She knows how to weave magic


She knows how to weave magic

Jayanthi Ballal has managed to put Mysuru on the fashion map of the country. Sujata Rajpal talks to the fashion designer about clothes, choices and more

From a tiny tailoring unit in her house to the owner of a contemporary boutique in an upmarket area of Mysuru, a modelling school and the Mysore Fashion Week, fashion designer Jayanthi Ballal has come a long way. Eighteen years ago, she was content designing outfits and dolling up a few clients. The entrepreneurial bug bit her as she was running her tailoring unit at home, while assisting her husband in his production company. “Though he accepted my ideas, it was his company and he was the decision maker. Moreover, it was not my area of interest,” says Jayanthi.

So in 2002, she came up with her boutique, Needle Works, which caters to a niche clientele. Jayanthi then armed herself with a professional degree in fashion designing to brush up her basics. “Professional qualifications and experience are important, but there is no match to on-the-job learning. It is also a must to keep oneself updated with the latest in fashion,” she avers. A pioneer of sorts as far as Mysuru’s fashion scene is concerned, Jayanthi launched her label at her first fashion show in 2011. The first collection  became a hit and it brought her instant recognition as a designer. Gradually, she expanded her clientele through exhibitions and shows.

Matter of design

“The modelling school was not on my agenda initially. But I didn’t have anyone to showcase my own designs. The need to showcase my creations prompted me to start a modelling school, and also a model hunt.  It was done to benefit other designers in the city too, as it is exorbitantly expensive to showcase designs to the public,” she says. After organising 75 fashion shows, she decided to start Mysore Fashion Week in 2014 on the lines of Lakme Fashion Week. “Why should people of Mysuru be deprived of experiencing the latest in clothing and trends?” she asks.

Encouraged by the overwhelming response to the first season, which showcased several national designers, she decided to organise the second season, which is due in early September this year, where both local and national designers will be showcasing their wares. In the last two decades, the fashion and modelling scene have metamorphosed not only in this heritage city, but all over the country. “Initially, parents were reluctant to allow their young daughters to join modelling as a career, but not any more. Even though Mysureans are laid-back by nature, they are receptive to change and appreciate quality,” believes this mother of two, who balances her professional and personal responsibilities with aplomb. “It is very important for an entrepreneur to have a mentor, something I missed as there were not many role models in Mysuru. I have learnt by trial and error. I would have grown faster if I had an opportunity to work under an experienced designer,” she maintains.

Not that hard

In tier-two cities, the fashion industry is still at a nascent stage, despite fashion houses and designer boutiques mushrooming at every nook and corner. “It is not difficult to venture into fashion designing; one can start even without a huge investment, but it is extremely difficult to survive. You need to be innovative and keep yourself updated with the latest in the industry. These days, with many having access to the Internet, you need to prove that you are better than what is available online. Like any business, here too good communication skills are very important. Just churning out fancy designs is not sufficient, you need to explain, negotiate and convince the client about the suitability and appeal of the product as the public is well-informed, and everyone wants value for money. You also need oodles of patience and follow the rule that the client is always right,” says Jayanthi.

When quizzed about the gender disparity, Jayanthi agrees that people don’t take a business woman seriously, especially when she is new to the field. One needs to maintain a fine balance between being approachable and overtly friendly, as people may construe it in the wrong manner, warns the designer. 

“What after five years?” I ask. “I don’t plan my journey. It’s not that I am not ambitious or foresighted, I just believe in going with the flow. I want to focus on quality and giving my one hundred per cent to whatever I am doing,” says Jayanthi. For now, she is focused on the upcoming fashion extravaganza in Mysuru and is confident that it would be a gala event like last year.

“It is an amazing feeling of pride when people tell me that I am instrumental in bringing Mysuru on the fashion map of the country. I might have made more money and done better professionally if instead of Mysuru, I would have pursued my passion in a metropolitan city, but there is no comparison to the satisfaction of doing something for your own city,” she says. After all, everything in life cannot be measured in revenues alone.

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