March 18, 2021 Asmita Aggarwal

Round peg in a triangular hole

Sohaya Misra of Chola lets the unpredictability of free flowing painting reflect the fragile human existence on her anti-fit ensembles

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sohaya Misra is a new mom and has recently shifted her home to Goa, so life has really been challenging this past one year. When it came to getting back to the moodboard and designing a line, from the beach, she almost gave up, till a little prodding from her husband brought her to Mumbai, and within a matter of days, she knew what she wanted to display. A self-taught-stylist-turned-designer, for 20 years Misra worked with Channel V and MTV as well as the big, bad world of advertising and everything happened to her by sheer serendipity, even the launch of Chola.

Now the story goes something like this— when she was a baby and had just begun talking, family members would endearingly enquire her name, her quick answer was “Chola” and it somehow stuck even though no one knows where she caught it from.

The label represents this childhood abandon, a free-spirited ethos that is not constricted by trends, fads or seasons, in fact you can style her clothes just the way you like—-pull a string, roll up or button it.

“Right from the beginning, I wanted my own language, anytime, anywhere clothing that was durable, which you can wear with something already in your closet,” she explains. Post-pandemic, the change that Chola has seen is mostly in volume, so it remains anti-fit, but it is more precise. Unlike most, Sohaya doesn’t want to expand, she wants to keep it small scale and that’s one reason why she could support her six-member team during Covid.

Her philosophy is not to eat, breathe and love fashion, but enjoy life beyond it and that is why she has sailed through for the past five years since she began.

The psychology major began with a pop up at Vintage Garden, done by her friend Arti and then as they say proverbially there was no looking back. “I do what I am passionate about so I stayed small, I didn’t want any added pressure of large scale that comes with multiple problems. I soon realised fashion is not some romantic journey of making clothes you need an astute business mind as well,” she smiles.

With no dyeing, printing or embroidery, her ensembles are naturally sustainable using linen, and now organic cotton, poplin and mul-mul following the tagline no age, sex or size bar. “My mom wears my clothes so does my friend’s daughter who is 14, they take you from day to evening,” she adds.

She wanted to work with natural fabrics that’s how she collaborated with Anandi Enterprises and their brand Recca which recycles cotton. Sohaya works with free hands and never learnt cutting or pattern making and this has frankly worked in her advantage.   This year for FDCI X LFW she revived monochromes and mostly offered a neutral palette. Her sister Renuka Jalan, introduced hand painted ensembles replete with a sense of imperfection.

This year, it is more dots constructed with a sponge and the unpredictability makes it interesting as to where the paint might take you. Titled “Human Nature” it kind of goes just like the paint, unrehearsed and not contrived similar to our lives no matter how much we plan, we always end up where we are destined to be. Harmonious yet contradictory, we want to stick to the past with an eye on the future. “Painting has been a therapeutic experience and this line has somewhat been an emotional journey. I wanted to shut shop one month ago but now look where we are! My label was born out of an experiment so I can’t say where I will be one or ten years from now,” says Sohaya.

Online, she believes is the place to be as you know how much and for whom you are producing, there is no wastage, like consignment orders and no energy spent on running large businesses, or manpower. “Even if you look at what I did, in terms of shopping it was only for my new home and the baby. So we as designers need to relook at what customers want and not produce 100 garments and wait for them to sell,” she concludes.

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