Melbourne-based Alka Chopra takes pride in her Indian textile business
She is among the first to officially put Indian textiles on the Melbourne fashion map. Over the years she has created samples for Faberge, provided fabric to wedding specialists like Jane Hill, supplied to local designers like Alannah Hill, Collette Dinnigan and Lisa Ho, and designed the trousseau for many weddings.
Meet Melbourne businesswoman Alka Chopra owner of Megh Silk Studios, a boutique space for all things Indian. From exquisite Kashmiri embroidery to refined zardosi work and Varanasi looms, Alka has an eclectic collection of fabric that can be used for garments, furnishings or fashion.
With her studio prominently located on Melbourne’s trendy Bourke Road, anyone driving or walking past cannot fail to notice her elegantly decorated shop window display.
“I take a lot of pride in setting up window displays in contemporary styles that will appeal to both my Indian and Western clientele,” Alka says. “Indian fabrics are very versatile, particularly those made of natural fibres like silk, wool and cotton.”
There are a many natural fibre fabrics to be found amongst Alka’s collection of embroidered shawls, cushions, manchester and clothing – most of them sourced and created in workrooms in India.
“I have spent enormous amount of time researching fabrics and craft. It is my passion to learn as much as possible to enable me to promote Indian products and fashion to an Australian market,” Alka says, as she reveals how she got into the clothing trade.
Hailing from Delhi and raised in Hyderabad, Alka migrated to Australia as a young bride in the 1982 when Indian clothes were not commonly worn in public.
“I used to proudly wear my Indian suits and sarees and eventually decided to pursue my passion for Indian fashion by changing my hobby into my profession,” Alka explains. She gave up her initial career in banking and took up full time wholesale of silks to Australian labels.
It was never easy and the initial years were full of struggle as Alka tested the Australian market. Years of hard work, marketing, and financial upheavals later, Alka finally took the step of having her own space with the creation of Megh Silk Studio in the early ‘90s.
Her current shop is bathed in deep warm colours and has a distinctly Indian feel. It is a feast for the eyes and senses to see the vibrant outfits and the subtle, elegant material displayed tastefully around the premises.
“I used to hold exhibitions in various locations, attend fairs or participate in fashion events, but having my own boutique is quite a blessing as I can display my collection better in one place,” Alka says.
Yves Saint Laurent once famously said, “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” What is even more important is the person who chose it and that is where Alka steps in. Speaking nineteen to a dozen Alka tends to sweep people into her creative space and voila; within minutes they are dressed to impress, desi style.
“What has kept me going through all these years is hard work, determination, but most importantly an unparalleled passion for what I do. Nothing gives me more pleasure than being able to help someone look good and feel great,” Alka says.
She has many stories to share including her delight at creating ensembles for a recent LGBT wedding held in New Zealand.
“I was asked to dress the entire family in Indian themed outfits. It was a pleasure to design the look for each family member, from mother of bride to the flower girls to the two ladies who tied the knot, one of them was Indian.” she said with characteristic enthusiasm.
When asked about the future, Alka is thoughtful. “Indian handicraft and traditional craftsmanship is a dying art that needs revival and this is my small contribution towards keeping it going,” she says. “My clothing and materials are of good quality, classy and designed with flair. I hope for my label to be carried forward by my granddaughter, who, hopefully, will enjoy it as much as I do.”