For Maheka Mirpuri, fashion has always been about being herself – like a way of life. And so, what began as a passion grew to become her profession. While growing up, Maheka always loved to dress up, experiment with colours, and set her own style. And gradually, family and friends began to take note of her fashion sense, and she was often asked for help. Creating new silhouettes, painting motifs on dupattas, mixing-and-matching colours. Soon, she began getting orders for creating ensembles.
Maheka held her first exhibition by offering her creations at her home while she was still studying. The exhibition was a sellout, and she began holding them on a regular basis. With time, her house became too small to accommodate her expanding clientele. And that’s when she decided to transform her hobby into a profession. She got an atelier, hired people, and opened Mumbai’s first by-appointment-only fashion studio. It’s been a long road since then; here are some highlights!
What were your initial challenges in this field?
I started my business more than two decades back. Fashion is a very competitive industry, and it’s very unforgiving, too. You’re only as good as your last collection, and so you have to constantly stay on top of your game.
When I began, there were just a handful of designers and they were all industry stalwarts. To breakthrough and get your name amidst them isn’t an easy task. However, if you’re good, nothing can stop your progress, and I soon became a brand to reckon with. To get established and have consumers swear by me in a flourishing industry was quite tough.
The decision to keep my studio by-appointment-only was also a huge ask. Establishing a client base wasn’t going to be easy, but my conviction in my skill kept me going. It took a while to have people find me and take appointments. To be able to sell my collection at a premium when there’s so much choice available also took a while for me as a startup. Getting good artisans and craftsmen who understand your style and work with you was another task.
What’s the key to being successful in the fashion industry?
Success does not come easily in any endeavour, and fashion is no exception. The key to being successful in the fashion industry is to be highly motivated, committed, and goal-oriented, with a hands-on approach to work. Keep evolving in your work. To be different is the key. Today, the consumer is well-travelled and aware of various trends and styles. Keeping up with it is important.
Another very important aspect is quality control; attention to detail is very important in the fashion world. I believe when you demand a certain amount for your creation, the client should feel justified in paying that price. For my designs, I use very high-end fabrics that have good structure and feel.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned from your initial years?
To win the trust of your client is the most valuable thing I have learnt. It is important to advise the client correctly on what works for their body type. One should not just try to sell to earn. To me, success is when my clients call and thank me for making them look good.
How is working in fashion today different from when you started out?
When I first started out, fashion in India was at a very nascent stage. People went to their neighbourhood tailor to get their outfits created. There weren’t many takers for designer clothes. Very few people would spend money for a well-structured, well-designed ensemble. The fashion industry was highly disorganised.
But today, fashion is a fast-growing industry in India, and has witnessed the effects of globalisation. Since the last decade, the Indian fashion industry has moved from the embryonic stage to a blossoming take-off. Fashion weeks have enabled the structuring of the industry and opened up fashion to a whole load of people, rather than keeping it to just a few privileged people.
What’s in the pipeline for you?
I would probably like to design spaces and home furnishings. I recently did up my home and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
Describe your style in one word.
Classic! My all-time personal style is a well-fitted shirt teamed with fitted jeans (now probably distressed ones). I mostly team them with my wedges and oversized sunglasses and a sporty chrono watch.
A yesteryear fashion icon you’d love to design an outfit for?
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
A t-shirt slogan that describes your current state of mind?
Little girls with dreams become women with a vision. – as told to Sumana