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Image courtesy Purna Khatau
Interview

Purna Khatau

03.02.17

Purna Khatau co-founded Rhode Resort with her college friend Phoebe Vickers. While on vacation together in Goa, the two decided to take the plunge and channel their collective fashion experience into a successful getaway brand. Khatau designs not for a specific woman, but for where she might travel. This is unlike a brand description I’ve ever heard, and I love it. It’s inherently inclusive and challenges women to see the world. When you see the vibrant, hand-embellished, well-made collection it’s no wonder the fashion community has fully embraced the brand with an ode to an unhurried way of life.

Interview

Tell us about your background? Where are you from?

I grew up in Mumbai, India and moved to the US to attend Hamilton College in New York. Hamilton is where I met Phoebe Vickers, Rhode Resort’s co-founder. I decided Hamilton wasn’t the best fit for me, and shortly after I moved to London where I attended Kings College. From there, I went on to attend Istituto Marangoni in Milan where I received a Master’s in Brand Management. After school, I ended up in Dubai where I worked as a womenswear and accessories buyer at Harvey Nichols. After a while I moved back to Mumbai and on a trip to Goa with Phoebe, we decided to start Rhode Resort. Launching Rhode Resort inspired me to pick up, and move to Los Angeles, where I currently live in Hancock Park.

What was it like living in Dubai?

It’s a wonderful mix of east and west. They have done a great job of importing the finest restaurants and culture from around the world, but that also makes it feel a bit too much like Vegas. I’ve always been drawn to older things with some history which Dubai is lacking, for now.

Was there a learning curve when making the jump from buyer to designer?

It has been an easy transition for me because Rhode Resort started out of personal necessity. My background as a buyer has helped me be a bit more practical and feel less lost in a purely creative exercise. Both my mother and grandmother worked in fashion so I feel like design is something I was meant to do.

What is the thing you enjoy most about designing for Rhode Resort?

Visiting vintage shops, flea markets, and different places for inspiration.

You describe Rhode Resort as “an ode to an unhurried way of life.” How do you incorporate this idea in all aspects of your life?

Well for starters I moved to LA. I’ve lived all over the world and really feel that LA epitomizes the unhurried life in an urban atmosphere. It’s one of the few cities that allows you to connect with nature a bit more easily. I also choose vacations in remote places. I love going on safari as there is no cell phone reception and you’re forced to disconnect.

Not only do your designs look dreamy, but they feel amazing. Can you describe a bit of the fabric selection process?

Since Rhode Resort is all about relaxation and indulgence, we work only with natural fabrics that we know will look and feel beautiful. When selecting fabric each season, I first look at vintage textiles for inspiration and then develop exclusive prints and embroidery for the collection. Our Spring/Summer 2017 collection was influenced by Uzbek textiles and a throw that I have on my couch at home. I’m constantly drawing inspiration from global culture.

How does your Indian culture influence the collections?

It definitely still has a large influence on each Rhode Resort collection. Both the colors and silhouettes are reflective of India, though I do draw influence from all over the globe. The Ella Dress was based on a vintage dress of my moms, while the sets have nods to India in subtle ways as well.

Where is the brand based?

The brand is based between Los Angeles, where I head design, and New York, where Phoebe handles messaging and sales. Our manufacturing is done between India and Los Angeles.

The bead work on some of the pieces is quite intricate. Is that done in-house?

All of Rhode Resort’s embroidery and bead work is done in India, along with the majority of our manufacturing.

What is your favorite piece to wear from the current collection? How do you style it?

I love the Ella dress! I think you can dress it up for a cocktail party or totally dress it down. I just wore it on safari with a pair of boots and an army jacket.

Who is the Rhode Resort woman?

She is feminine, confident and well-traveled. I don’t design for a specific woman, but for everywhere she may travel.

Would you ever open a brick and mortar location?

There are no current plans to open a store, but it’s always a possibility down the road.

After early success with the brand, what do you foresee in the next 5 years?

We are excited to be expanding with our first Fall/Winter capsule collection for 2018 and are introducing new fabrics for a resort holiday vibe. We have also talked about adding shoes, accessories, bags and jewelry – we want to evolve into a lifestyle brand eventually and create a Rhode Resort world.

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