Damodar Joins Emerging Show LineUp



SHE is no stranger to challenges because at 8 years old, Riddhi Damodar was already a gold medallist at Gymnastics in India.

Not one to do things in a small way, when in her teens Riddhi discovered clothes, she quickly discarded a tomboyish childhood nature and began a love affair with fashion which quickly made her a recognizable fashion follower when she moved to Fiji four years ago.

That journey has taken a huge turn with Riddhi’s entry into fashion design, making her the newest emerging designer at the MHCC FJFW 2013 and bringing to forth the birth of the RIDDHI DAMODAR fashion label.

In an exclusive interview with Mai Life magazine, Riddhi and husband Div, the Chief Executive Officer of Damodar Brothers (of cinema fame) gave a rare insight into the workings of one of the country’s most successful business families, the same force which now backs the beginning of the Dimani Fashion House.

Riddhi’s debut line which has an emphasis quality material, features prints which she has designed and sublimated onto rich quality imported fabric and which will be seen in public for the first time at the MHCC FJFW 2013 Launch on July 6.

The mother of 6 month old Dimani attributes the inspiration to move into production to her family but said she was inspired to create her own clothing line by none other than FJFW Managing Director Ellen Whippy-Knight.

“Ellen has always been a very motivating person. She gives good advice and spends a lot of time guiding designers,” Riddhi said.

“She has been my biggest motivation to actually get into fashion production. She told me, Riddhi you can do this!”

Riddhi turned many heads when during FJFW 2012, she rocked up to each nights show in a Dee’Elle gown, 8 months pregnant yet looking every bit the fashionable socialite.

“When I first came to Fiji, I didn’t know what to expect and I was so blown away by the growing fashion industry. I have so much admiration for Ellen Whippy-Knight not just for her work in fashion but also by her work as a fashion designer. I wear Dee’Elle a lot,” Riddhi said.

Among her other favourite local designers are Naziah Ali, Samal Singh and Robert Kennedy to name a few. Internationally she is a Gucci, Prada and Chanel girl.

“I suppose my style is simple, quality and elegant. I love garments which are classic and timeless but which also appreciates developments in fashion and current trends.”

“ I appreciate the work that designers put into their creation. I understand the effort behind it.”

The RD label will be much the same way as Riddhi’s taste, elegant, tasteful and rich in quality. While she values the importance of flamboyant designs, the debut collection under the RD label will be wearable designs.

The new line will be something that every woman can wear and the fabric will be the sort of quality that stays the same as the day you bought it. Her debut collection, a sneak peak of which the designer will be wearing at the Master Fashion Show on July 6 will speak of the emphasis she is placing on making rich quality fabric into Fiji.

“It will be high quality fabric with unique trendy designs but without the high price tags,” Riddhi says of her impending launch.

“When we launch, people will get to see a little bit of my interpretation of current trends while at the same time see the class, elegance, quality I intend to weave into all our future lines.”

The future is definitely going further then MHCC FJFW 2013 for Riddhi naturally has the backing of the Damodar Brothers name.

However, contrary to popular belief, Riddhi has not had her fashion future handed to her on a silver platter. Like any other start up business, Riddhi has had to pitch her business idea first to her company Chief Excutive Officer, Div Damodar, who is also her husband. He in turn had sell the idea to his board.

The Damodar Brothers company quickly realized the value of fashion not just from their daughter in laws influence but because when the family first came to Fiji more than 50 years ago, the first business they set up in Suva after moving here from Rakiraki initially, was in textiles.

The family initially ran a Bula wear shop across the road from the old Century Cinema. It was that proximity to the film business that changed the course of history for the family but it is a history which seeks to repeat itself with new life.

“At a board meeting the other day, Dad and I were talking about how we had come full circle with Riddhi now bringing fashion back. Its a good part of a history that Mom and Dad have been to and the good thing about this time around is we have a creative person within the family,” Div said.

“So we are starting this whole thing again and we are quite happy with this decision we have made. It is a little bit of serendipity that I have married a woman who is a creative person.”

Though personal in relevance, the decision was purely business, Div insists.

“There is a huge market there, there is a big gap to fill because we see that there a big rise in consumption retail. People are spending and the beauty part of it is there is quite a gap left and that gap is in Fashion,” Div said.

“Fiji Fashion has opened the designer’s eyes to see the opportunities in the fashion industry and I must commend Ellen Whippy-Knight who has given almost half her life to bringing this institution to life. The challenge that remains is of the ‘what happens after this” when the show ends.”

“Ellen has taken it to this level and so what are you going to do about it. We want to take up that challenge and do something about the ‘after this”.”

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Lice Movono-Rova is a PR specialist with clients in the fashion industry.