Soigne K: Handmade Fashion with Heart
by julie earle-levine
|Born to be stylish: Soigné Kothari’s first name means elegant|
Step into Soigné Kothari’s namesake boutique, Soigne K, on Madison Avenue, and you’re instantly enveloped in her world of gorgeous hand-made, bejeweled coats, dresses, and modern Indian jewelry—golden mesh cuffs and delicate pearls mixed with antique beads, including lapis, semiprecious rubies, and coral. The Mumbai native, who has lived in New York for 15 years, sources textiles, adornments, and meshed metals from artisans in Indian villages, which she visits at least four times each year. Finding and supporting these artisans, most of whom are women, is a passion.
Kothari (her first name, Soigné, means elegant and well-groomed in French), sweeps toward us wearing a necklace and a leopard-print caftan adorned with crystals and embroidery, both of which she designed. Now 37, she launched her store, which sits alongside Jimmy Choo, Devi Kroell, Graff, and Roberto Cavalli, a year ago to give established and emerging Indian designers a platform in New York. Her background is in design, so she collaborates with each designer to fuse different mediums and textiles into pieces of art. “I make them a little less bling and more Western,” she says. Among the label’s enthusiasts are princesses, first ladies, and entertainers.
A Cultural Calling
Kothari’s mission to showcase talent from India includes a strong charity component. “I had a fortunate childhood, and it has always been my dream to help my community,” she says. Her grandfather was a well-known industrialist who opened a charitable trust in his village, and her father is a leader in the diamond industry with offices around the world. Her family now runs the Rajmal Rikhavchand and Mehta Charitable Foundation, which helps children and adults in the impoverished Banaskantha region of India. This year, she will go back to India during her winter break to hand deliver donations. When anyone spends more than $500 at the store, a school uniform and lunch are donated to a child in need. “This might be the only piece of clothing they own,” she says.
The floor-length jeweled dresses in her Madison Avenue boutique, in silks and velvets and studded with semiprecious stones, come mostly in sophisticated, neutral palettes. Bold colors are also an option. Her strength lies in developing forms, styles, silhouettes, prints, and textures, while keeping in tune with Western trends. “We don’t keep a lot in the same size—ever,” explains Kothari, as she shows coats by one of her core designers, JJ Valaya. Pieces range from approximately $2,000 to $11,000; an elegant ivory cashmere coat with tiny pom-poms and subtle embroidery is $1,900. “Women know they are getting something exclusive.”
photograph by carolyn fong