Fashion

Three Generations of Women and a Bespoke Fashion Label

The fascinating story of three generations of dynamic women behind the bespoke fashion label Sue Mue in Delhi.

Way back in the 1960s, while India woke to the global hippie culture and the fashions of Mary Quant and Jacqueline Onassis ruled the ramps, a dexterous homemaker in Delhi began hand-crafting dresses for her little daughters.

No one could have foreseen then that this passion of hers would one day build up into a label of bespoke handcrafted luxury, catering to the bridal and occasion-dressing needs of entire generations of women from around the world, including Bollywood fashionistas like Sonam Kapoor Ahuja.

Starting with lovely clothes for her own daughters and others in her family, Narinder Mohan gradually began catering to a large group of fashionable women in Delhi. With a flair for colours and fabrics, an understanding of women’s bodies and a commitment to quality, she soon built a strong base of loyal customers.

L-R: Mahima Gujral Wadhwa and Narinder Mohan

Her husband Surinder Mohan quickly realised her promising young venture would need professional intervention. And so he supported her with his business acumen and helped her launch Sue Mue in 1968. The couple spent the next few decades creating and nurturing what is now a heritage brand, located in south Delhi’s popular Green Park market.

Their daughter Mohita Gujral, who had grown up surrounded by the touch of Indian textiles, and who had come to love the beauty of custom-made clothing, joined her mother’s business along the way. “My mother’s perseverance, ethics and aesthetic sensibilities helped shape me both personally and professionally,” says Mohita.

L-R: Mohita Gujral and Mahima Gujral Wadhwa

A visionary in her own right, she set about taking bold approaches in Indian trousseau-wear, attracting a new set of clientele who cherished quality and tradition but also desired something modern and chic.

Gradually, Mohita entirely took over designing, sourcing and manufacturing at the firm with a commitment to upholding high standards in design, cuts and fine fabrics.

Over time, Sue Mue became a celebrated brand known for its subtle style statements, and was sought after by Delhi’s crème de la crème. The store itself underwent a metamorphosis – spread over three storeys, its quiet, luxurious and tasteful interiors were designed to transport shoppers into a feminine fairytale.

Inside the Sue Mue store

And then came the third generation – Mohita’s own daughters grew up. The elder of the two, Mahima Gujral Wadhwa, showed an inclination towards fashion from a young age. After completing her graduation in fashion management from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, she returned to India and joined Christian Dior.

Three years later, she joined Sue Mue to help expand the operations of the fashion house by strategising and executing a growth plan for the brand. “My mom’s been an entrepreneur since she was 18. Her drive has inspired me all my life. She has kept the legacy of my grandparents alive,” says Mahima, who spends her time between Singapore and Delhi.

She has also launched her own vertical under Sue Mue called Sui, a label that offers environmentally conscious clothing.

Sue Mue’s latest Sally-O collection

The service that the brand holds dearest is its bespoke design. Though the label comes up with new collections twice every year – both prêt and couture – everything you set your eyes on at Sue Mue can be customised exactly as per your body type and personal tastes.

They also offer a large variety of high-quality textiles that can be used on any of their existing designs, or create a new look as per your requirements.

The bespoke services extend to their bridal range, which has clients worldwide. Take, for example, 25-year-old Toronto-based fashion designer Mashiat Faroza, whose traditional Bangladeshi wedding was spread out over a year and 13 events! After researching various bridal around the globe, she zoomed in on Sue Mue in Delhi to create her customised bridal trousseau.

“I bought a lot of stuff from Sue Mue; their embroidery, customer service and customisation is the best I have come across,” says Mashiat. But her personal favourite was her rukhsati (or bidaai) lehenga.

Made using eight metres of fabric, the ensemble consisted of a deep maroon blouse in raw silk, a tulle dupatta in gold and maroon, a trail almost three feet long and a dramatic red lehenga with zardozi in gold and light gold. With embroidery inspired by Mughal fort architecture and embellished with sequins, the 25-kg lehenga took 13 months to create.

Sue Mue’s spring-summer 2020 collection Sally-O is inspired by the glamour and confidence of 1950s Hollywood. Featuring Indo-Western separates and fusion ensembles, it is feminine, dynamic and experimental. Mohita explains, “The collection celebrates each woman’s independence and strength.” No doubt those are values the Sue Mue ladies cherish themselves.

First published in eShe’s April 2020 issue

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