We had the good fortune of connecting with Meeti Iyangar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meeti, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
As a parent who is an immigrant and a person of color I have always tried to maintain a sense of balance, keeping in mind that my kids understand both cultures – Indian as well as American, which are both melting pots of so many cultures. I grew up in a secular India and my mother too made sure we experienced and learnt from all religions. This is why I don’t follow any one religion but enjoy celebrating all of them. I have to add that I have been lucky and found great support from my family and friends to provide diverse experiences that are most essential while growing up, and every child should be given an opportunity to learn about these through books, travels, foods and at home. Diversity makes us stronger and better humans who can contribute to society in meaningful ways.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have a very unique style, and this has always been my strength when it comes to my fashion design. I always strive to create something original, versatile and not too fussy, so it can become a staple in your closet. As a creative and enterprising person I love to dabble and try to do the best in showcasing my talents and skills with my clothes and my food, as essential elements of style. My mantra is what mother always told us — to do everything with love and humility, because that’s what builds connections and communities. I was fairly successful as a costume designer and a boutique owner in Bangalore but I had an aspiration to come to America and learn more so I joined FIDM in Los Angeles in 2004. It was the first time I was leaving home to come so faraway from my mother and my younger brother. I was 25 years old and it was not easy at first. I felt homesick and found it difficult to adjust but thanks to my then-boyfriend, and now partner, things got a bit easier for me. Without him I would have been lost in Los Angeles, he is the reason I love this city and have made this home. After I graduated I worked in the fashion industry for 6 years as an associate designer and Tech designer for some well known brands in LA. Chan Luu was my first employer where I learnt a lot about the market and how it works. Indian garment industry is so much different from here which gave me an advantage as I could help communicate better with overseas factories for production. I set up comprehensive Tech packs for the factories in India, china and Vietnam. I worked for companies like William Rast, Juney Bloom, Winter Kate, Civil smith, Tokidoki etc I started “So.In” which can be interpreted in many ways like South Indian, So Indian, its “so in vogue” or “so in style”. I wanted my food to represent my roots and my mothers original recipes which are tasty, nutritious, flavorful and very healthy. I wanted to break the misconception of people about Indian food in LA, because all we have here is a lot of North Indian restaurants which serve the stereotypical Indian food which is heavy and greasy. I am very happy and proud to have hosted some amazing and successful Pop up dinners in and around Los Angeles through Kitchen Table App. My long term goal is to make “So.In” an umbrella for both Cuisine and Style — both essential elements of my skillset.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love this question as I have done a good job with this situation- me and my husband Drone are self proclaimed foodies and without a doubt the first stop would be to have authentic tacos in LA. So I would take my friend to my favorite taco truck- Ricky’s Fish tacos. As I love to explore other cultures and Los Angeles has a significant number of ethnic enclaves, I would take my friend to Koreatown for some great Korean BBQ, San Gabriel for Chinese food, Little Tokyo for Japanese, and some staples of LA like the San Pedro Fish Market for Mexican seafood. Lets also not forget the wide variety of Middle Eastern and Armenian food in LA, with a final stop at the Original Farmers’ Market. I do like shopping in the fashion district as it reminds me of Indian fabric markets and makes me happy to see all the colorful and vibrant fabrics. Depending on my friends interests to do touristic activities or more naturalistic activities, I will take them on hikes around LA, the Getty center and jewels of Southern California – its beaches! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My first and biggest shoutout goes to my late mother, who was taken away from us way too soon. Prathima Devi (my mother) was the only one from her family of 8 siblings that got a college education – She raised us as a single mother and got her aesthetician diploma when me and my brother were 12 & 8. She thought me to be independent, strong, compassionate and caring. My late mother was an amazing chef and her work continues to inspire me everyday.I got my Food Handler’s license in 2016 to honor her and showcase her food to the world as a tribute. I have had the privilege and honor to have some incredible mentors and teachers throughout my educational and professional life. I can’t forget to mention my amazing partner, Drone Iyangar who is the backbone of our lives for the past 17 years. The best human, best husband, best dad and my best friend! I would like to credit my teacher Mr Vidyasagar who played a very important role in instilling the confidence and believing in my design capabilities. I had the fortune to work and learn from one of India’s creative geniuses M S Sathyu — a well known Filmmaker, Playwright, Stage Designer and Art Director. I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked under his guidance and I will always be thankful of him to believe in me and giving me an opportunity to design the costumes for the Indian debut of the play Emil’s Enemies, written by Douglas Huff. I had to do a lot of research for this play for its intricate costumes, and also was very astonished that we pulled it off as a very small team, with the guidance of Mr. Sathyu (now 90, you can google him). He has kept the costumes in his collection safely for posterity! After I graduated with a costume design diploma I joined Design School run by Mr Vidyasagar for a one year specialization course in fashion design. I then started getting opportunities through my theatre group called Bangalore little theaters where I used to attend workshops on the weekends. I enjoyed reading scripts and envisioning the outfits which lead me to work on a variety of plays from famous authors such as Bertolt Brecht, Girish Karnad, Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Sartre and many more. I am ever so grateful to my theatre friends and colleagues for giving me the opportunity to explore and learn with them. Also let me not forget to show my gratitude to my LA friends ( you know who you are) who have supported me throughout the years. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had great mentors and an amazing Mother who continues to inspire me ever moment, even to this day.