Aparna Chandra, the girl from wonderland

Much of Aparna Chandra’s collection at Nicobar — Raul Rai and Simran Lal’s two year-old lifestyle and fashion store — is very similar to that line she showed on the runway all those years ago. But she seems to have found a permanent home for it here. The Rai-Lal couple had roped her in as chief designer when they launched their Tropicana-inspired boutique in Mumbai. They now have nine across India, in less than three years, and that tells us that this trio is doing something very right. The clothing line designed by Chandra here has developed a huge following. At the store’s Kala Ghoda outpost, smaller boutiques around it have begun to ape their lounge trousers, bush shirts, shirt-dresses and even the famous Nico Dress that keeps coming back in different avatars season after season. “My clothes need to be comfortable and flattering,” Chandra says. “The fabric needs to breathe.” This probably explains its uber popularity among the Mumbai ladies. Chandra’s fashion is like that too. She wants to shape culture, to push an idea of everyday elegance where dressing up is casual, but with a little effort and emotion. Like her series of white shirts, each one tailored uniquely, and a collectible. “I’ll never stop making all-white clothes.” She also wants to evolve her denim line.We meet again in the evening, at Rai-Lal’s storied Nizamuddin home. Chandra wears a white sari, with red roses in her hair. She shows us around her upcoming line, Midnight Wonderland, that will launch her eponymous label again, mannequins propped around the house like guests (without gin glasses in their hands). It’s in navy, chanderi, habotai silk, a sliver of brocade, and little poppies all over. “It’s a little more dress up, my idea of glamour,” she coos.