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VASTRA By Namrita Chettiar is a contemporary Bridal-wear line, with a nod to Namrita's South-Asian Heritage. Based out of San Francisco Bay area, Designer/Owner Namrita works with each bride personally to create their one of a kind dream ensemble, using the finest of the fabrics, the most intricate time honored embroideries and  couture quality details.

Namrita talks to Talking Cranes about her entrepreneurial journey.


Tell us about your family, education and growing up.

I grew up in Jammu J&K, India in a very multicultural family. My mom’s family immigrated during partition  from Muzaffarabad and dad’s family are born and bread Jammu Dogras. I went to a Catholic school like a lot of girls in our time. My undergrad was in computer science from Mysore India, where I also met my husband.


Tell us about Vastra by Namrita Chettiar and how it came to be. Did you have Business Plan? What were your first steps?

Upon moving to San Francisco in 1998, I decided to finally pursue my passion. I enrolled in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco. Upon graduating I interned with a Couturier, following which I expanded my experience as the lead designer for a manufacturing company, traveling extensively to South East Asia including India, China & Hong Kong.  I always knew that Bridal was my forte. Vastra was launched in 2008 after an initial failed startup, which taught me a lot. Yes, I did have a business plan. My initial step was a trip to india meeting manufacturers and vendors.


How long would you say it took Vastra to be successful? Tell us about your successes. What were the challenges?

I launched my business early 2008 and fortunately had two very profitable years. We then moved to Austin, Texas with my husband's work for 3 years and my business was on the back burner. I kept it going with trunk shows in bay area quarterly which though challenging, kept my clientele intact. Now that we are back here and settled,  I have rolled up my sleeves again and thing are starting to fuel up slowly. Have big goals for this year.


Custom Bridal Couture is one of your fortes.  Can you take us through the design process with a typical bride?

Custom bridal is like a roller coaster ride for a lot of the brides, and my job is to guide her through the process as smoothly as possible. Its really a collaboration between the two people. While I love the ideas brides throw at me, my deep understanding of design, construction, fabric, silhouettes, and patterns, bring shape to the final creation.

After the initial meeting we start with a basic sketch for the client, which goes thru a few iterations. Once off the drawing board, we source fabrics, finalize colors and do embroidery samples before the actual outfit is worked upon. Incase of gowns, we also make a muslin sample of the outfit before the actual outfit. Though sometimes the process can be overwhelming for a client, the end results are always worth the effort.


Do you have a guiding principle?

YES I DO! Over the years I have got numerous calls where clients have asked me to copy other designers. And my answer is always NO. While I am quite inspired by others creations, I see no reason to be a knock-off business. Firstly, I absolutely enjoy what I do and am good at it, and secondly I am not a cheap alternative to other designers.


Did networking help in developing your business?

Absolutely. Networking is the foundation of every business, but of-course eventually you have to have a strong product and service to follow thru as-well.


What do you do to promote or advertise your business?

I still network, a lot of my clients come from word of mouth. I do use online media to market my business and may add a fashion week eventually to my list.


What do you enjoy about working in your field of fashion?

Contrary to the perception, the business of fashion though quite glamorous, is very labor intensive and detail oriented. Creativity and attention to detail go hand in hand. People skills, administrative ability and good communication is key. Though it all comes to fruition when you see exhilaration on a clients face and that is the moment which makes it all worth while.


What are the advantages to being your own boss?

I get to plan my schedule and work at my own pace. Raising two boys and running a business is quite an adventure. But it also means that you got to be disciplined enough to manage your time efficiently.


Is running your own business more stressful or are you happier being in control?

I love being my own boss and the flexibility that comes with it. Though being a perfectionist by nature, I am never easy on myself. There is this constant feeling about what can you do next and how can you do it better. 


You work with folks both here in the US and in India – do you have a strategy for effective teamwork?

Communication is the key to effective team work. Its also important to understand the cultural nuances.


Did you have any mentors?

Absolutely. I have had numerous people who have guided me and continue to do so thru this journey. Family, friends, industry professionals and most importantly my hubby.


What qualities does a successful female entrepreneur need to have?

Time management, resilience, focus and absolute belief in yourself. Last but not the least, you have to love what you do. Else, there is no way you can sustain 18 hr long days of juggling kids, work, workout, socializing, family, volunteering, the entire gamut of 21st century life.


Are there challenges to being a woman in your field? or advantages? How do you deal with those situations?

Being a woman I am more attuned to what another woman  desires in-terms of her clothing. I understand the dilemmas we all face while dressing up. I have a very deep understanding of what silhouettes look good on different body types,what colors work well and last but not the least I am also their stylist in some sense, helping them put a  look together.

Yes its challenging. Firstly family is of importance to me, so sometimes you have to make hard choices. Secondly, I do feel at times challenged by travel within India. That being said, I have excellent family support in India and that makes the process somewhat easy. Lastly, you pick your battles and you make the best of what you can do.


How do you handle conflicts between your personal & professional life?

My customers always come first. I take a lot of pride in my client service. That being said, family always takes precedence in my case. I never take on something if I can not complete it successfully. It takes a lot of discipline to be able to say “NO”. Most importantly, I have a husband who provides me with the needed support. I could not do this without him and it never happens at the cost of our kids.


What is your view on the staying at home vs. working women debate?

Its very personal for every woman and family. 


What makes you smile?  Bucket List?

Running, A good glass of wine, Cooking and an evening with friends and Family.

My bucket list is simple.

Travel the world to experience different cultures & foods. 

Keep our family albums and hence memories up-to-date for posterity.

Instill in our kids the love for whatever they choose to do.


If you had a brand, what would Brand Namrita be?

That would be my dream come true! And I am working towards it. I have always defined my style as “modern classics inspired by indian royalty”. India is a land of inspiration, the challenge and fun though is how to take that inspiration and convert it into something that is appealing to the current generation of not only indians but a global citizen. Good design to me is one that blends seamlessly with its surroundings, yet has a unique flavor to it. That to me would be brand Namrita Chettiar.


Check out Namrita's website : http://www.namritachettiar.com


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