Crafting The Extraordinary: A Conversation with Maneesha Ruia
The brand's collection of luxury scarves for women features a variety of designs, colors, and materials, including silk, wool, linen and modal. These scarves are perfect for any occasion, from casual outings to formal events, and are sure to make a statement.
Maneesha Ruia's commitment to sustainable fashion is evident in every aspect of the brand's operations, from the materials used to the production processes employed. By choosing Maneesha Ruia's sustainable scarves, customers can feel good about their fashion choices and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Weaving imagination into reality takes threads of courage, vision, creativity, and discipline. All the above attributes made Maneesha Ruia a true fit for the international fashion industry. In the last 10 years, her collections have been shown during Fashion Weeks in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Las Vegas, London, Singapore, and India, firmly establishing the Maneesha Ruia brand in the fashion world for its luxury accessories.
When she muses on her designs, she aims to make them contemporary yet timeless. Maneesha strongly believes it's not just about the sales, it's also about making an indelible connection with her customer.
Even though she had a taste of success from her very first trade show in Paris in 2013, her work ethic, attention to detail and innovative designs haven’t waned as is reflected in the high quality of her product coupled with her passion and commitment to designing unique styles that resonate with a luxury lifestyle and, more importantly, her discerning customer.
Let’s delve deep into her life, inspirations, and profession.
You have participated in trade shows at some of the most prestigious fashion capitals of the world. To start with, where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Maneesha Ruia: I find inspiration in my travels. I love to explore new cultures and their attire. It's fascinating how different countries use textiles, embellishments, and silhouettes to create unique fashion statements.
Starting a new project can be daunting for any designer. What are the usual fears that you face when starting a new project?
Maneesha Ruia: Absolutely, starting a new project can be nerve-wracking. But I have learned to channel that fear into excitement. I am always afraid that I might not live up to my expectations or that the end product might not be well received. But, I take comfort in knowing that I have put my best foot forward and done everything I can to make the project a success.
You have a loyal following of clients, many of whom connect emotionally with your designs. How do you create this connection with your clients?
Maneesha Ruia: I believe that fashion is not just about the clothes; it's about the story behind them. I put a lot of thought into each collection's narrative, ensuring that my designs reflect that story. When a client wears one of my pieces, they are not just wearing a piece of clothing; they are wearing a part of the story. And that emotional connection is what sets my designs apart.
What is your favorite fabric to work with, and why?
Maneesha Ruia: My favorite fabric to work with is a silk and wool blend. It's a 50-50 mix, which makes it an easy year-round wear. The wool provides warmth, while the silk adds a luxurious softness. I love how this fabric drapes beautifully and how it feels against the skin. It is also versatile and can be styled in a myriad of ways.
What do you always carry in your purse?
Maneesha Ruia: I always have my measuring tape, camera, and sketchbook. These tools help me to document my ideas, take measurements, and create sketches on the go. I never know when inspiration will strike, so I always like to be prepared.
You work with artisans to bring your designs to life. Can you tell us about your relationship with them and how you collaborate?
Maneesha Ruia: My relationship with my artisans is the backbone of my brand, as it is they who bring my creations to life. I value their skills and experience, and they value my creative vision. Our collaboration results in a product that is a perfect fusion of traditional techniques and modern design. Most of my artisans have been with me since the inception of the brand, clearly establishing our bond and mutual respect for the craft and each other.
Your brand seems to embody a unique style and perspective. Can you tell us more?
Maneesha Ruia: Yes, that is precisely what I aim for - unique, beautiful and functional. I want my creations to be more than just something to wear; I want them to be a part of the wearer's lifestyle. I design to create pieces that can be styled in a myriad of ways.
What are your future aspirations for your brand?
Maneesha Ruia: Apart from continuing to expand the network of fashion stores and high street boutiques that house our brand, we have ventured into launching a full blown e-commerce platform of our own since early 2022. This way I hope to not only increase sales but also reach untouched parts of the world where my creations will be enjoyed. I am always looking for ways to push the boundaries of fashion, creating innovative and unique designs. I hope that my brand will continue to inspire and bring joy to those who wear my pieces.
Maneesha, what was the most challenging period of your life? Can you tell us how you managed to navigate those difficult times and how they have shaped you as a person and a designer?
Maneesha Ruia: I would say the year 2006 was the most challenging and pivotal year in my life. I was simultaneously facing the very early loss of my mother and an ugly divorce. Fortunately my family and friends were there by my side and provided their unconditional support during these testing times. This was a point in my life that I could have let the rest of my life slip by or go out and use the pain and suffering as the pillars to build something. I chose the latter and the rest is history…
Who are some of the people you are grateful for in your life?
