Crisp winter mornings are what I live for. While everyone despairs about the bitter cold, I can’t help but admire the splash of colour stained across the sky first thing in the morning. It was the perfect way to start my Saturday ahead of the Bejewelled Treasures exhibition in South Kensington.
Over the weekend, The Hoxton was host to the Shoreditch Fashion Weekender, which featured a stylish collaboration between Indian couture label, Soltee by Sulakshana Monga, and premium jewellery brand, Red Dot Jewels. Partnering with Asian Circle, 10% of sales was pledged to help marginalised women in remote parts of Asia.
Fashion and charities are not two industries you would naturally place together but it seems that they are finding creative ways to work together for mutual benefits. Featuring items from the Intrinsic Beauty collection, Monga’s rich collection transcend the boundaries of seasonal trends in favour of an experimentation with aesthetics, which worked hand in hand with Red Dot Jewels’ colourful and traditionally styled accessories from their Pink City collection.
From earrings, to elaborate necklaces and even a very bold earcuff, visitors were spoiled with choices.
What also made this weekend event one of a kind is the underlying purpose that sales generated would have a positive effect. This wasn’t forced in the slightest, which made the entire experience a very natural and relaxing one. Representatives from both Red Dot Jewels and Soltee were on hand to talk more about their respective items for sale and made a warm effort to engage with visitors.
Speaking with Santosh, from the partnering charity Asian Circle said: “Asian Circle is part of a bigger organisation called The Circle, which is working with marginalised women around the world. Asian Circle itself is focusing on South Asia. We’re quite new into this area so we’ve set a programme up in India working on prevention of violence and we’ve chosen a small group of people out there called the Adivasi aborigines of India and they are the marginalised of the marginalised. What we hope to do is work with these women and help improve their lives through education on the violence they’re experiencing.
“We’re putting shelters in place in police stations for these women so they can actually go in and get some help, counselling and medical help. Another big aspect of this programme is to educate the men. These are patriarchal societies and we want to work with the men there who have seen how women have been treated and believe it’s part and parcel of the culture. We want them to understand that women are not there to be beaten nor be the doormat of the family. So for that we’re working with the local tribal lawmakers and we’re also working with small schools in these areas. We’re talking to the girls and boys about what they’re seeing in their homes not being right either.”
A complete world away from London, being able to provide education to remote areas where mainstream media never focuses on is enough reason to have more collaborations like the Shoreditch Fashion Weekender.
Nestled away from the bustling weekend crowds, the very first Suzali London exhibition took place on Saturday at The Arch. The premise of Suzali London is to not only introduce the UK market to both high end and emerging designers from India and Pakistan, but to offer a price point to consumers that is affordable. Owning a luxurious designer garment needn’t be demanding on your bank account as Sana, the founder of Suzali London explains.
“The reason why Suzali came about is because I have identified a real gap in the market related to Desi fashion. I feel that desi fashion needs to be more accessible to the UK population. I think in terms of existing supply, you have two extreme markets. You have very high end pieces, which are absolutely stunning. So you have your Sabyasachi, Tarun Tahiliani, beautiful, beautiful outfits and prices are pretty correlated to the intricacy of the work. At the other end of the spectrum, you have much lower prices but personally I don’t think they are as nice and I also don’t feel that it gives a true representation of the amazing designers of South Asia. There is so much talent in India and Pakistan and I feel that there are two real issues here. I don’t think we see the breadth of talent coming from that region and we also don’t see the price point. That is the gap I’m trying to fill.”
In order to do just this, a variety of designers are on offer at Suzali, which allows various budgets to attain a slice of South Asian fashion without compromising on an important aspect – quality.
“We have a variety of price points and designers within the Suzali London collection. There is Nida Azwer who is extremely established and her prices will be slightly higher. I don’t need to speak for her brand, it really does speak for itself. Mehreen Noorani comes with a very impressive CV. She graduated from the Fashion Institute in New York and she has been a buyer for some big brands. She also sits on various fashion institute councils. There are Bollywood actresses who wear some of her embellished capes, which is her signature statement.”
