by Aida Toro
Sex and the City’s fictional character Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Every year, the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future...this is known as Fashion Week.” I, of course, am one of those New York women who alaways looks forward to New York Fashion Week (NYFW), which is what I refer to as one of the most wonderful times of the year. For February’s NYFW, I had the luxury to stop by the Nomad Hotel to meet with designer Lavanya Coodly. When I walked into the suite she had reserved at the Nomad, Coodly and her assistants had all of the women’s and men’s collections hung neatly on racks as well as an assortment of accessories laid out on a table.
“I had always nurtured an interest in textiles, design, color and current trends,” said Coodly to me while we sipped on coffee and had croissants. “I really believe that trends reflect how a society is moving forward as a whole.”
She was born in India and moved to the United States in 1980. Currently, she resides in the Boston area and travels between New York and Boston as much as possible. Mainly, Coodly partially pursued her education in India, since she completed it in the United States.
“I didn't get the opportunity to pursue fashion design full time until 2013,” she said. “ I used to work in the area of cancer research for many years.”
Coodly mentioned that research life has its ups and downs, but even during the best times, she had a feeling that someday she would move on from it. For Coodly, working in fashion design did not happen overnight, as she went back to school in North Carolina to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Business and Political Science, Following that, she studied business management.
“It was only after that, I decided to pick an area that I would be delighted to get up each day to be a part of, to work for myself and create a work culture and environment that I and my co-workers enjoyed,” she said.
Once she began her quest in the world of fashion design, Coodly’s first ever pieces were tunics and dresses - plain, embellished and with fabric manipulations. She started experimenting with ideas that involved texture and color. The ideas for color arrived from nature and contemporary art that Coodly had admired for years.
“I have always been fascinated with hand craftsmanship and wanted to be involved in it at some level or the other which is where using hand embellishments came into the story,” she said. “Manipulating fabric to create and present new ideas is also exciting to me.”
Coodly’s brand strives towards providing an extent of options to acknowledge the needs and moods of the urban woman who desires a closet that manifests her diverse interests. The brand portrays the individual that understands, collects and sports garments that are delicately hand- embellished by seasoned artists.
“Urban areas tend to attract people of diverse backgrounds and I found myself living in cities and absorbing the lifestyle of a metropolitan dweller,” said Coodly. “You may not have a large closet but whatever you purchase has to be of style and work with other items from your closet.”
Aside from dressing the women and men who have urban styles, Coodly’s brand provides clothes for children as well as for everyone who isn’t considered to be a city slicker. As she’s been successful in the field of science and as a designer thus far, Coodly is also a mother.
“I have always placed motherhood on the top of my list and that was not negotiable,” she said. “I planned my work life around my son's school hours, after school activities, his academic requirements and spending quality time with him.”
A challenge Coodly has overcome is being a designer that lives in the United States, whereas much of the work is executed overseas. She mentioned that designing involved a lot of traveling and constant communication.
“I had to teach myself to sketch and found myself waking up at all hours of the night to talk to my staff overseas to get the work done as I envisioned,” she said. “I had to travel a few times a year as well to spend time with my staff. Fortunately, they are older and able to manage themselves.”
Alas, Coodly believes that one has to love what they are doing in order to bear all of the hard work and frustrations the fashion industry entails. Tenacity, commitment, learning experientially and having a great team is essential as well, mentioned Coodly.
“Great teams take time to build and being open to experimentation makes the process more exciting,” she said. “In the end, you must do what makes you happy and that will bring you the results that you will enjoy.”
Styling: Sam Bates
Models: Katia Selinger and Danielle
Assistants: Oliver Hunt and Rongguo Tang