also been very interesting and satisfying. I know it is going to be challenging but I have a very understanding partner who knows that Cinema is my priority. More than a partner, Manju Chechi is like family and she understands my schedules while I am shooting. I know she will step in for me during shoot days .
Tell us about your upcoming releases.
I have almost seven movies waiting for release since 2019. It is sad that some projects have been put on hold, while others are waiting to begin shoot. I completed a film with Anoop Menon and two films with Mohanlal. I have also done a Tamil project and the remake of Ishq in Telugu. A lot of work has been completed, it’s just a matter of seeing them come to life on screen.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this difficult period?
I had attended an acting workshop just before the lockdown and things had been busy for me before the lockdown. So initially, the excitement of getting to stay at home and cook and spend time with family kept my spirits high but after a while things began to change. It was hard to stay motivated and positive. It was a difficult period more so because I had health issues. I tested positive for Covid and Dengue and was hospitalised for close to two weeks. It was a depressing time but I have learnt to be grateful for what I have. I think I am also more patient with myself now. Planning the fashion store, Kahani has been a motivator for me.