#50over50: Sangita Kathiwada
The Person Behind Personality in my #50over50 list is a designer at heart! Read how Sangita Kathiwada uses her sense of design to curate her apparel store, her home, as well as her life!
I met Sangita at a mutual friend’s wedding in Udaipur. I was told that I would be meeting a fashion icon who is also the Rajmata (Royal Mother) of Kathiwada. The description was intimidating to say the least. The image that I had in mind of a Rajamata or anyone remotely royal was completely decimated when I met Sangita. I met a petite, bubbly, exquisitely elegant woman, who became my friend instantly. Over the years, I got to know many aspects of Sangita and have come to appreciate what she has done to impact the community around her.
First - she is a great curator of objects of design. Over 25 years ago, Sangita started the trend to connect Indian craft and design from rural areas to high fashion. She started a store called Melange that features exceptionally curated articles of clothing and accessories. Each piece has a story, history, and a future in the hands of clothing connoisseurs who can carry it forward with them. When I walk through the store, I hear stories of the special embroidery technique from Kashmir, weaving patterns from Chanderi, Kantha work from West Bengal and more. She also launches young, new fashion designers. She was one of the first ones to launch designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anuradha Vakil. Many mocked her when she started this store and took it as a socialite endeavor. She proved them wrong by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the store in 2018 and still going strong. As the Vogue article described, she connects craft to high-fashion customers out of a store located on the “10th richest street in the world.”
Second - Her sense of design extends to spaces as well. Sangita renovated the Kathiwada House in Madhya Pradesh to its original pristine condition along with many other homes and spaces. She is in the process of opening Kathiwada House in Worli as a destination for well-being, which my millennial friends describe as a perfect spot for “staycation,” a spot to escape the cityscape from right in the middle of it. As I walked though the construction site, Sangita’s son Digvijay commented that he has lost count of the number of spaces Sangita re-modeled as homes. He said that he remembered her re-modeling something or the other all his life. Sangita visualizes spaces really well. Even when she was constructing her apartment where she stays now, she would tell me what would go where and I could not even come close to imagining the sanctuary that she created today. I love hanging out in the living room brightened by the skylight and the balcony that opens up to the starry sky. She planned each sitting space with utmost care to enable cozy conversations. Given the choice, I always opt for a meal made at her home and lounge around with a glass of wine.
Third – I love the way she designs her own life and the life of those who come in touch with her. She practices yoga, meditation, takes the time to learn many new skills like Sufi whirling. I can be assured of finding the most authentic organic food at her home. It is not sugar that you put in your hand-pressed coffee but the brown sugar made from the jaggery picked from the fields of Kathiwada in Madhya Pradesh. It is not just tea but simmered tulsi leaves with splash of ginger that would be served to you. She can tell you the origin of the dal, rice and the vegetables that are served on the table. She shares her home generously allowing TV shoots or dinner parties for those she considers friends. She is intensely loyal to her friends, no matter what the business ups and downs they may be going through. She is brutally honest and unabashedly by your side, based on what is most needed. In times of stress, in times when I do not know who to call, I always reach out to Sangita.
She is a wonderful friend flaunting her strengths and weaknesses with equal grace. And I always am glad to have that quiet space under the stars in her balcony to escape from it all.