"What I try to specialise in is to understand the client"
New York-born Ruby Bhandari is a fashion designer and founder of Silk Threads, Inc.
Her immaculate designs are not simply garments, Ruby set out to create ensembles that reworked traditional and modern embroidery.
Ruby had a fascination with aspects of the Indian culture: the array of vibrant colours, lavish weaves, imperial fabrics, stunning embroidery and embellishment.
Years before Hollywood noticed the superiority of the Indian artisanal aesthetic, Ruby was working with conventional and modern designs.
This allowed her to create unique designs tailored to meet the expectations of her clients and tell a different story each time.
This has led her items to being sold in 400 boutiques in 30 stores. Ruby also has her store in Carrollton, Texas.
This talented designer was also voted as D Magazine’s 10 Most Beautiful Women in Dallas in 2013.
DESIblitz had an exclusive conversation with designer Ruby Bhandari about her journey, obstacles and inspiration.
Indian Heritage and Western Sensibilities
Ruby recognised the lack of fashionable ethnic wear that reflected Indian craftsmanship but with a modern touch.
Her personal passion for this led her to combine her Indian heritage with her Western sensibilities. But how was this possible?
We asked Ruby how she found the perfect balance between her Indian heritage and Western sensibilities in fashion? She said:
“I think I have a unique opportunity to understand deeply and be part of two cultures.
“I obviously follow the design trends in the US, having been born and brought up here, but working with India has given me a sense of deep appreciation of the traditional Indian craftsmanship.
“I have been able to use this knowledge to create garments which not only embody the traditional fabrics, designs and cuts but also customise them for western buyers.”
The idea of setting up a business can be quite daunting as there are many aspects which go into this process.
For some, they leave behind their pursuit of education to focus on their business.
Yet, Ruby Bhandari embarked on her couture journey while she was studying at the University of Texas (UT).
There is no doubt this would have been a trying phase in her life. Whereas, Ruby used her degree, “Finance at UT, Austin,” to her advantage.
She considered the benefits of having an educational background and understood the way finance works in a business sense. Ruby explained how this helped her saying:
“It gave a good sense of how to work with numbers, which is important for anyone starting or running a business.”
Shine above Competition
With the stiff competition in the fashion industry, designers are contending to keep their creations in the public eye.
The various cuts, colours, embroidery showcase the unique visions of designers who express their meaning of fashion through their work.
We have been exposed to an array of exquisite styles, yet what is it about Ruby Bhandari’s designs that set her apart from the competition?
Ruby explained that one must work with their clients and take time to understand their vision, only then can you create the perfect ensemble. She said:
“I think there are a lot of wonderful designers out there, but what I try to specialise in is to understand the client, their life story, and what are they trying to wear that particular for – that helps me customise the dress or menswear based on the event, the mood, and the big picture.
“That is very different than what you can pick up from a rack in the store, and even if you work with a designer, they may not spend time to understand the nuances.”
Over the years, Ruby Bhandari has created exquisite and extravagant items of clothing.
Each piece has been devised with specific embroidery and embellishment that surely makes heads turn.
We asked Ruby to select her favourite style and embroidery type. She explained:
“My favourite style is contemporary Indian because you can not only customise it for formal Indian events but also mix and match to create new options for western events.”
Ruby then went on to share which embroidery she likes the most. She said:
“From an embroidery point of view, I like the delicate threadwork-based Kashmiri embroidery the best, as it showcases not only centuries-old needlework but also can be the signature of a craftsman.”
As a result of her realisation that there was an under-served market for high-end fashion for the growing South Asian-American community, Ruby decided to set up manufacturing units in India.
This initiative was taken to achieve a better level of service and quality craftsmanship for both Ruby and clients.
Although, this process was not smooth sailing as Ruby Bandhari encountered obstacles on her journey.
We asked Ruby if she could explain her experience of setting up manufacturing units in India? She said:
“The short answer is it’s not easy.”
“Any business, from a small business to a large multinational has to go through immense administrative work to set-up a manufacturing or retail unit in India.”
She went on to provide advice for potential fashion businessmen and businesswomen. She stated:
“The best advice I can give is to either partner with a local entity or work with people who specialise in doing this kind of setup locally.”
Ruby continued to reveal the difficulties she encountered on her journey. She explained:
“Every business person encounters issues starting and running a business.
“In my case, there were trade administrative issues when we started, to now running a Studio with staff and infrastructure, as well as handling customers in 30 States from Dallas.”
Expanding the Desi Ethnic Appeal
Traditionally Asian ethnic wear is loved and worn by Desis. However, as the ethnic appeal flourishes and inspires mainstream fashion, non-Asians are fascinated with its beauty.
There is no denying the elegance, poise and grace of Asian attire. This appeal has extended to non-Asian customers.
In reply to a question about having non-Asian customers and what that was like, Ruby said:
“We have been working with non-Asian customers almost from day one.”
“However, their volume has significantly gone up in the last 4-5 years because of a greater adoption on Indian culture, as well as cross-cultural marriages.”
She continued to explain how non-Asian customers differ from Asian clients. She told us:
“I think non-Asian customers are different, as they need more upfront discussion about the occasion and the right garment.
“In addition, their expectations are more tuned to ordering online or from a department store, which is different than a custom-made design.
“There are several customer stories on our blog on SilkThreads.com which give the non-Asian customers’ viewpoints on working with us.”
The Difference: Womenswear vs Menswear
Innovation is at the heart of Ruby’s designs. Silk Threads caters to both male and female fashion. The brand entails:
- Custom dresses
- Ethnic wear
- Bridal trousseaus
- Men’s custom wear
- Elegant accessories
Ruby’s brand is sectioned into three primary lines: Silk Threads by Ruby Bhandari, Ruby B Collections and Silk Threads Menswear.
Ruby highlighted how various elements must be considered when creating items for men and women. Yet, it is seemingly easier to design menswear.
Ruby explained how the process for designing womenswear compared to menswear. She said:
“The process is quite different, as there are different expectations for a woman’s outfit – from the choice of fabric, the embroidery, the colours, the cuts, the event to wear it at, and who to match.
“Menswear has limited traditional designs – from kurta pajama to vests to sherwanis, so it’s easier to customise those based on colours and events.”
Alongside working on her brand, Ruby partakes in philanthropic work. She used her fashion expertise to benefit the wider society.
On November 16, 2019, it was the 10th Annual Fashion Gala which welcomed over 500 attendees to the ‘Shatter the Stigma: Refocus on Mental Health’ event.
Doctors donned stunning creations by Ruby as they graced the runway.
We asked Ruby what inspired her to take part in philanthropic work? She stated:
“The Indian-American population has the same issues as the wider mainstream – from diseases like heart disease and cancer, to domestic violence and abuse.
“As I saw that happening within our friends and clients, I started to think about how I can use my background in fashion to do my small part.
“That led to us starting our Annual Fashion Galas, all proceeds of which go to a selected charity.”
“We recently concluded our 10th Annual Gala, and the beneficiary was National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) – more details at SilkThreads.com under Events.”
100% of the proceeds went to the Texas Indo American Physicians Society (TIPS) and mental health awareness.
Summarise your Brand
Silk Threads is an all-inclusive brand that promises innovative design and timeless ensembles.
We asked Ruby to describe her brand in three words. In response, she said: “Wearable Works of Art.”
There is no denying, Ruby’s bespoke outfits epitomise beauty and splendour. We are certain she will continue to expand her brand’s appeal worldwide and look forward to seeing more creations.
Ruby Bhandari is an example of how having a vision, determination and motivation can lead to successfully creating your business empire.