Jayanthi Ballal, the numero uno designer in Mysore and the proprietor of Needle Works, a design boutique, introduced to Mysore, the Mysore Fashion Week, showcasing several local and national designers. Mysore is again going to enjoy this fashion extravaganza which will be held on the 5th, 6th and 7th of the September .
Jayanthi Ballal, after completing her course in fashion design in the reputed vogue institute in Bangalore decided to bring fashion to Mysoreans. She started “Needle Works” in 2002. A young mother then, she had a passion for clothes and a penchant for neat lines and design.
Jayanthi and Needle Works have moved on to greater things while retaining their roots in the cultural hub, Mysore. She has included showcasing her designs through several ramp walks and organizing more than 40 shows for different institutions.
She recently spoke to Newskarnataka on a range of issues ranging from her background to fashion in Mysore and her future plans. Here are a few excerpts.
Jayanthi spoke fondly of her ties to Mysore. She told Newskarnataka “ My grandmother is from Rajasthan, but she married into a Kolar based family and they then moved to Mysore where I was born and brought up.” Jayanthi said her parents too are Mysoreans in every way, and while she is a Rajput , she is also mysorean, having married a south Indian Brahmin from Udupi, and settled at Mysore.
The Design Journey
She said that after completing her fashion designing course at the Vogue Institute in Bangalore, she decided, that being a mysorean at heart, she would bring fashion to mysore and she did that by opening her own boutique Needle works in 2002.
“Needle Works” started as a small, niche boutique catering to the discerning tastes of Mysoreans. Jayanthi spread her wings with stars in her eyes and launched her label in her first ever fashion show in 2011 at Kalamanidar. Her first collection excited her clients and the media alike which brought her instant recognition as she was splashed on the Page 3 of TOI and all the local media. Femina, the popular national women’s magazine featured Jayanthi recognizing her ability to bring the best out of fabric.
“Designing is not learnt. The course gives you a certificate. But the certificate is not the most important thing. Designing is intuitive and creative. For example, color combinations and fabric – they have to suit complexion and provide for a comfortable fit. It’s an art.. You need passion, motivation and dedication to succeed in this industry.
Jayanthi said that it is her 12 years of hard work that has taken her to the number 1 spot on Mysore’s fashion landscape. “Mysore is a heritage city and is conservative in nature. So people are very concerned about what they wear. They refuse to wear revealing clothes, which is right. I too come from a conservative family. Designs need not reveal skin. There are many different concepts to experiment with. I start a design by examining what I’d wear. If I am comfortable with it then I realize that such designs will be acceptable to the public as well. I popularized my designs and gradually expanded my clientele through exhibitions of my designs. “
The Model hunt “Fresh face”
Needle Works launched the model hunt officially in Mysore for the first time in October 2011. After a huge response several candidates were selected and groomed for 45 days by professionals from the modeling world. Mysore being a conservative city has seen new faces being introduced to modeling by Jayanthi Ballal and Needle Works. Some of whom have reached heights in modeling through sheer hard work and the firm foundation offered by Jayanthi Ballal.
Jayanthi said that it was she who took the initiative to provide students from colleges an opportunity to get into modeling. She said that normally the fashion industry prescribed a height of 5’.6” for females and 5’.10” for males. However she had provided opportunities to the shorter generation too where even a girl of 5’.3” height was offered a chance to walk the ramp draped in her designs. “I have been hosting the model hunt progamme “ Fresh face” for the last three years successfully. College students and youth from many walks of life have shown a lot of enthusiasm for the structured programmed and many have gone into a modeling career after finishing their studies. This year I could not do it as I am hosting a mega event – the Mysore fashion week.”
The Mysore fashion week
The Mysore fashion week , to be held in the first week of September will put Mysore on the Indian fashion map. Top designers from Mumbai, Kolatta Banglore and Mysore including Jayanthi will be presenting their wares at the Jayanthi hosted Mysore fashion week in early september. “ It is difficult, but I am determined to do it, I don’t like the tag that Mysore has, that of b class town. The airport was started and is now closed. People tell me to shift to Bangalore, but I want to take this initiative for the sake Mysore. Mysore should go to the next level. Bangalore would be much more remunerative in these matters, but I would like to stick to Mysore because I love this city”
Jayanthi said that the aim of the extravaganza was to provide a platform to designers from Mysore to participate alongside designers of national fame to help them learn and grow. “ I have encouraged home designers too to come forward, to start small, and maybe their designs will click. We all learn from our mistakes. I have personally gone to small boutiques in Mysore and tried to persuade them to join the show so that they learn from the big designers who will be attending the show. Learning is a continuous process, I too do the same.”
Speaking about the logistics of the show, she said that she has no partners and no confirmed sponsors as yet. Many have promised their support and she is hoping that they will make good on their promises.
As regards the logistics for the show, she is dependent on Snehal who does the choreography and Pooja Joshi for her organizational skills. “Choreography is as important as designing – how a model walks, poses, the songs, the theme, the backdrop etc. is as important as the clothes they wear while walking the ramp “
Jayanthi named her friend Pooja Joshi as her inspiration. She said that she was inspired by her extroverted personality, her leadership qualities and her faith in her. An MBA lecturer at JC College, “She use to push me” she recalls.
“She is the opposite of me, I am not very diplomatic or a people person, I am rather shy and straightforward. I am good at work and mind my business, but not a stage person” . She said that Pooja was all that she was not and handled the young aspiring models very well especially when they were rejected after auditions. “She brings positivity to those around her. She used to push me to believe in myself and my designs just as she used to push the models to perform when they had little faith in themselves. “
Challenges as a fashion designer:
Speaking about the challenges she faced as a fashion designer, Jayanthi said that her profession is a tremendous challenge, especially for a woman, and very stressful. She has to balance her time between her family and career very carefully and can hardly ever take a break. She lamented, “ I don’t know if its my perfectionist personality or anything else, but I do have a lot of sleepless nights because I want to be the very best at what I do, but I do enjoy seeing people wearing my designs, looking good and feeling comfortable in them. It gives me great satisfaction.”
Mysore and the fashion industry.
According to Jayanthi, the tribe of fashionistas in Mysore have increased. “It’s picked up a lot” she says. She is of the opinion, that it is the middle class that is driving the Mysore fashion industry, even as the upper class go to Mumbai and Bangalore to drape themselves. “We provide designs according to the customer’s budget and even provide clothes designed for various ramp events on hire to students for their fresher’s day and traditional day to drive sales and popularity and overcome budget constraints of mysoreans”
Her future plans
According to Jayanthi, all her events have received tremendous response from critcs, celebrities and audience alike and she is confident that the Mysore fashion week too will get the same enthusiastic response. She said “Winter and summer, I want it go on. I want to see how this is taken by mysoreans. I can concretize my plans only after seeing the response. But with the top designers on board and the celebrities in attendance I am sure it will be a grand success.”
We certainly hope so.