“Naureen Arbab is a well established designer. Karachi based, she supplies quite internationally to Canada, USA, Middle East and South Africa as well, but she doesn’t have any presence in London. That’s where I come in – I’m her exclusive distributor in London. Naureen Arbab’s collection is very versatile. It’s an old meets new kind of collection so you will have some of the more traditional outfits and more versatile items that are still on the traditional side but can be worn different ways.”
With a career in Banking and a degree in Maths, Sana’s sole drive for Suzali London is her pure love for fashion. Following designers very closely, she’s extremely clued up on how well trends and collections translate to an international market like the UK.
“If you think about the UK Asian market, it’s huge. You may have some women who are professionals, stay at home mums, some women of the older generation and I think you have enough variety within the female Desi population to support the outfits that Suzali provides. On the one hand you have very western outfits presented by Sarah Anees and Mehreen Noorani also caters for the modern Asian woman with those embellished capes. Then you have traditional people over here as well so you have designers like Lalarukh who I also stock.”
So how does one get various designers on board? Sana has used a variety of methods to touch base with designers, but the most effective of them all is explaining the gap in the market and enabling them to feel assured that their designs will sell well to a UK market.
“I think more and more Desi women over here are not going back to India and Pakistan as much as they would in my parents generation. We would go back pretty much every other year, whereas now more and more families have now moved out and we don’t have that link or access as easily.”
“Every designer would like to have some presence in London. It’s one of the financial capitals of the world, it’s one of the fashion capitals in the world and it’s such a cosmopolitan city with a large number of fashionable Desi women.”
Feature image: The Arch
Unapologetically, jewellery is one of my weaknesses – and it’s not just all about diamonds. Items with meaning and sentiment behind them is far more beautiful and holds that bit more substance. Always on the look out for jewellers that can offer exactly this, I came across mimi g at the recent Kaftan Festival at Westfield London.
Owned my Mariam Mahir, mimi g combines contemporary designs with an Eastern allure. Consisting of full sets, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and charms, each piece is either sterling silver-plated or gold–plated, and uses the finest cultured pearl, semi-precious stones, crystals and beading.
I too made a purchase and absolutely adore my bracelet. There’s something very warm and appealing about Mariam’s use of Arabic calligraphy within her designs. Maybe it’s the elegance in which it is presented or perhaps when translated, it’s the message you’re left with. Either way, I’m besotted with my multi-coloured gold plated chained bracelet. It is so feminine yet boasts colours that make it an item that you easily include in countless outfits.
The selling point for me is the way Mariam has included poetry. In addition to the variety she offers, there is also the option for bespoke pieces, which I adore. It means you can truly have a one of a kind item, packed with sentiment and designed as you see fit.
I caught up with Mariam to find out more about the lady behind mimi g and what the future holds for this exciting and fresh jewellery brand.
S: I love that you include verses/phrases from poems. What prompted you to include this within your work?
M: I have always loved all aspects of language (my background is linguistics), especially literature, be it prose or verse. Coming from a family of poets, artists, critics and historians, poetry has played an influential role in my life since early childhood.
From an aesthetic aspect, Arabic calligraphy is beautiful; it can be romantic and ethereal, as well as bold, geometric and minimal. So, by playing around with the meaning, form, texture and colour, each mimi g adornment comes to life.
S: Do you have a favourite poem or verse and if so, what is it and why is it your favourite?
M: It is difficult to choose only 1 verse, as each one used in my pieces holds a nostalgic memory. I use mostly Arabic verses, but translate some Khalil Gibran, Rumi and Hafez quotes as they are so spiritual, romantic and motivational. Many verses resonate on many levels; some can capture romance, divine love as well as inspiration. So, each piece can bring out various emotions and memories in different individuals.
My favourite quotes that I’ve used are:
- ‘Let the winds of heaven dance between you’ – Khalil Gibran Early 20th century American Lebanese poet)
- ‘Love led me and I submitted willingly, when I have never allowed anyone else to control me.’ – Ibn Zaydun (11th century Arab Andalucian poet)
- ‘Whatever you order, the heart will obey’ – Imru’ Al Qais (6th century Arab poet)
S: Muslims will resonate a lot with your work, but what has the feedback been from others who may not be that familiar with Islam or the poets you draw inspiration from?
