Hyderabad-based Aisha Rao is a fashion designer who has moved leaps and bounds in a very short time. This Self-Starter has opened two fashion weeks and has launched two storefronts within just two years. Known for her beautiful lehengas, sarees and gowns, the designer’s contemporary aesthetic and playful use of colours are what millennial bride dreams are made of.
TC46 caught up with designer Aisha Rao to talk about her brand, her journey, and also, to get some advice for the next generation of fashion designers who are looking to make a grand debut.
1. What is your educational and professional background?
I graduated from one of India’s National Law Schools, NUJS, Kolkata with Bachelors in Law. I then went to IED, Spain to study Design and did a few short design courses at Parsons, NY after which I came back to India and set up the company.
2. What prompted the idea for your brand? Did you always know you wanted to work in this space?
I was always inclined to work in fashion for as long as I can remember but after graduating from law school, I was apprehensive if I’d make it in fashion given the lack of formal training and experience. The decision to apply to design school thereafter and pursue fashion was purely instinctive. I worked really hard for those few years to grasp as much as I could given the short span of time so that my designs come from a place of creativity as well as technical knowledge.
3. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?
For me, the most important thing was to get over the initial hiccups of launching a business. I think stabilising our core team was our first milestone, and in terms of success, customers loving the designs we showcased in the first exhibition we participated in was a big deal.
4. What are your tips for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to enter this space?
First and foremost, understand that there is no substitute for hard work. Put in the time to train and upskill to learn the latest techniques and stay up to date with the trends in your field.
Next, remember that nothing happens overnight. Patience will carry you far and your time will come—just wait for it.
Lastly, learn to balance your work and personal life. While it’s important to be passionate about your business, unless you make time to nurture your personal life, you’re likely to head for burnout or lose patience.
5. What were the best business decisions you made?
Pay your team on time. I take my payments very seriously. I believe it helps maintain a healthy working relationship and trust with your employees. Another thing would be to focus on creating a distinct product or a differentiator that can set you apart from the competition. I hired skilled professionals in areas where I lacked. Delegation and allocation of human resources are key if you want to be a good entrepreneur. No one person can do it all and know it all.
6. How long did it take you to monetise your venture?
It took us around three years to get a healthy place financially. But the good thing is, most of it happened organically and no one single factor was a contributor. A lot of moving parts brought us to this tipping point.
7. Are you looking for funding for your business?
I am not actively thinking about any of that right now. I like where I am at and want to take it one step at a time, keeping in mind what’s best for the business.
8. Who are the key people one should secure to work in this space?
Your product making team is the most important initially; right from pattern makers to embroiders and tailors, they are your talent source. Next, I would say, cracking your visual branding is also important. Secure a team that can do justice to your work and bring it the visibility it needs to trump the market.
9. How do you intend to scale up your business in the next 5 years?
Honestly, I always look at it as one step at a time, one year at a time. The pandemic has made things extremely unpredictable so we’re first looking to stabilise all our stores and then see how things pan out for us in retail.
Why not be the next big fashion entrepreneur? Here’s a guide to start your own tailoring business.