It takes a lot to impress the global judging panel of the International Woolmark Prize, but Ruchika Sachdeva did just that, taking home the 2018 award for womenswear. The diminutive but passionate creative force behind Indian-based brand made a particular impression on Parlour X‘s founder/buyer Eva Galambos – who joined the esteemed Woolmark judging panel this year – with her sustainable approach to production and keen eye for detail. As part of the global Woolmark retail partner network, Parlour X is proud to introduce this emerging label to the Australian market. Mark our words when we say this label is destined for big things…
Tell us how you came to start your label, Bodice Studio…
I started Bodice in 2011. I had returned to India from London where I studied and spent a period of time working for brands including interning in the studio of Vivienne Westwood. I started Bodice because I wanted to find ways to use Indian craft in exciting, contemporary manner and I wanted to make clothes that I would wear myself. Classic, effortless pieces with beautiful, unusual design elements and details.
The Bodice brand’s premier line is called Bodice Studio and it’s with this line that I won the International Woolmark Prize for Womenswear. Bodice Studio carries over the core Bodice philosophy of clean silhouettes and effortless dressing, but is much more fashion-forward and experimental, using the most highly skilled and time-intensive artisanal techniques as well as very luxurious Italian, Indian and English fabrics.
Did you always want to be a fashion designer? Did you study fashion design formally? If so where, and for how long?
I spent three years studying for a BA in Womenswear at The London College of Fashion. I was 19 when I left Delhi, travelled to the UK and immersed myself in London-life! Studying at LCF was really formative for me. As well as really strong teaching in pattern making and the technical aspects of design. I was encouraged to constantly question my beliefs about what is beautiful and what design can do or say.
You recently won the Women’s International Woolmark Award – congratulations! How did you feel when you won?
It was utterly surreal! I felt elated, but it’s taken a while to sink in. Just a few days after the win we hit the ground running, showcasing at The London Showrooms in Paris. It’s been non-stop ever since!
What was the hardest part about entering such a high-profile competition?
It’s both a complete joy but also utterly nerve wracking to take part in such a competitive process against some of the best young talents internationally. What was amazing was the scope it gave me to experiment with new techniques. The International Woolmark Prize allows designers to work on developing designs with merino wool for almost a year in advance, with mentoring from industry experts.
The judging process was very helpful for understanding what people respond to in my work, where Bodice Studio sits within international fashion, and where we can push the boundaries further. Philip Lim, who was one of the judging panel in the final round, called the Bodice Studio Woolmark collection “Modern, romantic and relevant”. All the judges were fascinated by the craft techniques behind the collection such as hand embroidery and natural dyeing.
What have been the most powerful flow-on effect from your win, for the business?
Credibility and recognition. As an Indian brand, it can be difficult to push past the pre-conceptions. The Woolmark win gave us a huge push into the international spot-light and suddenly a lot of doors have opened up.
For someone unfamiliar with Bodice Studio, describe the brand’s aesthetic in five words:
Elegant, effortless, elevated, progressive, artisanal.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn starting your own label?
I started Bodice in 2011 and have expanded over the years to supply to over 25 of the top luxury fashion boutiques across India. As a female entrepreneur, in the early days sometimes I found it hard to get people like bank managers or accountants to take me seriously. As a designer, I’ve also had to learn how to manage a large team, an accounts department and massive amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork. Balancing creativity with commerce is always a challenge, but I feel it’s given me a firm grounding on which to now build my brand internationally.
What has been the best piece of advice anyone’s given to you, professionally?
Think long-term and don’t just fall into the trap of immediate gratification.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring fashion designers who are looking to replicate your success, what would it be?
Work hard and never take anything for granted. I feel lucky to have an amazing team at my studio in Delhi with the management roles comprised solely of women. Lift up other people with you, and always be nice.
What is exciting you in the fashion industry right now?
I am really excited about brands creating a whole culture around them that goes way beyond clothes, they are using their voice responsibly to highlight some key issues in society right now. Also, I am happy about the fact that brands have slowly but surely started to question the social and environmental impact their business is having, they have started to become more conscious of their choices.
You can follow Bodice on Instagram at @bodicebodice