An Interview with Subhashini Raja of Baby's Breath Smocks

The Open Road sources its beautifully made hand-embroidered dresses from family friend and social entrepreneur, Subhashini Raja.  Discover Subhashini Raja and her social enterprise, Baby’s Breath Smocks, and what inspires her about India.

What are the origins of Baby’s Breath Smocks?

Baby's Breath Smocks was born out of couple of reasons. I had a passion for hand-embroidery since childhood and had learnt to embroider at a young age.  Although I pursued a degree in Business, my interest in embroidery continued.  Having said that, I had always dreamt of designing clothes for my own children.  While I was blessed with two boys, I was left with this burning desire to design girl’s dresses.  It was at this point that I decided to start making little dresses and baby suits for kids.  At first I used to embroider myself and get the dresses stitched with a tailor.  As my scale of business grew by word-of-mouth I needed to employ more people to do the work, and Baby’s Breath Smocks was born! 

                                 
                                 
                               

What is your background in ethical fashion, and can you tell us about the ladies whom you work with?

Having realized the need to scale my business, I decided to do so by making a difference in society. As I went about looking for people to assist me, I came across women who were being trained by nuns in convents here in India.  They were older ladies, and as I started working with them, I understood they had a lot of commitments at home and preferred to work from home, which was why they had retired from the convents.  I saw this as a great opportunity to empower them both physically and financially, and hence started giving them work which they could do from the comfort of their homes.  I see this as ethical fashion.  These ladies come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds so I have been helping them with their children’s education and employment, as I also work as a Placement Coordinator in a very reputed college. We are one big family!

 What is your background and heritage?

I hail from an industrial town in the south of India and live in Chennai, a metropolitan city in India. We are a business family involved in the ginning and spinning of cotton yarn.  I grew up in the City, but have deep roots in the heritage of a small town that we return to every few months.  We, as a family, run a number of educational institutions in our hometown for the benefit of our community.  Having come from such a background, it is only natural for me to want to give back to society in whatever way I can. 

                     
                     

What is a memory that you will always cherish?

My childhood memories of spending time in my hometown with family and extended family in the beautiful pastures of agricultural farmlands is my most cherished memory. The rich heritage we still have in our small towns, the temple functions, the family gatherings, the charity work we undertake are all the most beautiful moments of my life. 

What inspires you? 

The look of happiness and satisfaction of the ladies who make the dresses and the happy feedback I get from my clients is what keeps my passion alive.  My biggest inspiration is seeing my little clients look beautiful in my creations! 

 What inspires you about India?

India with its rich multifaceted culture is an inspiration. The way we all live in unison, accepting each other's religions and cultures, and respect for one another is like no other. 

What is one place in India that you love and would recommend?

Hailing from south India I love the heritage and rich culture of dance and classical music found there.  I would recommend people to come and enjoy our yearly music and dance festival that happens in the month of December every year. 

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