Freedom in a Drape!
Profiling Udd Studio and its designers
She was a graphic designer by profession; and by passion, an artist. Her doodles and scribbles were an escape from her mundane, everyday world. And until she reached her seventh notebook she had no clue of what was about to unravel. Yuti Edward, the founder of Udd Studio, never aspired to be a businesswoman but always knew that she is cut out for something better than the ordinary in her heart. Her husband pushed her to give shape to her out-of-the-box thinking and that’s how Udd was born. Carrying forward the legacy of Udd with a confident smile, she took out some time off from her busy schedule to talk to us.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT BOTH OF YOU. HOW DID YOU GAIN FANCY TOWARDS TEXTILES?
It was back in 2010, on one of our holiday trips to a friend’s farm that the idea of Udd was born. Being a graphic designer by profession back then, I always used to carry a notebook with me and I had it with me on our vacation. I am very fond of doodling and my husband (Atul Edward) has always motivated me to take my doodles a step ahead. The ultimate idea of translating my doodles into textiles happened when I exhibited my art to a close group of friends and family. They saw my designs and remarked how some of what I drew would look lovely on a garment. That pushed me to take it further. Since the start, from Warli art to Madhubani paintings, all art has inspired my collections and that is how I have taken my traditional inspirations to cloth for Udd.
AS A DESIGNER BY EDUCATION, HOW CHALLENGING HAS THE JOURNEY BEEN WITH UDD?
Indeed, it has been a challenging journey of sorts filled with memories that only made me stronger. I have never felt that not knowing the technicalities of the textile and apparel industry is a drawback. Rather, I took it in my stride to build myself bit by bit, acquaint myself with the little technicalities and it is a learning experience for sure. However, I would surely admit that being a fashion or a textile graduate kind of prepares an individual thoroughly in a more advanced way so that when they start their own label they are more adept to it. It was not the same for me but that’s my journey and what sets me on track, I guess.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE COLLECTION YOU HAVE.
Our designs are a confluence of ancient knowledge, traditional techniques, and modern technology. Every range we launch brings forth a unique style of fusion. Udd’s popular collections, so far, have been Kolam, Atmann, Rang, Baraka, Udd Panchi, Mehendi Manchali, Vrindavan, Warli Gatha, Patchwork Range, Totem Tandav, and Mahotsav. The unique style of storytelling and idea of putting India’s tradition to the forefront has been evident in Udd’s collection right from the initial days and our entire collection, including saris, lehengas, dupattas, skirts, and dresses, speaks shows our experimental ideas. We also tell our tale through fabrics such as chanderi, cotton, khadi, and silk and through fabric techniques such as tie and dye, shibori, etc.
YOU ARE TRAVELLING ALL ACROSS INDIA WITH UDD. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE ENTIRE JOURNEY.
Well, I do attend exhibitions in India with Udd. But, I would want to limit them to 5-6 exhibitions a year. I feel this module of displaying your brand at exhibitions is an exhaustive process and if I go on relying on exhibitions entirely for the success of my brand then the other issues such as logistics, travelling costs, and other related parameters will take the forefront rather than my collection or creativity. So, I want to stay focused on the collection aspect first and pour in my energy to evolve the brand and I believe then the brand will have the strength to travel the whole world on its own.
HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM MANY OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES?
I think our art backbone helps us distinguish ourselves from the others. We lacked the knowledge of the industry, but we believed in art. Thus, how we have amalgamated the two, keeping in mind the market, sets us away from the rest. We would love for people to know us as a textile brand that brings to life designs and art on fabric. Also, our technique is unique as we do not only concentrate on one style, rather we believe
in exploring styles based on the design intent and requirement. For example, we use a lot of handwoven styles alongside digital printing. So, this fusion does keep us apart from the rest. WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME OF YOUR LABEL? Udd is derived from the Hindi word ‘ Udaan’. Inspired from the idea of freedom from the mundane, everyday circle of life. This name came naturally to me when I was planning to break away from the monotonous everyday life I was leading for years. Udd symbolises freedom and our collection epitomises the idea of seeking freedom from the regular and gives our takers a breather so that they can give a break to cumbersome clothing.
FROM THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL TO THE FINAL PRODUCT, WHAT IS THE JOURNEY OF YOUR APPAREL?
It has been a pretty challenging experience, as we work with craftsmen and artisans from every corner of India. So, firstly, we have to extensively travel around to get our collections made and then it is the next stage wherein we have to make sure that all our designs and efforts are getting translated on the apparel exactly the way we have visualised. Most of our artisans live in the rural belts, so they have to depend on nature to a great extent. Living in cities, we have technology by our side, which is partly absent in the rural lifestyle, where even slight rain can deteriorate working standards and delay production. So, finally, after crossing all these hurdles, we get to the final product. We do feel that sense of completion that makes the journey worth its trials.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE FOR YOUR CRAFT BEEN SO FAR?
If I had to sum up our journey in a word, then I will say that it has really been ‘great’ so far. We have been very lucky to have so many patrons for Udd, given the fact that we knew nothing about textiles and apparels when we entered the market. The response we have been getting since day one
tells us we are on the right track and what makes me really proud is that we actually have repeat customers for our collection, people who are hooked to our creations. This overwhelms me, and motivates me to do more every day.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO CONVINCE CONSUMERS TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO NATURAL CLOTHING?
Well, I would say it is not so difficult to march the customers in the right direction as people have become more conscious of late and they know what they want. Women, especially, want to explore breathable, easy clothing that they can wear all day long. So the general tendency for them is to buy layered, flowy, and easy to wear clothes and nothing can replace natural fabrics in this department. I will be happy to share this fact that our customers have become so aware of what they are buying that today they do not feel shy to question what we offer and test us in terms of the dyes we use, the authenticity of the craft, etc. It does make you strive harder to perfect your craft to excel in the future.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE THE BRAND; ARE YOU SELLING OUT OF INDIA TOO?
We do have a good NRI customer base and I am more than happy to connect to a new customer base through our social media pages and website. To speak the truth, we have never really concentrated on hardcore promotions for Udd. Rather, I was lucky to get takers who were interested to buy, wear, and spread a word about Udd, based on their own experiences with the brand. You can say word of mouth got us more customers than we could ever imagine. We have started doing lovely photography campaigns on Instagram very recently and they are being received very well, too.
ANY FUTURE PLANS FOR THE LABEL?
We want to continue on our path to explore the artisanal route and collaborate with artists and communities to bring out India’s traditional craft forms into the limelight and along with that we also want to take our brand closer to the young audience by introducing an elaborate range for our accessories and bags collection. We are also considering diversification to add a home segment to our brand in the time to come.
UDD SYMBOLISES FREEDOM.