We love global style as much as we love globetrotting, so imagine how excited we are to discover a new fashion label that celebrates the connection between the two. Introducing Shwetambari, a beautiful, art-inspired capsule collection of luxurious silk and cashmere pieces that to our mind is the ultimate modern wardrobe for travel, life, work. We partnered with Shwetambari to discover more about the inspiration behind her beautiful new label and get an insider window into her favorite travel destinations, love of art, and signature style, and most treasured positions.
Fashion Label: Shwetambari
Created by Indian-born, New York-based fashion designer Shwetambari Mody’, the collection pays homage to her homeland through vivid prints, intricate handiwork, embroidery embellishment, while providing an injection of New York cool with elevated highly versatile essentials that will take you seamlessly from the lounge room to the boardroom, and everything in between, wherever you are in the world.
Meet The Designer
We sat down with Shwetambari at her gorgeous apartment overlooking the Hudson River in New York’s Upper West Side to talk about – and most importantly touch – the sensual collection, and explore her love affair with art, fashion, India, New York, and food, glorious food.
Congratulations on the launch of your beautiful collection…
Thank you, I am living my dream and most importantly having fun doing it. I always wanted to be in fashion, that’s why I moved to New York almost 20 years ago to study fashion at FIT. I then did my MBA in Luxury Brand Management in Paris so creating my own collection marries my world experiences and love of fashion, art, India, and New York. During my time in Paris, I fell in love with design craftsmanship and savoir faire. It reminded me of Indian artisans, or karigars, who still use age-old techniques that have been passed down through generations. My vision was to explore different aspects of my country and create pieces that incorporate their beautiful craftsmanship, hand detailing, and embroidery but have a fresh, modern, New York twist. The collection is designed by me in New York, the prints are all mine and stem from my artworks, but it’s completely made in India so a true collaboration between artisans.
The prints are incredible, where does the art side come in?
My parents enrolled me in art classes as a child and it was one of those things that stuck. I was always sketching and doodling when I was meant to be doing math. I really enjoyed it, I was good at and it just became part of who I was. Fashion is also a part of who I am and the collection is an expression of the love between the two. I was working in the corporate world before starting Shwetambari and I felt creatively deprived so I would always paint at home. It was one of my resin paintings that acted as the catalyst for me to create the collection. When you pour resin onto the canvas it does its own thing, it’s very organic and it got me thinking about how this could translate into something else I love and that is fabric. I am very tactile and drawn to beautiful silks and cashmere.
The embroidery and detailing are also heavenly…
I was very inspired by my visit to the Rann of Kutch, these incredible salt flats in India, which is the heartland of Indian artisans. Here all the women dress in these amazing colorful creations which are so stunning against the desert backdrop. The karigars have been doing these incredible macrame and embroidery techniques by hand for centuries and these elements are incorporated into the design. Our green cape has this hand tassel detail and our black and cream robes feature this mirror-inspired embroidery, created with foil so it’s not too heavy, that makes such a statement. The collection really lends itself to movement and freedom of expression with the wild paintings and flow of the clothes and I wanted to portray that sensibility in a subliminal way. So I collaborated with dancer and artist, Natasha Diamond Walker, a soloist for Martha Graham who we shot dancing in the collection which is so dramatic and moving.
Where else does inspiration come from?
As a designer inspiration comes from everywhere. For me, it’s people, my family are my biggest strength and inspiration. I get my entrepreneurial side and work ethic from my grandfather who started his company way back when and today it’s successfully run by my father. My love of fashion comes from my mother. Ever since I was little, I thought she had great taste and I was immersed in it. It wasn’t so much about what she wore but the way she owned it and she instilled that sense of confidence and irreverence in me and my sisters.
Adventures in Wanderlust
Travel is a passion, what type of traveler are you?
I love traveling and experiencing new places, cultures, and things. I am fortunate that ever since I was a child, my family took us to a new destination every summer. That said, I also love going back to places I’ve been to and lived in. I’m equally happy in a buzzy city like Paris as I am in a quaint village in the South of France. I have a holiday home in Ali Baug. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Bombay and I love hanging out there and relaxing by the pool, that is my happy place.
Which destinations have shaped your life?
I fondly remember going to Switzerland as a kid. A lot of old Bollywood movies were shot there with all these romantic songs. Coming from Bombay, seeing the snow for the first time was the most magical thing. Even after living in NYC for almost 20 years I still love the snowfall. My husband James and I went to a quaint vineyard in Napa Valley and had the most amazing experience. It inspired us to go to the vineyards in Tuscany such as Podere Le Ripi, which I also adored. And of course, I love Paris, having lived there and still have close friends. My best memories are sitting on the Seine with a glass of wine until late. I can’t count the number of times I have visited Florence. It is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet for its art, culture, fashion, and delicious Italian food.
Share your favorite hotels?
The Umaid Bhavan in Jodhpur also holds a special place in my heart. I got married there and you only need to look at images to understand its beauty. It’s a Taj property so the hospitality is beyond belief. And Plaza Athenee in Paris. Every time my parents came to visit when I lived there, they stayed here. It is so beautiful and the service was amazing, they do these special little touches like put lavender on your pillows, and you’re out for the count. I have had also many amazing experiences at The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai; birthdays, weddings, and every time I visit, I have dinner at least three times, it has the best restaurants.
Where else is on your bucket list?
There are three places that I am obsessed with visiting. Japan for sakura, sushi, omakase, and art. Egypt, since I was a kid, the pyramids, pharaohs, and entire culture have held a deep fascination. And Kashmir is considered one of the most beautiful places in India. It’s set in the foothills of the Himalayas and looks magnificent in pictures.
Shwetambari’s Stylish Life
Describe your signature fashion style?
I love fashion and always have. I dress for myself, I am not a trend follower. As long as you feel great in something you feel confident and comfortable and that is the spirit I am trying to convey with my brand. It’s fashion, there are no rules, it’s about owning your personal style. And for me, that involves a good high heel.
On the plane, I always take one of my silk or cashmere shawls or wraps as I am always cold and a blazer so I look a bit polished. On a long haul, I pack PJ’s in my carry-on along with my silk eye mask. I designed these light-weight silk pajamas that are so cute and cozy, and change on the flight to sleep and then back into my clothes so I land looking refreshed.
What does your beauty and wellness regime look like?
I eat well most of the time, so when I travel I enjoy a splurge. I believe the most experimental way to get to know a culture is through food. With beauty, less is more when it comes to skin. I love La Mer’s Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream and my face wash is Pink Grapefruit by Neutrogena. My biggest tip, which is also perfect for jet lag, is after a shower I put ice on my face. Ice closes the pores, brightens the skin, and reduces puffy eyes, it’s also free and you can get it anywhere. If you want to retreat and rejuvenate in nature, the VIVA MAYR Health Resort in the wilderness by a lake in Austria is so beautiful.
Are you a collector?
I love collecting coffee table books, especially fashion and architecture. There is nothing better than the smell of a new book and the sensory experience one has when flipping through the pages. The art scene is thriving in India. My parents have collected art for a long time, and through them, I am learning how to collect. Most recently, I was in Udaipur and I bought the most beautiful miniature paintings by a local artist. They hang right beside my Slim Aarons in my New York City apartment, always reminding me of India.
Share your most treasured possession?
My engagement ring. It was my husband’s grandmother’s and was made pre-WW2. It is so beautiful and so sentimental to his family, so the fact they would give it to me means so much. My mother also gave me a diamond ring of hers on her 60th birthday, that my father had given her for their 10th wedding anniversary, it was so treasured by her so that’s very special.