Studio149, Swathi Purushothaman

Swathi Purushothaman - as imagined by Madhu
Swathi, an architect, designer, and a dancer - creates costumes under the label of Studio149. I had a conversation with her about one of the hats she dons - designer. Being trained as an architect, Swathi's approach to design draws inspiration from the same. There is a client with a brief, there is a social context, there are design constraints and possibilities - and one has to come up with a solution that answers them all. The medium of expression may be different, she says, but the process is very similar.

I love her approach to design - she takes each client and creates a solution that is uniqluely theirs. One rarely finds a combination of traditional fabrics in contemporary design in Chennai. She caters to a women who are proud of their personas and are brave to head out in a unique style. Who doesn't like being unique?!

Most importantly, when I met Swathi, she had an air of style. Our conversations were so genuine and heart-warming. In such a short time of our meeting, I learnt so much about her work and the industry. At the end of the day, I enjoy meeting interesting people like her! Below are her words to my many questions on life as a Swathi..

About working with clothes.. 

Being an overweight kid, my parents always used to take extra care that I got the right clothes that would suit me. Nothing off the rack would fit me well, so everything I wore as a child from dresses, jeans to indian clothes like pavadai sattai, lehenga etc were always tailor made for me. We used to hunt for the right fabrics, look for styles that would look nice on me and get them tailored perfectly. Once I got used to this luxury of custom made clothes, buying off the rack was never one of my options. So, making clothes was something that I naturally fell into and I have never considered it as "work" so far.

I enjoy the process of creating my designs. It just keeps running in my head even if I consciously want to block clothes off my mind. Colors and textures around me remind me of fabrics and ideas keep popping in my head. Being a designer is very close to being an artist - appreciation drives you to do more and criticism drives you to do better. I enjoy the demand in this "profession" to constantly innovate and deliver unique like-able and wearable stuff.

Studio149 creations
About her designs and inspiration..

I get the best of ideas when I enter my studio early in the morning when no one is around. Fabric stores are also a great source of inspiration. I love the feel and smell of new fabric - and a whole place of them, all together, just gives me an amazing high. Coco Chanel - one of my greatest inspirations when it comes to work.

I try not to overdo stuff. Just because something is complicated doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. I try to keep things as simple as possible. Also, I don't make design decisions based on what is currently in trend. If I look at one of my outfits 15 years from now I should be able to appreciate it and better still, wear it if it still fits. That's what I aim for - timelessness.

Women achievers really inspire me - Especially when I see women who have done amazingly well in their careers and have balanced their family lives well. These people have a lot of traits in common - they multi task, plan their time well, always strive to do more, and are just plain efficient. Most times - they present themselves really well, have an amazing attitude, and have a good sense of style. I have come across quite a few of them in my personal life and they really impress me.

About the clothes and the people she makes them for..

As of now I custom make clothes for women and children - sari blouses, skirts, dresses, shirts, lehengas, cocktail dresses, party wear etc. Most of it is custom made depending on what the requirement of the client is. This has really helped me see what looks good on different kinds of women, understand their needs and design accordingly.

The best of my designs, have come when there is creative freedom in what I do. Of course, there is a brief from the client to adhere to - but it works best when the details are left to the designer; that's when I can put myself completely into the design and deliver the best possible outcome. Showing images off the net and asking me to replicate the design - is something I often get. I want people to know that designers absolutely loathe this - replicating stuff. Inspiration is good - but copy is not what we want to do.

My clients come from all walks of life, predominantly in the age group of 15-35. Most of the clothes we make would fall under the category of bridal / party / occasional wear as that's where one is looking for unique stuff.

Studio149 creations
About learnings on her journey so far..

Never try to convince people on what's best for them, each person has their own sense of taste. As a designer , its our duty to respect that and cater to it. If that's not possible then it's best to say ""no"" and turn down the work.
A good team is the most important thing one needs as a designer - they need to understand my ideas and in turn, I need to give them their share of credit for the work that get's done
Timelines & budget do matter - just because it's a creative process doesn't mean you can overlook these constraints, it's ultimately a business - it has to strive - otherwise it dies out.

Where the magic comes to life
About getting your styling right..

Wear clothes that suit your body type & personality.
Don't go by what's in vogue.
Stay comfortable and bring the accessorising down a notch.
Diversify your fabrics and dress for the occasion.

About unwinding..

I don't watch much of TV. I love to see books with images. I keep browsing the net for images - it could be people on the red carpet, interesting furniture, lights, spaces, interiors, architecture, crafts etc - basically anything designed or created by people. Books - love the classics anytime.
Honestly, this field of work is so demanding and time consuming that I haven't had the time for books or tv in a long long time.


One can imagine! It has been a pleasure getting to know Studio149. Thank you so much for taking the time, its been a pleasure, Swathi! Papreeka will continue its association with this brand!

Also, Swathi is looking for an assistant fashion designer who can also handle client servicing. Do buzz her here if you want to find out more!


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