First some music to go with the spirit of Rasa-lila .
The brand founded by the effervescent Darshana Bhanushali is a witness to a beautiful communion of the two beautiful and high spirited tribes – The Adivasi and The rabari
The meaning of rasa-lila is ‘Dance of love and passion’. It is so vivacious and graceful, and that is the spirit of the brand.
Journey of Rasalila
“After we got married, within 10 days of the wedding, my husband had to rush back to Gujarat for work and obviously being newly married I decided to travel along with him, leaving both our families back in Mumbai. Due to work commitments, a 10 day trip turned into a 7 months long journey in a very secluded village on the border of Rajasthan and Gujrat. The first few weeks were very strange for me, I did not understand the language or the culture, no friends around, I am the only daughter to my parents so leaving them behind for such a long time, was all very unusual for me. All I would do is go to my Husband’s marble quarry in the evenings and sit there and just stare at the huge white rocks till the moon came up. It took me a while to realize that what caught my attention and dragged me to the quarry everyday was a burst of colors against these white rocks. The local tribes who worked at the quarry, men and women and children, would all be dressed so colorfully. Their attires would be energetic. Those voluminous skirts of 20 meters with backless chemise and kilos of silver ornaments, draped on beautiful yet crude women. That spectacle soothed me and I had found my calling.
I did not understand their language, it was very difficult to converse with them. Everytime I would try and speak to a local, either they would run away or they would giggle so hard till I ran away. Gradually I started picking up their language and tried talking to them, I would go to the same place every single day so that they would familiarize and relate to me as their own. Finally we became acquainted and exchange of knowledge started. They would want to know everything about Mumbai and I was eager to know everything about them. And ‘rasalila’ wasn’t even in the pipeline back then. It was only because these tribes and their cultures are beyond beautiful that I felt the need to know them better. They are so vibrant, flamboyant and dynamic.
Did you know that most of them are into ‘live-in relationships’ with their partners, and not just teenagers, I mean someone who is 40 yrs old too. They don’t hop from woman to woman/man to man, they stick around with the same partner for long number of years but get married only when they feel they want to get married. In fact, I attended a wedding where the son and the father were both getting married the same day.
Their unity is unimaginable. A lot of tourists tend to visit this place, but nobody dares to eve tease any of these tribal women. Because doing that means going against the entire village and inviting trouble.
These tribes are the most fashionable people we could’ve ever imagined. It’s like Milan and Paris, a new trend comes up every 3 months, and everyone, I mean every single one, has to have that garment and that too overnight. I just don’t know how they do it, but for example it’s like until last evening they all had pastel ghagras in rayon fabric, and just this morning they will all be dressed in bright coloured cottons. So when I decided that I would like to introduce this culture to everyone living in the cities, I started off with the chintz fabric that we’re using in our current collection. By the time I could figure out the designs, logistics, costing etc, it was all out of trend for them. I looked like a laughing stock when I was standing in a fabric store trying to explain to the gentleman that I would like to order the skirt with a certain print and fabric and they were all trying to convince me that it is outdated. Only within the time span of 20-25 days.
Some more excerpts from our conversation with Darshana
What did you want to do when you were a child?
I definitely had a list of things that I wanted to do when I grow up. Like there would be some days when I would want to become a nurse, at times a sportsperson, or a chartered accountant, or a princess, or an ambulance driver. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to know how contrasting the list gets. And why just childhood, just a few years back, I told my husband, my fiancé then, that if only I could become an astronaut. So it isn’t necessary for me/for anyone else that you have to set your life goals at a certain age/time.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
The best piece of advice that I was given was “Don’t start this brand” . I just took it to my head that nobody, except me gets to decide that.
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night
The question that does ‘Creativity have an end too’? In fact, this is the kind of feeling that makes me feel hollow inside at times.
Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running business.
Use your head and your heart. Don’t let it be an either/or situation
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
These days come pretty often. Especially when a design doesn’t turn out the way I’d imagined, but then I remind myself that why I am on this journey in the first place and it all kicks right back in.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently, when you were first starting out?
Would’ve started out early. It took me a couple of years to convince myself that the urban audience would accept the rural fashion.
Name a woman (or women), past or present whom you admire or look up to.
I have the best role models any girl could ever ask for – My Mother in law and my mother.
The combination of these two women in my life has been very helpful, which is specially because one is thinks from the head and the other thinks from the heart. One teaches me how to let go and the other teaches me how to hold on. One’s taste is very retro and the other one is very contemporary. It’s like I have the best of both worlds.
Buy Rasalila Clothing and accessories via their Instagram page here.