M: mimi g pieces are not Islamic–inspired per say; they are pieces with Arabic poetry, so it caters for everyone, especially those with a love for Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art, and contemporary Arab art.
The spiritual verses used resonate across all religions and ideologies. That is what makes mimi g unique, everyone can identify with the concept: the universal search for inner peace, love, inspiration and the aesthetic.
Each mimi g piece is a mix of East meets West, so our clientele are from all over the world. We cater for all tastes, ages, ethnicities. We have delivered to countries such as the USA, Canada, Brazil, the Middle East and the Netherlands.
S: What has been the most challenging item you’ve had to make?
M: I would say creating the ‘Homage to Baghdad’ collection a few years ago. I had just started and was commissioned to create a number of regal and opulent necklace sets for an exhibition. It is always fun and interesting to research the poetry and ensure it is suitable with various designs, but the experimental process can take time to ensure each piece is perfect. Creating individually handmade trinkets is a labour of love, but as an artist, I adore the process from start to finish, and the complete product is very rewarding, especially when it is a bespoke personalised piece. My clients are always exciting when they engage in the design process and participate in the various stages, until they collect the final piece, which is unique to their taste, and it usually holds a significance, be it in the verse or names they pick or the colour or gemstones.
S: Can you tell us about any future projects or collections coming up?
M: Actually, it’s mimi g’s third year anniversary this month, so I have re-designed a bracelet with poetry motif from our first collection. It will be unique, exclusive piece with different finishing and semi precious stones. We will be carrying out a competition on our Instagram page for a chance to win it, so keep an eye out for that!
I also have a couple of collaborations with calligraphers and fashion designers that I am working on. I am also in the process of designing the high season SS 2015 collection.
In the future, I would like to work on a collection inspired by Iraqi art and heritage, as well as experimenting with new textures, forms and gemstones.
A staple feature in most South Asian fashion collections is the bold use of colour, textures and craftsmanship to bring a vision alive.
Raishma Islam is no different and has taken on an 1920s art deco Gatsby feel, with flapper style dresses and gowns and fun ornate saris for SS15. “I like to have a theme and a story running through the collection,” she explained. With a Downtown Abbey feel and a nod to flapper style suits, art deco style prints and beading, Raishma has captured the essence on this particular era without compromising on the core elements that make for stunning Asian clothing.
I love the idea of reinvention and very rarely do we see collections being transported back in time to a period that has a very distinct style. I’m always amazed at how designers fuse two very different worlds and come up with an answer that combines the best of both.
Raishma has done this seamlessly with her new SS15 collection. Having worked with the likes of Elizabeth Emmanuel, Raishma said: “It was a great learning experience for me as I learnt about couture first hand, and it increased my passion for bridal wear design.”
Her passion continued developing until it was time for her venture by herself into the competitive world of fashion. “My father thought I was taking a big risk opening my own store, but I believed in my vision and I knew that it was pioneering for that time. It’s always hard running your own business. You have to believe in yourself always which can be very hard to keep up all the time,” she explained.
Nevertheless, Raishma has overcome obstacles and now runs a successful fashion brand. Stocking kaftans, Asian suits and bridalwear, you can find a full range of outfits to suit your occasion. Whether you’re getting married, attending a wedding or fancy something casual with a hint of glam for your pending summer holidays, there is something for everyone.
More than anything, craftsmanship plays a very important part for those who are particular with their choice in clothing. With no less than 15 years of experience under her belt, Raishma has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the British fashion industry and is a fully degree-qualified designer. This kind of background gives consumers a sense of confidence knowing that they’re paying for quality garments.
I’ve never quite understood why people would want to wear items once and then never have them seen again in public. I am all for buying clothes that can be worn time and time again and that includes luxurious gowns and elegant kaftans. The beauty with Raishma’s collection is even if you wanted a one night wonder, you’ll probably find yourself reaching for her outfits time and time again.
