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.”
One thing that always fascinated me with fashion designers was their journey into the industry. That defining moment where they realised this was the start to the rest of their lives. Whether they’re a French powerhouse or an emerging Indian talent, that drive to succeed is a common thread that runs deeply throughout them all. On Sunday, a number of designers both new and established from India descended on London for the Aashni + Co bridal exhibition, one of the most anticipated fashion events so far in 2015.
What I loved about this event was the accessibility to designers that most of us have grown up hearing about and admiring.
Happy to talk about their collections, it was an absolute pleasure to finally meet the likes of Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra.
Asking him who he would love to dress on the day, Sabyasachi answered without hesistation: “Very simple. I was always a huge Madonna fan. Madonna for sure and Frida Kahlo.”
In the run up to the show I was fortunate enough to get a few words from some of the other designers who shared their delight at tapping into the British Asian market.
“I’ve been retailing at Aashni for a while and it’s extremely exciting because so many of us are coming for one bridal show and I’ve not ventured into having a stand in London. I’ve done Dubai but I’ve never been to London for a show so it will definitely be an interesting and new market,” says Anushree Reddy.
Starting her career working at a fashion magazine based out of Hyderabad, Anushree studied at London’s LSE and then did her MBA in Cardiff before working her way up to editor. After marrying, she longed for a business of her own and thought about designing. “I am not academically qualified in any way to be a designer,” she said laughing. “I wanted to have my own little business and said why not try designing. I had no idea what I was doing. People bought whatever I sold and it’s been about 4 and half years now.”
Considering the calibre of designers under one roof, each brought with them exceptional collections with items suited both for weddings and other occasions. In fact rather than partake in friendly competition, there was a sense of camaraderie, which is very humbling to see amongst peers in a very demanding industry.
“I feel that competition only helps you get better. Firstly you’re focused on what you’re doing, you want to any which way make your product better than your previous collection. At the same time, if you have people around you who are also doing well, I feel that you get all the more motivated,” explained Arpita Mehta.
What I loved about Arpita was her sincerity and the fact that her journey into fashion has been a work in progress, slowly building upon successes. Now, she stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the industry’s heavyweights.
With motivation, comes inspiration like no other. The exhibition was full of collections where visions, passions and skill had been woven together to produce the very best, signature garments.
“For me, I find inspiration everywhere. Every country has its own style. You could be walking in London and there will be something that catches your eye, which inspires you to build a collection around. Even at home in India, inspiration is everywhere as it’s such a rich country full of culture,” said Sonali Gupta.
Having come from a family who has been in the industry, fashion judgement runs deeply in her blood. Furthermore, her studies at Central Saint Martins allowed her to build her own fashion sense and journey down her own personal path rather than studying from books.
The exhibition was not just limited to fashion designers. Zita Elze produced some of the most exquisite floral arrangements I have ever seen in all of the events I’ve been to. Her knack for detail and efforts didn’t go unnoticed by visitors.
Notable hairdresser Aamir Naveed was also on hand to demonstrate classic and chic hair styles suitable for both weddings and special occasions as well as Ambreen who of course always wows us with her flawless make up application.
You only have to look at each designer’s collections to see proof of sheer hard work for an industry they’re passionate about serving. Visitors not only adored meeting them personally, but also took the time to celebrate their work, which suggests that the UK is in need of more luxury Indian designers that are accessible. With Aashni + Co, located in Notting Hill, we don’t have to look any further.
Founder and Creative Director, Aashni, said: “I’m overwhelmed by the atmosphere, the energy and the response here today to a luxe exhibition concept and retail platform of this scale. It was important to feature the right mix of designers and fashion houses, from established A-listers and luxury designers to the most sought after and desirable new generation talent. It is time people stopped travelling all the way to India to find their wedding outfit – we wanted to bring the best of India’s bridal to our doorstep and we’ve achieved that. The response has unanimously been amazing.”
And one that has made us fall in love with the romance of Asian fashion all over again.
This year’s GPU drew in an estimated 100,000 people over one weekend at the London Excel and amongst all the stalls, fundraisers and keynote speeches, was the Saverah Fashion Show.
Crowds of ladies queued in anticipation of seeing the latest trends in modest, Islamic fashion by an array of designers all of whom put on a dazzling show with innovative, sleek and fashion-forward collections.
Having never attended a fashion show dedicated to Islamic womenswear, I was remarkably gobsmacked at the endless possibilities and creativity when designing for the modern Muslimah.
Draping and embroidery were prominent features in most of the collections, with colours playing a pivotal role. Delicate creams created a whimsical femininity, whilst bold pinks and striking blues proved that modest fashion doesn’t necessarily have to be muted. In fact, none of the designers compromised style when it came to showing just how versatile modest fashion could be.
Spectators were treated to sparkling and chic collections by the likes of Divya Oswal, Neda, Grand Designs and Jaan to name a few. To say we were spoilt for choice is an understatement and given the choice, I would happily have something from each designer in my wardrobe. Check out the gallery below for a selection of gorgeous gowns that set tongues wagging and cameras snapping.
“Lightfall” was the name of Gaurav Gupta’s collection for Delhi Couture Week 2013 and in true form, he delivered what can only be described as luxuriously sensational creations.
Silhouettes clothed in silver, gold, black and teal reflected a modern elegance sprinkled with a dusting of tradition. The collection reveals the idea of mythology in the future. This is reflected with intricate attention around the head area as well as pointy shoulders and ear detailing, which adds a certain futuristic feel to the collection.
The sprinkling of tradition comes in the form of the classic embroidery associated with culture and rich history – a past that is firmly cemented, which makes for the perfect opposite against the unknown future.
From an aesthetic perspective, Gupta’s use of fabrics such as soft mesh, satin, georgette and lace fuse beautifully and creates a calm balance that it neither too soft nor harsh.
An alumni of Central Saint Martins in London, Gaurav Gupta has worked with fashion heavyweights such as Stella McCartney and Hussein Chalayan. Working especially close with lines and the motion of fabric, Gupta has always created collections which have been deemed ahead of its own time.
It’s not hard to see why Gupta became an instant success. Following his 2006 collection at India Fashion Week he was awarded Breakthrough Designer on several occasions. Setting the bar for up and coming designers, Gaurav Gupta’s signature style not only excels in experimenting with fabrics and cuts, but allows him the freedom to explore visions perfectly captured in stunning couture collections.
It wouldn’t be right to begin my ‘Designer of the Week’ posts without first mentioning the unbelievable genius that is Zuhair Murad. The Lebanese designer never fails to blow my mind with his collections during Fashion Week. Intricate designs, elegance and glamour are the first three things that come to mind when Murad is mentioned. It’s not hard to see why when you look at just a handful of his dresses and the mind-blowing attention to detail each item is dutifully given. Murad’s collections throughout the years has solidified him as one of the most go-to designers, with celebrities flocking to be adorned in head to toe luxury.
Lebanese singer Najwa Karam has been dressed by the designer in video clips, whilst in Hollywood, Blake Lively, Beyonce Knowles and Kirsten Stewart are just a handful of celebrities that have opted for the red carpet ready gowns. Cheryl Cole brought more than glamour when she wore one of his dresses on the X Factor, while more recently, Princess Ameerah al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia wore one of his creations when attending Prince William’s wedding to Catherine Middleton.
If these fashion gems are anything to go by, I don’t think anyone would mind a wardrobe full of delectable Zuhair Murad gowns.