GETTING PERSONAL WITH MEGHNA RAI MEDHI

'My designs have to be first of all wearable, and aimed at mirroring the image of our culture, its sights, smell and sounds. Tradition is the creative force behind all my designs,' she avers even as her clothes are lapped up by eagerly all over the country.

After completing a diploma course in Tourism in New Delhi, Meghna came back to Guwahati and launched her own label for women in 1993. And for the first time showcased her collection of garments in a National level fashion event, first of its kinds in the North-East with top models like Milind Soman, Shymoli Varma, Sherie Meher Homji and Shyla Lopez walking down the ramp. Her outfits are not intended to make major fashion statements. Instead they drift with the changing times, staying with touch but always rooted to wearability. Though not formally trained in any fashion schools, Meghna reveals that her association with the fashion world was 'accidental'. The fashion event in 1994, the venture with renowned fashion choreographer and her husband Vikram Rai Medhi, heralded the beginning of a new phase for Meghna and her clothes now find themselves in the upmarket of major cities in the country.

Three Femina Miss India winners Nafisa Joseph, Diana Hayden (also a Miss World title holder) and Divya Chauhan did their first professional fashion show together after winning their crown with Meghna at her collection at 'Ensemble 97' which took place in Apsara Cinema at Guwahati. Another delightful scene was when the country's heartthrob Aishwarya Rai went to receive the Zee Cine Award draped with Meghna's Mekhela Chador. Earlier, Aishwarya had came to Dibrugargh after winning the Miss World crown to promote Meghna's ethnic collection on the invitation of her husband Vikram Rai Medhi, who is also a National level Event Manager. Admitting the fact that her husband being an event manager helped her to enter big time in the National scene, Meghna says, 'I never had to bother about the sponsors, which is a big advantage for me'. Truly so, with the major companies shying away from marketing in the North-East states despite being a considerable large market, lack of sponsorships has been a major quandary for such events. 'I have now shifted to Kolkata so that I could directly deal with the Regional Managers of multinational companies, and not go through the long and irritable procedure here,' asserts Vikram.

Besides having the privilege of representing the entire seven sisters of North-East region under the invitation of Ministry of Tourism and Haryana Tourism at the Surajkund Crafts Mela, Meghna was also commissioned by the Khadi Village Industry Commission (KVIC) to present a series of Khadi fashion shows in the major metros celebrating 50 years of Indian Independence. Recently the Assam Oil division under Indian Oil Corporation has given her the assignment to design the new uniforms of the LPG boys with an 'environment friendly theme.' Does her clothes go with the image of a model or it just shows her own ego? 'No, I don't keep models in mind while designing my clothes. I choose models who looks good in them,' states Meghna cautiously. And is it necessary to have a 'perfect' body to wear fashionable clothes? 'Not so,' Meghna insists, 'A perfect body is not feasible always, but right attitude and perfect mind is the key. And lots of confidence to carry it off.'

The ever encouraging and imaginative Meghna believes that her clothes besides being wearable should satisfy her clients, which is her first motto. As for the price tag, she insists that though it is a speck pricey, it is quite affordable for the middle class. Meghna recently opened a life-style store 'Meghnas' providing 'clothing solutions' ranging from clothes, luggage and sheets, to jewellery at JS Medhi Commercial Market at East Dighalipukhuri. During almost a decade long career in adding glamour to the insurgency hit state, she ended up training and fostering many talents some of who rule the fashion scene today- Tora Khasgir, Darshana Talukdar, Ishani Gogoi among others. 'There is not enough infrastructures here. A career in fashion designing is not quite a 'happening job'; we don't have fashion schools, not sufficient regular events, shows, etc. Though it is slowly opening up, we have miles to go, but girls like Tora or Dipannita has done it.' Recently Meghna, who hails from North Lakhimpur originally, showcased some of her designs at 'Ensemble 2002' at the lawns of Hotel Ashok Brahmaputra after a sabbatical of five years.

The fashion conscious people of the city saw for the first time a non-stop fashion show with models like Meher Bhasin, Shonal Rawat, Jessica Gomes, etc walking a 100 feet ramp displaying a total of seventy outfits ranging from Sarees, Salwars, and Western funky creations to her 'trademark' Mekhela Chador. Another remarkable aspect was that a young deaf and dumb girl Piyali Chakraborty, of Kolkata, was among the models walking at the ramp that night! India's No1 women's magazine 'Femina' has featured her as the first designer from the North-East region to be selected for the Designer series and was shot by Rafiq Sayyed at the Tamulbari near Borjhar with top model Nayanika Chatterjee. In the 'Femina Great Weddings' issue, Miss India and film actress Celina Jaitley was featured as an 'Asomiya Koina' in one of Meghna's creation, who was selected with seventeen other top designers of the country. Femina featured her for the third time when Sumiko Murgai Nanda shot Channel V Veejay and model Nina Manuel at the Navagraha graveyard for a 6-page feature with Meghna's outfit! With the prospects of the newly boomed Assamese film industry looking bright, Meghna Rai Medhi is also open to the idea of designing clothes for films, another opportunity to showcase her own versatility and class in everything which she does!

Prodyut Kumar Deka