Maneesha Ruia: I am grateful for so many people in my life. Firstly, my mother, whose passion, strength, and courage I have observed and imbibed. She was in the fashion business for many years, and I learned so much from her. I am also grateful to my family for standing by me in difficult times and pushing me to move ahead.
Additionally, I am grateful to my colleagues and staff who have been with me for so many years and taught me the tricks of the trade when I was raw and new to the business. And last but not least, all of my friends around the world, who encouraged and supported my endeavor to start the brand and go global. I am grateful for all the love and support I have received from these amazing people.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your brand?
We are committed to sustainability and ethical fashion, and we incorporate these values into every aspect of our brand. From sourcing GOTS-certified fabrics to promoting responsible environmental practices, we prioritize a harmonious relationship with nature. Our versatile pieces are designed to be worn in multiple ways, ensuring longevity and minimizing waste. We believe that fashion and sustainability can go hand in hand, and we are dedicated to creating pieces that not only look good but also feel good to wear.
What inspired you to start Maneesha Ruia, and how do you think your brand is making a difference in the fashion industry?
As a female entrepreneur, I faced numerous challenges in a male-dominated industry, but I was determined to succeed. After completing 10 successful years and having established a place for myself and my brand in the fashion world, I am proud to say that my brand has also become synonymous with empowering women. In fact, I strongly urge my team to hire women in every role possible within the organisation whilst ensuring equal pay and opportunities. With over 40% women in our workforce, much more than in most organisations in the fashion industry, especially in India, our brand has opened up many doors for women in this industry.
Over the years, The Maneesha Ruia collections have comprised of woven and knitted scarves, shawls, capes, wraps, ponchos, and jackets.
She sourced fabrics such as merino wool, cashmere, silk, linen, modal and blends from across India. Maneesha designed her collections in various hues based on the season and her travels. Each style was elevated with intricate designs, stunning lace applications, handcrafted embroideries and appliqués, leather, fur and other embellishments such as Swarovski, beads, and pearls. Each element brought uniqueness to her collections. These designs were exceptional as the specialised craftsmanship of an aesthetically diverse India enabled the designer’s creativity to come to life. Her ambition was to present a garment that could stylise every individual without it being unattainable.
The label was launched at a premier trade show in Paris to bring this stylish accessory with a twist, to the global market. The brand gained immediate visibility with a diverse clientele from Europe to the Far East. Launching on an international platform was a strategic decision for the company. Maneesha introduced her product line serving a targeted market that use these accessories through the year. Soon after the launch in Paris, it successfully forayed into the US market with a premier trade show in NYC.
Over time, Maneesha Ruia produced newer collections and expanded fabric versatility. The now globally established brand, retailing from premium department stores and boutiques, successfully entered the Indian market in 2017. Currently, retailing out of a showroom at its Headquarters in Mumbai, select premium multi-designer boutiques, and exclusive exhibitions across India.
A Maneesha Ruia piece is not an aspirational trend but a keepsake and heirloom piece. Each product transforms an outfit without overpowering the individual’s elegance and personality. There is something in each collection for every occasion, person, and style.
Maneesha started out by sourcing fabrics from various cities in northern India. During this period, she personally visited factories to better understand the nature and sourcing of fabrics. She also interacted with artisans from a diverse background across India, to enhance her collections. This process allowed her to build a formidable network of factories and craftsmen with an assorted skillset. Maneesha’s two-fold aim included sourcing a variety of basic fabrics from ethically reliable suppliers, and promote unique handicrafts that were prevalent in remote locations in the country. Like Maneesha’s personality, the brand is rooted in India, but created with a modern and contemporary aesthetic.
The process has evolved to outsourcing. All fabrics, their structure, graphic designs, and colour combinations are custom-made as per Maneesha’s requirements and direction. The brand intention to push conscious sustainability has gained momentum as most of the fabrics are made from natural fibres.
Since inception, giving back to society has been a conscious effort at Maneesha Ruia. To prevent wastage whilst enabling a livelihood cycle, the leftover materials from the collections are handed over to ‘Hamaara Sapna,’ a non- profit that helps women from the slums.
The team is part of a business culture that respects the workspace and its fellow workers. This ecosystem has been home for a majority of its employees since the origin of the label. In 2019, the business moved away from contract manufacturing to its own factory in the industrial area of Bhiwandi on the outskirts of Mumbai. This allowed the team at the boutique unit and corporate office in Mumbai to deliver distinctive high-quality products whilst being extremely stringent about maintaining industry standards at all levels.
As the label gained popularity, Mr Sanjai Ruia, an entrepreneur, and Maneesha’s brother, joined the business. His focus has been to streamline client interaction and stimulate business growth as Maneesha remains at the helm of the creative evolution.
The journey is evidence that this solopreneurship has grown into a globally established label. The brand has a forward-thinking business approach to bring creative value-addition to the client’s lifestyle.