Check out Raishma’s new collection plus much more on www.raishma.co.uk
Images: Asiana Magazine
Recently re-branded, Stitch Three hosted their Fashion Day Out Trunk Show near London’s Green Park, giving press and visitors a taste of the type of designers their boutique stocks.
Working together with Inaaya and Sonali Creations, the show was aptly presented at the Athenaeum Hotel where people could peruse collections by Malini Ramani, Maheen Karim and Misha Lakhani. The unique, high fashion retail and studio concept provided visitors with the Spring/ Summer collections of these three hot fashion properties from India and Pakistan. Also there were Inaaya and Sonali Creations showcasing their stunning jewellery collections.
As the name suggests, there are three super hard working women behind the brand. Aisha Tabani Chowdhry, Aamna Lakhany and Radhika Hasan came together to form Stitch Three – formerly known as Faisana – and have built a business which fills a gap in the UK Asian fashion market.
I was lucky enough to speak one to one with Aisha, Aamna and Radhika prior to the event in order to learn more about this venture and the bridge they’ve built for UK consumers who still desire a slice of authentic Asian fashion. Here’s a snippet from our interview.
S: Tell us how did this merger come about?
Aisha: We were doing a small studio outfit and Radhika was doing exhibitions and events. We met up and thought we’re doing similar sort of stuff catering to slightly different markets because Radz was working with more Indian designers and we were working with Pakistani designers. We thought let’s try and do an event together. It’ll be fun and interesting to see what we can pull together. We’ll bring in a few Indian and Pakistani designers and put them on a catwalk and it will be first of its kind. When we did the event together our energies worked so well together that we figured it made sense to continue to work together.
S: You’ve hosted pop up stores, fashion weekends and you run the studio as well. How has working together on these projects been compared to if you were doing this alone?
Aisha: I think it’s the scale of what we can do when there’s more people coming together; there’s more ideas and more creativity. There’s a greater scale that you can accomplish.
Radhika: I think we’re very similar because we have full time jobs and little children so it would have been difficult to manage this on such a large scale. I think all three of us had the same vision and we wanted to do the same thing, but we couldn’t do it separately. We’re able to do a lot more together.
Aamna: I wouldn’t have coped! I think in terms of getting the designers and selling, would be fine. All of the other stuff, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. We all have our own strengths.
S: So what are your specific roles within the company?
Aisha: So Aamna does our creative work. She runs the studio as it’s based at her home so that makes more sense. A large part of her work is seeing and working with our clients. Radhika does more design and liaison, working on pitches and sponsorships. I do more the accounting and financial aspect of the business. All of us to a certain extent do a little bit of brand management. We all have designers we work with individually.
There’s three elements to our clients, which includes customers, designers who we also provide a service to and there are the stockists we distribute to.
S: You had a very busy year in 2014. Can you tell us more about the events you hosted last year?
Aisha: Well we did the Faisana Fashion Weekend, which was our first event together and that was a fashion show with three Indian designers and three Pakistani designers. We had two parts to it. We had the evening event which was on the Friday where we had drinks, canapes and the fashion show. That was a VIP buying event and our trunk show was the next day. At Diwali, we did the Diwali pop up and the concept behind that was to have a luxury shopping experience and to create more of a department store vibe. We didn’t want it to have a ‘mela’ feel. We wanted it to be luxurious, high end and most importantly an experience. We had champagne, we had separate areas, lounges, a home ware section, we had jewellery and clothing.A separate area for the kids and fitting rooms too.
Radhika: That sort of concept had never been done before. We always try and do things that are unique and have never been attempted before.
Aamna: Even though our personalities are different, our vision has always been high end, luxurious and internationally focused.
The trio are definitely a force to behold. Together they have carved out exactly what they envisioned when they first got together. The latest event at London’s Green Park echoed their idea for a departmental feel where visitors could wander into different rooms, admire carefully picked items from the collections and even try on garments that took their fancy.
True to their word, champagne, tea and coffee were on hand as well as delicious nibbles and cupcakes that really gave the whole show a sense of exclusivity.
Making a very sharp transition into a completely different industry can be daunting, but together, the ladies at Stitch Three have shown that it is achievable.
