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Both Babi Ahluwalia and her husband Sachin grew up in India — she in New Delhi, he in Bombay — in fashion families. (Her mom did kid’s wear, his designed women’s ready-to-wear.) Both were packed off to business school and, after graduating, headed to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1993. Such similarities have obviously raised an eyebrow or two. “This really is not an arranged marriage,” offers Babi. “We just happened to be two souls who met here at school.” Still, their parents couldn’t have planned a better union.
For the past decade, the couple has run Ank, a successful textile business operated out of Sachin’s family’s factories in India. They specialize in embroideries and have built an impressive client list that includes Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani and Carolina Herrera. Three years ago, they put their fabrics to use in a home collection called Ankasa, now in 400 specialty stores, and opened their first store last year on New York’s Upper East Side.
Now, the Ahluwalias are trying their hand at clothes, with a contemporary collection of easy dresses and tops, which they launched under the label Sachin and Babi for Ankasa for resort 2009.
“It’s been a very natural progression for us,” says Babi of their decision to do fashion. The fact their production has been virtually vertical from the get-go certainly made things easier. When the loungewear separates they whipped up to sell in their store last year were a hit with customers, Sachin and Babi got a major confidence boost. They put samples in production for fall 2008, but didn’t work out the kinks until their 72-piece resort collection.
Babi says Sachin is the creative genius behind the filmy silk chiffon dresses, caftans and tops, many of them sporting signature Ank embroideries and prints, while Babi is Sachin’s muse. “I’m a working girl,” says Babi, also a mother of two, of the collection’s easy, breezy vibe. “I want something that goes day into evening and works in all environments. And you shouldn’t pay so much. When you’re vertical, you know how much things really cost.” Tops and tunics wholesale from $100 to $300, dresses from $125 to $535, and can be found in Bloomingdale’s and specialty stores come November. In the meantime, Sachin and Babi are developing prints and colorways for their spring collection, and another new venture, an eco-friendly furniture line. In other words, they’re busy. Is it ever too much? “You’re always a little unsure when you’re giving it a first go,” says Babi. “But there is a method to this madness, I tell you.”