Nurturing his childhood dreams, James Ferreior
embarked on a career that was strictly all women. Today, he is
amongst the foremost fashion designers in the country with a rich and
varied experience. Here, he reflects on his career, creations nd the
direction he wants his designing dreams to take.
Long before the designer
boom in India in the 1980s there was a name in the country that was
considered that was considered one of the best in the business. James
Ferreira is one of the pioneers in the fashion trade.
Life for Ferreira as a
designer has been full of rich experiences and even his childhood
tales are full of designer dreams. I was never allowed a pen in class
because I always ended up drawing clothes and stylized figures, he
recollects. But the thought of turning this skill into that of a high
fashion designer only occurred when Ferreira saw an article on Pierre
Cardin in 1964 with the one-eyed sketch of a fashion model. From then
onwards he pursued his dream professionally. The first step was a
course in textile designing at the JJ School of Art in Bombay.
Along with that Ferreira
did a tailoring course at Sheroo Coopers Academy of tailoring.
Obviously, tailoring was not something Indian boys from upper class
families studied so Ferreira ended up being the only male in a class
of 20 giggling girls. But Cooper is proud of her star pupil who
turned into a celebrity 10 years later when he got his first
designing job at the then trendy boutique called the Purple Pussycat.
His salary was a princely sum of Rs.900/- for half a days work daily.
Ferreira supervised the tailors work as they churned out his
creations. The look in 1974 was the midi and the boutique was the in
place for funkily dressed ladies to shop.
Soon Ferreira started his
journey through the full list of design houses and companies, growing
creatively at every step.
With Orkay Mills he was
one of the team of international designers who created garments for
export to Europe and London. Then it was creative Touch, another
boutique followed by Indian Textiles at Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay.
Shalimar and Yasmeen Exports gave Ferreira a taste of the export
market again. Baba Saab, the high fashion mens boutique that
creates garments for men like Amitabh Bachchan was his next stop. A
chance introduction with top British designer, Zandra Rhodes, during
her visit to India, encouraged Ferreira to ask her for a job. I
showed her my sketches. She liked them and offered me a job.
Ferreira worked with
Rhodes for four months and he attributes his knowledge of prints and
embroidery to the master herself. Before I met Zandra I was not into
embroidery much. Now embroidery is the basis of all my creations. He
also learnt one very important thing from Rhodes, She told me that a
successful designer means 90 percent hard work and 10 percent
Returning to India after
his sojourn in the UK, Ferreira once again moved through a list of
designing houses starting with the H.H.E.C. in Delhi, then moving to
Bombay to start First Lady for Bada Saab owner Kishore Bajaj.
This was followed by the
opening of Kameeze, Touch Wood, JF, Anja Sanand Glitterati. At high
fashion boutiques who needed the prestige of Ferreiras name to
launch their outlets. A short stint with Tata Textiles for their
export division was followed by the opening of Tux, a mens wear
boutique and Upper Crust, a ladies wear shop. Ferreira also displayed
high fashion garments at Artistic. His present assignments are with
Eternia for a more medium-priced ready-to-wear line and as creative
head for Kala Niketan, the sari house which has started a design
studio of five designers for their many garment outlets in India and
UK. And yet, in spite of nearly 18 years of experience in the
designing business, Ferreira is not hung up on displaying only under
his own label. Till today I have not even designed a label for my
clothes. My clothes speak for me. Unlike other designers I want my
customers to look at my clothes and not at my label.
As a designer Ferreira
has not been inspired by any foreign designer nor does he emulate
anyone. I like to take chances. I dont mind if my clothes dont
sell. I am happy creating clothes that satisfy me. What about money?
I have my advertising, export and other trousseau work that keeps me
Ferreiras skill in
designing has been utilized by mills like Mafatlaa, Raymonds, Kala
Niketan and umpteen other fashion companies. Ferreiras creative
experiments may not sell for him, but very often others have copied
them the following year sold them. Maybe I am ahead of my time in
India. And so, although Ferreira loves working in India he dislikes
working for Indians.
Some of Ferreiras
first experiments have been the double layered sari in 1987 and the
flared sari pallau as well as the kameez in knit or jersey fabrics.
Today, Ferreiras cloths are not topical or trendy, they have
turned into traditional timeless classics that can be worn for years.
Ferreira loves working with natural fabrics like silks, cottons and
wools in basic colours like black, beige and white. Ferreira is at
home designing both ladies and mens wear. His specialties are
wedding trousseaux that could cost anything from Rs.75,000/- upwards.
A bridal ghagra-choli could even cost upto Rs.1,00,000/-. His
garments could retail from as allow as Rs.1,500/- to Rs.10,000/-. And
yet Ferreira admits modestly. There is so much more I have to learn.
Our approach to fashion is very fickle. It is more exciting if a
designer lives and works in his workshop and designs in it. Instead,
designers are too busy partying and socializing.
Ferreira feels that the
designing business has been spoilt by too many untrained entrants.
Just because one has a spare room, a collection is created, but their
colour sense is awaful and they have no concept of designing.
Actually haute couture finished in the eighties. High priced labels
are out. Besides the customers tastes have not improved. The younger
generation is slightly better because of he influence of Star TV and
For a designer to succeed
anywhere Ferreira places great stress on travel. One must travel
abroad to see what is happening, not to copy but to take in the new
Many of his creations are
heavy on embroidery which takes months to complete like the Jaisalmer
and the Gopi saris.
Ferreira lectured at the
Sophia Polytechnics designing course in Bombay and he is happy
with what the design schools are producing. But most students have
inflated opinions of themselves in college and expect to have their
own labels as soon as they graduate. They have no experience of real
What he would like to see
in India however is the formation of an organisation that will bind
designers together so that seasonal collections are presented. Maybe
textile houses could bring out new fabrics for designers.
We dont make
fashion fabrics. The latest thing is spandex and it isnt even
of a perfect quality. Till we have some sort of system in designing,
designers will keep churning out horrible outfits for expatriates who
want to wear what Sreedevi wore in her latest film. We are capable of
world class designes to compete with international designers from the
UK, USA, France, Italy and Japan but we have no system, he adds
Creator of classic in
fashion garments is how James Ferreira would like to be remembered,
and not as commercially successful designer. For thee are many who
design the regular and mundane in clothes but just a handful who can