“What’s important about when you think about changing careers is not just about what you have knowledge in, but what you have skills in. Any new business requires a certain amount of skill. One of those things is having passion for the product or service you’re selling. But equally you need to be able to organise yourself, follow processes and document everything. So for me, I would say is knowing that you can source those skills when starting a new business,” Aisha explained.
“You should work with a product or a service that you feel for and have passion for. Knowledge can be built, so you can go and research and learn stuff but you have to be able to apply that knowledge and you can only do that if you have a connection to that specific area.”
I got back to one of my major loves in the journalism game; interviewing. In the run up to the Aashni + Co Bridal Exhibition, I’ve had the chance to speak to some very talented designers all of whom are excited to come to London in order to showcase their collections as well as learn a bit more about their international market. Nikasha, is one of those designers set to take London by storm this weekend at the Aashni + Co exhibition. I gave her a call to learn more about her background, her collection and her opinions on all things fashion.
How did you first get into fashion?
“I was actually training to be a psychoanalyst and in fact fashion design kind of just happened for me. I was at a party and I had made something for myself to wear and this lady came up to me and said ‘I really like what you’re wearing and I’m opening a store, would you be able to provide a few pieces like this?’ I thought she was mad! I was like ‘yeah sure, why not?’ so I did. A few days later, I got a call from this gentleman and he said he was calling on behalf of Selfridges and that he had been to this lady’s store and saw my clothing. He then asked would I be interested in supplying there. Again, I thought this was a hoax. So that’s how it actually started and he was in fact a buyer from Selfridges and he got me in there and I worked for about 2 years with Selfridges. We created cotton kaftans, wrap around skirts and tunics. That’s how my label started.”
Have you ever felt concerned about the competition within the fashion industry?
“The only tough part I would say is that there are a lot of copy cats. The mass market has become a cause for concern. In India it happens on such a huge scale and there is no policing of it. India is such a big country so in many villages you have these self proclaimed designers who in fact copy designs. That has become a real cause for concern, especially in the metro cities also like Delhi and Bombay.”
Where do you get your inspiration from?
“I believe that inspiration is always within you. It’s something that you keep tapping into. Sometimes it’s an idea you thought about ten years ago and you’ve marinated it and you’re ready to step out with it. I think for anyone who is a creative person, it depends on your mood too. You can hear a song or you might be in a place and see a colour or painting and suddenly think “oh wow I want to do a collection based on this.” A lot depends on how you’re feeling about yourself at that point in time. Whether you’re feeling happy, sad, dark. Are you getting over something? A lot depends on those factors. Inspiration is a combination of a lot of factors.”
Tell us a bit more about the collection.
“I will be bringing the 2014/15 AW collection, which is our ramp collection. We’ve had lots of celebrities wearing these pieces such as Deepika Padukone who wore two pieces from the ramp collection, Raveena Tandon, Alia Bhatt and Vidya Balan. This has been a very popular collection plus we’re also bringing Rani, which is our bridal collection. So it’s a mixture of the two.”
You’ve had some favourable critique by notable writers. What impact does this have on you and your career?
“I remember meeting Suzy Menkes at my show in Bombay and after she left India we were all very anxious about who she was going to write about and who she wasn’t going to write about. Fortunately I was amongst 3 or 4 designers that did get written about. Critic are all okay and I’m humbled that we’ve had plenty of press coverage but as much as I appreciate it, I think it’s important to keep focused on what you do because sometimes things are good and sometimes it’s not and people do write that you could do better or that your work is different. I feel as long as you’ve been true to your collection and you’ve done the prerequisites that need to be done, then favourable or unfavourable critics doesn’t matter. You move on to the next. Constructive criticism however is very interesting and should be acknowledged. At the end of the day, it’s art. Yes it’s commercial art to an extent. Fashion has to be liked by a certain segment of society.”
What are you looking forward to at the Aashni + Co Show?
“To meet all these people. As a designer, I don’t have my own store and I supply to many stores all over the world. It’s always exciting when you come to a new, international market and see and meet people and basically interact and hang out and see what the vibes are like. I’m very excited about this collaboration with Aashni and I hope it all goes well and we keep coming back every year.”