Fashion Style & Beauty

Where to find affordable couture cocktail and special occasion dresses

When Raashi, a fashion designer with 20 years’ experience, arrived in Hong Kong in 2010 and went dress shopping she saw an immediate gap in the market for women’s clothing when it came to cocktail and special occasion dressing. As she says, there was plenty of big brands and then smaller boutiques but nothing in between when it came to being able to find elegant dresses and outfits for special occasions. Her solution – to start up her own label, Sera By Raashi. She spoke to Expat Living about the experience.

Raashi worked in design in India and Singapore before moving to Hong Kong
Raashi worked in design in India and Singapore before moving to Hong Kong

What’s the background to the label name?

It’s from the first letters of our names – myself, my husband and our two boys. Sera also means “princess” and “heavenly winged angel”, so I thought it fit beautifully, whichever way you looked at it.

You used to work in the fashion world in India; tell us a bit about that.

I worked in the international embroidery business 20 years back, where I catered to the work of some of the high-end luxury brands in creating their exquisite pieces of embroidered garments. Even today, a number of luxury brands get their intricate pieces done in India, where I believe the best embroidery is from. These are dresses that have graced movie stars like Lauren Bacall and Goldie Hawn. From this, I learnt the essence of detail needed to achieve that quality, from how the different fabrics draped, to how the embroidery needed to be designed around the style of the dress, the shape of the body and so on. I then worked in the sourcing office for Gap in Dubai (UAE), where I learnt about measurements and the fit of a garment.

A striking gown by Raashi
A striking gown by Raashi

How did you end up here?

After Dubai, we moved with my husband’s work to Singapore, where I had a small clothing business; but my main focus was on the children then, as they were young. In 2010, after 10 years in Singapore, we moved here. Fashion-wise, Hong Kong is very different to Singapore, which is fairly casual. I was very excited to be moving to HK, where I could dress up a bit more.

What was the catalyst for starting your own company?

When I started looking for dresses here, there were the big brands that were really expensive and then some smaller boutiques that were a bit more affordable, but the quality wasn’t great. I also realised that a lot of the fabric – especially the linings that were close to your skin – were made of 100 percent polyester, even in the big brands. These garments don’t breathe and they can leave a very unpleasant odour. My couture linings are 100 percent silk, and often the same price as the outer fabric. I considered using tailors, but I didn’t have the confidence to hand over beautiful fabric to them, in case it went wrong – especially with fabrics that are more intricate, where the pattern of the embroidery has to be matched and sewn properly. When embroidery is of high quality it needs to be handled with care. All these factors compelled me to start my own studio.

Raashi in her Aberdeen studio
Raashi in her Aberdeen studio

And your collection is all ready in your new studio in Aberdeen, right?

Yes! It’s important to have a ready collection as it’s quite hard to imagine the results by looking at fabric and images. The cut, style and design of the embroidery are all involved in flattering the individual shape. I incorporate built-in corsets to make sure everything fits like a glove in all the right places. You can buy off the rack or you custom-make a piece with or without embroidery; and I also do formal jackets. The stitching is done in our studio in Aberdeen under my direct supervision.

What do you think your future holds?

I’m not doing this for money or fame. I started my business because I love designing and creating unique pieces that are memorable. So, it’s very exciting. And hopefully, I’ll still have a balance with my family and my art, my other two passions!

Raashi says she wants to create unique, memorable pieces
Raashi says she wants to create unique, memorable pieces


• Raashi’s primary aim is to create beautiful dresses – off the rack and custom – that feel and look wonderful but don’t have the designer price tag.

• The fabrics she uses are key to all her creations, from crepes to silk velvets that are light enough to wear all year round, and are versatile and practical.

• She believes that the woman’s body defines the shape of the dress and even the pattern of the embroidery; all must be created to flatter.

• Reviving original, handcrafted, delicate embroidery in luxury evening gowns and cocktail dresses is her signature style.

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This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an edition!

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