Shalini James is a graduate in English literature who abandoned the subject mid-sentence to pursue her love for fashion. After a three year spell in Fashion design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai, she took a business management program from IIM, Calcutta. Her education now a heady cocktail of sorts, she spent more than a few years figuring out her mantra. Eventually in December 2002, after a particularly intense eureka moment, she founded a company in the living room of a house in Cochin and named it Shalini James’ Mantra. Simply put, Mantra is a firm that designs, manufactures and sells clothes that appeal to Shalini. That they appeal to a whole lot of other women too may be incidental, but it turned out to be fortunate for her.
In its thirteenth year, Mantra has spread its wings and moved out of that living room into a state-of-the art factory which looks more like a farm house. Nestling amidst coconut palms and meandering canals, the Mantra house stands tall in Cheranalloor, a once- sleepy village on the fringes of Cochin. As the neighbourhood wakes up to the resonant music of temple bells and the spicy fragrance that wafts in from a nearby pepper grove, a group of people buzz into action here. This colonial-style building that houses big dreams is home to Shalini and her team.
Shalini James, the label, is an exotic potpourri of all things Indian; in silhouettes that are sometimes ethnic, sometimes contemporary, and mostly a unique mix of both. Shalini’s signature line, ‘Indian by choice’, espouses her design philosophy.