For decades, Lavanya Coodly quietly nurtured a passion for fashion. Two weeks ago, she took flight in New York City with a brand that she says is meant to speak to the urban woman with a bohemian heart.
Coodly presented her spring/summer 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week at the all-white rooftop venue Studio 450 near Madison Square Garden. “Presenting my collection during NYFW with AMCONYC [an international productions and public relations company] has certainly been a highlight in my career,” Coodly says.
Starting out as a designer for herself, family members and close friends, Coodly gradually turned her talent into a full-time profession. She launched her self-titled fashion house, Lavanya Coodly, with an online collection in 2014. “I felt that I had something interesting to offer the public,” Coodly says, when she debuted her practical and chic garments.
Coodly worked full-time in biomedical research for 25 years before making the decision to pursue fashion and working for herself. “I also was very clear about pursuing something that I truly enjoyed doing day-after-day,” Coodly says, adding that she would like to “help promote hand craftsmanship and the practice of weaving communities” while building her business.
Establishing the collection wasn’t an easy task.Coodly pursued fashion through a purely self-generated strategy, opting to handle design and the financial budget entirely on her own. She used her business degree and her sense of fashion to interact with collectives like The Republic Collective and AMCONNYC and with fashion markets in order to gain retailers. “I see myself as an entrepreneur for several reasons,” she says. “It calls for self-motivation, determination, business acumen, and ultimately, creativity.”
The rigors of starting a business has meant big lifestyle changes and a struggle for work-life balance. “I have a family and maintaining a tranquil home life is one of my priorities,” she comments. “However, these challenges can also be interesting to navigate through and ultimately let the work speak for itself.”
Coodly says that starting her brand has been challenging. “The obstacles that I face in the fashion industry have more to do with being new to the industry,” Coodly says. Being new to the business, she doesn’t yet have the contacts or relationships she needs to take her brand to the next level.
Showcasing her collection with AMCONYC and NYFW helped Coodly gain exposure and reach out to a number of partners in the industry. “We were invited by their management, and we came to check out their brand,” says Janelle Langford, founder of Suite PR. “We didn’t know about Lavanya Coodly beforehand, but the venue is beautiful and we’re excited to see the material and swatches.”
Her goal is to create designs that are feminine and flattering to women of all ages. The pieces are made to be practical and comfortable for all body types. Coodly’s brand offers a variety of daytime and evening options that address the needs of urban women who are looking for a diverse wardrobe. Tailored looks and carefully hand-embellished garments are feminine and career chic — it is haute couture for everyday styles.
Traditionalism is also a distinct feature of Ms.Coodly’s designs. “I was born in India and spent my early years there. Those years had an enormous impact on my design aesthetic and a desire to pursue this line of work,” Coodly says.
The signature pieces that she showcased in her new collection were elegant, but edgy. It was an new side of Coodly that we did not see in her earlier collections, which showcased more cultural designs. “My friend and I looked into her lookbook and Instagram,” says Lexi Lastihenos, a guest at the Lavanya’s show. “I’m surprised she doesn’t have a larger following — her clothing is beautiful.”
The bright colors of the fabric paired well with the all-white venue. Coodly set the scene with different garment sets that complimented the New York high rises in the backdrop. “Seeing others wear my designs including those in the public eye has also been extremely rewarding,” Coodly says.
Making a name for yourself in the fashion industry isn’t easy, and as an entrepreneur Coodly wears many hats in this stage of her career. As a designer, she works non-stop for months to get a collection on the runway. As the founder, Coodly works closely with her PR agency to further the success of her brand and market the clothing to buyers. “In the future, I would like to see my designs reach a wider audience and further grow the brand itself.”