International bridal gown designer Rani St Pucchi opens up about her life, and her journey to success.
Often, life doesn’t follow the path we thought we set out on. Rani St Pucchi, whose journey started in Bangkok, took her all around the world in unexpected directions. However, she took each twist gracefully, and ended up dressing the likes of football star Tony Romo’s wife, Candice Crawford, and the rapper Timbaland’s wife, Monique Idlett, on their wedding days. Here, she recounts her story to Masala readers.
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
I was born and raised in Thailand. As the youngest of six, I must admit I often felt I had to assert myself to get noticed. It was a challenging childhood for sure, having to fight many battles to do with culture at a time when girls and women were to be seen but not heard. Not to mention the societal pressures and religious dogma. I was quite rebellious, always focused on being strong and perfect to gain approval and acceptance of my elders. Often times I felt I just didn’t fit in or belong.
Where did you go for school/college? How do you feel that helped shape you?
I was sent to a Catholic convent in India at the age of nine. It was the best thing that happened to me, actually. Those years shaped my life, they taught me how to think and fend for myself, to make my own decisions. I continued my studies in New Delhi and majored in English literature and poetry.
What were your career plans out of college?
I had a dream–to become a doctor. But that dream was squashed because of the years that would have been required to accomplish that feat. I was told that was not an option because girls couldn’t have a career. Girls were required to get married and run a household. That was their only purpose here on earth. I wanted so badly to pave my own way, to live my life on my own terms. But that was not to be, because I was forced into an arranged marriage right out of college.
Share with us why and how you became a fashion designer?
It all started with the TV series, Dallas. I was living in Thailand at the time, running a tailoring shop. Although I had no design experience I became quite proficient in designing women’s ready-to-wear, all because of my intense love of fashion and all things beautiful. I was the breadwinnerand had to make ends meet after I was married. Those were exhausting, long years of juggling work and family with no support from anyone.
The bright spot was every Friday nightat 8pm, whenthe popular American TV show, Dallas was aired. After dinner, I would put my feet up and tune into the glamour of a whole different world.
America represented freedom, and still does to me. And Dallas represented America. I visualized living in Dallas. I saw myself making America my home.
Almost magically, within a year, an opportunity to showcase my collection at a charity event in San Antonio presented itself. I couldn’t believe it! Wasn’t San Antonio close to Dallas? Soon I presented my collection there, and chose to end my show with a wedding dress—a blush-coloured Thai Silk, hand-embroidered gown, beaded with Swarovski crystals.
It was my first attempt at designing a bridal gown.Little did I know that the one dress I had prepared as an afterthought would forever change my life. I was invited to bring my “Bridal”collection to showcase at the Dallas Apparel Mart during their Bridal fashion week. This was a dream come true!The rest as they say, is history.
What made that dress stand out?
At a time when the American bride only wore white, polyester dresses, my entire collection was in colour. Coming from Asia, weddings were celebrated in colour. You see, I had not done my homework.By the time I realized it was too late.
After the initial shock at seeing coloured wedding dresses in my showroom, the fashion press and buyers alike became curious, and ultimately welcomed me into their world. The Dallas Apparel News, which was a leading fashion magazine, hailed me as a pioneer for introducing colour and silk to the American bridal scene.My career as a fashion designer was launched, and I went on to receive awards, and have dressed numerous celebrities through the years.
What does image consultancy involve? What are some basic rules or guidelines our readers should follow?
Not many people know the difference between a stylist and an image consultant. Most are also clueless about the difference between style and fashion. As an Image Consultant I visit my clients’homes and help edit their wardrobe based on their personality and lifestyle, and teach them how to determine the silhouettes that will flatter their particular body type most. I have them narrow their wardrobe down to include only flattering colours. They are encouraged to develop their own unique style and gain self-confidence in all areas of their lives. I firmly believe that people notice your style before they notice your personality.
What have some of the most difficult life and career obstacles you’ve had to overcome? How did you manage?
Life has a way of waking you up when you are cruising along. And so it was that In 2013 I experienced a catastrophe that forced me to step away from everything I had spent my entire life building. I took a sabbatical from designing and shut myself in seclusion for 6 months to write my memoir. The process of pouring my life story onto paper was very therapeutic and healing. That was the first book I ever wrote, but I didn’t publish it. Instead, I kept it aside out of respect for my mother who was still alive.Now that my mother has gone to be with the Lord, I feel I have the permission to share it with the world. Unveiled: A Celebrity Fashion Designer’s Story will be published soon.
Who have been some of the major influences in your life?
I have been very fortunate and blessed to have the exact right people show up in my life at every step of my journey. I have had the privilege to be guided by the likes of Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. John deMartini, Bob Proctor, Lisa Nichols, John Gray(Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus), and above all, my mentor and friend Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. They have each taught me so much and have helped shape the person I am today.
” I firmly believe that people notice your style before they notice your personality”
You have a TED talk on Body Image. Can you tell us about this?
The subject of my talk, Is Your Body Image Holding You Back?, came about as a result of my life experiences and from having worked with women for 30+ years in the fashion industry. From doing runway shows around the world, and casting models for my shows, I have seen how unforgiving the press can be. I share an occasion when Swarovski commissioned me to design two wedding dresses using their latest collection of crystals. The audience of more than 500 people at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, erupted with excitement when our absolutely drop-dead gorgeous model came out in these gowns on the runway. She received a standing ovation. But I was shocked when the press refused to feature her in their magazines. I found out later that it was because, at a size 6, they felt she was too large.
The reality is that the average woman in the United States wears size 14. So what message are we sending out? I can honestly say that every single woman I have worked with over the years has the same story she tells herself: that she is not good enough. That she needs to be thinner, taller, fairer, of a certain shape, a certain height….
There is so much pressure today, not only for women but men as well, to have the perfect body. Through my TED talk I bring awareness on how important it is for us to love our body. Having gone through a serious car accident in 2015 I know first-hand what a miracle our body is. Your body is your best friend, probably the only friend you will have for the rest of your life. Treat it well. Appreciate it, and all that it does for you.
What advice do you have for our readers?
Love Yourself– All love must begin with love of self. We tend to forget that.
Discover your beauty: I believe that self –confidence is the best outfit. Rock it, and own it!
Live brilliantly– Life is short. As Buddha says, “The trouble is, you think you have time.” The present moment is all we have. So treasure every moment of your life.