Babi and Sachin Ahluwalia Reflect On Their Journey Together
They met while studying at college (Fashion Institute of Technology) over two decades ago in the Big Apple, bonding over all things sartorial. Cut to the present day and you can spot their creations on everyone from Alia Bhatt to Emily Blunt. For New York City’s couturier couple Babi and Sachin Ahluwalia, joining the fashion industry was but an organic progression. “For both of us it’s a family business. My mother was a womenswear designer in Mumbai; I apprenticed at her studio for a while before leaving to study business. I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature; one of my first projects was a block-printed men’s shirting line which was sold in India,” says Sachin on how his journey began.
His better half, who similarly grew up with a mother who tailored clothes for children, adds, “As a college student I interned with Rohit Khosla, learning the ins and outs of a small atelier, from fabric sourcing to handling clients.” And after several years of putting their knowledge to use while running their embroidery business and supplying their creations to several brands — including being mentored by “the peerless Oscar de la Renta” — they launched their eveningwear label Sachin & Babi, in 2009.
“We were inspired by the women we know, and wanted to give them what they needed. Today, when every moment of one’s life is photographed, women need a variety of beautifully-made clothes for a whole season; the same gown for every event doesn’t work anymore,” explains Sachin. While their eponymous brand was created with the intention of making dressing fun again, the couple forayed into the bridal space last year, to much success. Says Babi, “It was a natural evolution. Clients would come into our boutique asking for white versions of gowns in the prêt-à-porter line, so it just made sense to branch out.”
While the Upper East Side of NYC may be home for them today, the duo heads to India frequently, taking ideas and inspirations back each time. Their most recent collection for Fall/Winter 2017 was a nod to their love for Jaipur, where the jewels found in local bazaars fascinated them enough to become the muse for the line. Currently working on their Spring 2018 Bridal Collection (and a few other projects they’d like to keep under wraps), they’re also looking to expand their jewellery offerings, after the success of their quirky-but-glamorous Coconut earrings, handmade in Mumbai. The couple has managed to thrive in an intensely competitive industry, and we are curious to know what their secret to survival is. “Suit up, show up, and keep working on evolving the product and making it better,” advises Babi. Adds her partner, “You keep yourself relevant by keeping up with trends and holding form and function foremost.”
Though the two do take business home and are constantly connected to their office, they try to balance work and play as much as possible, unplugging occasionally. On their bucket list of people to design for are Helen Mirren and Alicia Vikander, but they’d never style one another. “We’re both too opinionated to do that! My style is classic with a relaxed silhouette; I love a nice trouser with a flowy top and of course some statement jewellery,” says Babi. Her husband’s taste is more simple and casual — usually a nice pair of jeans with a white button-down. “If I have any ‘signature’ accessory it’s a blue leather Prada bag I’ve had for ages,” he says. While their inspirations change with every new season — from travel and art to books and interior decor — the two are constantly looking to “incorporate classical elements in designs, with an eye towards making them fresh”.
For a couple that’s recently completed 20 years in the world of fashion, Babi and Sachin still have the same zeal and motivation that one would associate with those beginning a career. Looking back, would they have done anything differently? Answers Sachin, “No, I don’t think so. Of course, we’ve learned things along the way that might have led us to make different choices if we had the knowledge then that we do now. But that’s life, isn’t it? Mistakes are the best teachers.” His spouse echoes the sentiment: “The detours make the journey. No regrets at all, just keep moving forward but let the past inform you.”