Reviewed: Why Fashion Girls Love Roopa Pemmaraju

What inspired you to start your business?

When I grew up in Bangalore and later moved to Australia, I became infatuated with the patterns used in indigenous Australian and Indian art. While living in Australia, I had the idea of using their art and putting it onto garments, then giving back to the talented artisans in this region. I felt that indigenous Australian and Indian cultures, who are known for their textiles and pattern work, were not being properly represented in the fashion industry as much as they should be, and I wanted to showcase their work to a new set of eyes who would appreciate it while giving back to the talented people who create these works of art. I started this brand on the value of supporting the artisans through the craft they worked hard to perfect and keeping these traditions alive so the next generation can learn and enjoy them.

How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?

They’ve had an impact on our business. Adjusting our atelier in Bangalore to be a place where all the artisans are safe took a little bit of time and adjusting. Adjusting to the stay-at-home orders has definitely affected me here in the States. I just moved to New York in September, and with the lockdowns and social distancing, it has been difficult to meet people in the industry. I had to approach this differently, utilizing more digital means to get in contact with my team and possible partners.

Another way the lockdowns have affected my business in the U.S. is that I have been unable to set up my office due to the lockdowns, and I had to become accustomed to working out of my 1200 square-foot apartment. I quickly learned it’s pretty hard to pack over 600 orders of face masks in such a small space, but I make it work.

Before all this was going on, we were focusing much more on ready-to-wear—now our focus has been more on our face-mask line. Due to the pandemic, we have been backlogged on masks, but the success of the line has allowed us to get our products in the hands of so many new customers while giving back to the artisans and lessening the struggle they are facing.