The Interpreter Of Fashion

Growing up in California, Rachel Roy, the daughter of an Indian father and Dutch mother, often rummaged through boxes of colorful sarees to create something new for herself. Today the Rachel Roy Collection is carried in upscale stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel and Nordstrom, and Roy is known for her personal sense of style in fashion circles. You won’t find any Indian touches in the noted designer’s ensembles, but there’s a whole Indian subtext to it.

“I’ve loved fashion ever since I can remember. I didn’t like the clothes I could afford so my mother taught me to sew. We had boxes of sarees around and my mom’s clothes from the 60’s and 70’s, so I tried to make better than what we could afford.” 

Roy’s father, who grew up in Madras in a family of a dozen children, joined the Indian Navy at a very young age and landed up in America. He got his citizenship and then his master’s in sociology and nursing. Roy recalls a typical Indian household with a very strong work ethic where the children were expected to be doctors or lawyers or at least dentists, and curry was dished three times a day!

Roy, who is married to the music celebrity Damon Dash, has been creative director of the women and children’s divisions of their hugely successful company, Rocawear. Dash himself loves India and sports three tattoos of Hindu Gods on his arm. Their six-year-old daughter Ava goes for Indian dance classes and loves Aishwariya Rai movies and Indian outfits from Jackson Heights. Says Roy, “She loves all the adorning and feminine things Indian women do. Being a brown girl in a white society, it’s good for her to connect to her roots.”


Roy’s collection is known for being feminine and graceful and is designed for working women, with comfort in mind. It’s inspired by the dignified, traditional Indian way of always being dressed up. Says Roy, “It takes a little bit of effort, but that’s how Indian women are taught. No matter how little money you have, you always had your saree on, your hair done, you had your bangles, whether they were plastic or gold.”

Her logo is gold, which she points out is the Indian black! Gold finds its way into her summer wear and she gets all her beading done in an Indian factory. Next on the agenda is setting up a store and a cosmetics line in India.

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