These Indian women left careers in other spheres for the love of fashion
HOSPITALITY > FASHION
Head, design & operations, The Leela Palaces; co-founder, Jamavar and Bombay Bustle; entrepreneur, Dandelion and Clove
In the last few years, Nair, a third-generation hotelier, has expanded into restaurants Jamavar and Bombay Bustle in London; a line of sleepwear with Dandelion, and her highly curated boutique, Clove, which brings together an easy blend of fashion and living.
On a sartorial legacy: “My grandfather first started his career in textiles with Leela Lace before making his foray into hospitality in 1985. My father continued to actively grow that part of our business and turned it into one of the largest export companies of its day. My influences during my formative years were an amalgamation of both disciplines, so fashion seems to be a homecoming of sorts.”
On her many hats: “Dinner-table conversations ranged from the new trends in hospitality to garments—it was the best kind of education one could hope for. I suppose you are the sum of your experiences, and with Dandelion and now Clove life seems to have come full circle.”
On striving for a balance: “It’s also been incredible to see how supportive the fashion fraternity has been in accepting and welcoming my work. I spend three-fourths of my time in Mumbai and one-forth in London at my two Indian restaurants, Jamavar and Bombay Bustle. For me, all things feed into each other.”
On lessons learned: “Constantly improvising and editing is key. Understanding what the consumer wants whilst keeping in mind the vision for any brand is very important. On a personal front, I believe staying in your comfort zone won’t get you anywhere. The will to learn should be far greater than the fear of failure. And above all, great teams create magic—after all, you are only as strong as your weakest link.”
On curating Clove: “I strive to put all things Indian at the forefront. Clove enables me to create distinct experiences by showcasing fashion, design and craft from India.” Clovethestore.com, Dandeliondreams.co
Around the world with Nair’s top shopping spots
Dover Street Market, London
The Apartment, New York and Los Angeles
Totokaelo, New York
The Store, Berlin
BANKING > FASHION
Anjali Patel Mehta
“A marriage of finance with a heart is the basis of Verandah,” says Anjali Patel Mehta, who made the brave move from Wall Street to fashion week.
“My entry into fashion was quite unconventional.”
After completing school in Mumbai, I attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating in Economics, and joined Goldman Sachs in New York in International Equity Trading. After a stint at the Fortress Investment Group with some ex-Goldman traders I came back to India, where I attended the Indian School of Business followed by a stint at Deutsche Bank. My biggest dream had been to be an architect and, while my mother was a trained artist, I didn’t feel I could manage design school. It was in 2010, when I suffered a severe back injury, that banking really lost its charm for me.”
“I yearned to shop for soft, eclectic, somewhat bohemian clothing.”
Motherhood came by and six months after my first child, I started Verandah. I spent the entire summer designing soft cotton and silk separates, Western in thought but Indian at heart. My first order over a cup of coffee was from the Taj Group of Hotels, who ordered my entire collection to stock at their boutiques. Next came Design One, and there was no turning back. What started out as a journey exploring fabrics led me to work with mills to develop exclusive fabrics and upcycle denim waste from my husband’s denim business. I worked from home, with two small babies and no office space. Two years later I crept into a shared space in my husband’s office. I hired my first employee, Dipak, a tailor who is still with me today, when I got into Lakmé Fashion Week.
“I started telling stories through print.”
I wanted to design for the urban woman who is fashion-conscious, discerning and chooses comfort. My prints are driven by art, travel and architecture. Our business is socially responsible and a portion of our profits to charity. We reduce our washing by using local dhobis, work with weavers and responsible mill owners and design almost every element of our pieces, from the buttons to the yarn. After six years in the business we have five bags of garment waste and I hope to reuse that into weaving rugs with a non-profit.
“I’m super high-energy, which is why I love fast-paced industries.”
I was always a creative person, but I get bored easily. In fashion you have seasons, and that allows you to play a different role each time. Getting picked by Moda Operandi and Neiman Marcus on the first day of Miami Swim Week was definitely the highlight of my year, apart from launching Sustainable Swim. We’ve just been added on Olivela.com, a fashion philanthropy partner. We have two collaborations on the anvil, with Good Earth, and Anthropologie. My advice to anyone making this transition is simple—follow your heart, be different and ask for help. Studioverandah.com
Patel Mehta’s beach essentials
1. Swimwear from Verandah. Don’t forget the kimono to match.
2. Ruben sunglasses from Sunday Somewhere, a label designed by a group of Aussie surfers.
3. I mostly read books on public policy and history—a good read is Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
4. Ikaria lace sandals from Ancient Greek Sandals— they are super comfortable.
5. Beach hats from Yosuzi— that are handmade in La Guajira Desert, Venezuela.
SCULPTURE > JEWELLERY
Jewellery designer, Misho
Image: Nishanth Radhakrishnan
In just a few years, Suhani Parekh’s architectural, streamlined designs have found space at Selfridges and Matches Fashion, in the wardrobes of Anushka Sharma and Jourdan Dunn, and in the pages of Vogue—but her journey started as a sculptor.
On finding her form: “I trained as a sculptor at Goldsmiths, University of London. Gradually I started making pieces that looked better on the body than they did on a plinth. I started wearing the pieces I made and that was very much the point of departure for Misho. I also worked with architect Ashiesh Shah right after graduating; he’s an incredible mentor. I loved working in his studio, there’s so much creative energy and I was always looking at interesting design and art. I was making sculpture through my time with him as well.”
On exploring new dimensions: “I think creative practices are interdisciplinary and fluid. I always knew I wanted to be in the creative industry. I love the process of making things, the research and the techniques. So studying art history and sculpture seemed like the best way to start. Besides, art and fashion are two sides of the same coin. I love the physical process of actually making things and seeing a prototype coming to life.”
On new projects: “I’ve recently started working with Prerna Goel on a style page for Instagram. Prerna has fantastic style, and I love art directing, creating content and playing around with photography. So, it seemed like an interesting project to dabble with.”
On lessons learned: “The word Misho is an ancient Japanese bonsai technique in which a seed turns into an evergreen bonsai tree. I loved how poetic it was—the idea that a seed or an idea turns into something tangible; and there’s just so much you learn through the process of creating something.” Mishodesigns.com
Parekh’s spring shopping bag
‘La Grand Chapeau Bomba’ hat, Jacquemus
Seersucker metallic swimsuit, Hunza G
‘Reve’ slingback mules, Yuul Yie