Plenty of people jumped on the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) bandwagon when it was trendy. Some of them even created a career out of it. Pakistani designer Nausheen is one of them. She started her own clothing line ‘Nausheen Sootwala‘ by doing it herself.
Nausheen Sootwala basically makes bespoke couture, semiformal, luxe-pret and bridals to order.
“You can get good clothes designed for you according to your taste, your style and your budget without compromising the quality of design. You don’t need to spend millions to engage a designer and you don’t need to get caricatured replicas of rampant designs already done to death.”
Nausheen Sootwala takes orders from customers that message them on Instagram. This is to provide people with the comfort of online shopping without even having to go to a website. After all, most of us check out designs and trends on Instagram anyway.
“For a business these days, its more important to have a social media presence than a physical shop.”
The idea of using her marketing platform for sales was a great idea laying in plain sight.
“60% of my customers are people who order from different cities and countries. I can and have only been able to do this with my social media handles. It works simultaneously, the more visible you are on social media, the better it is for your business.”
So how did this amazing brand come to be? The designer explained how the magic happened.
In The Beginning…
It all started when there was a wedding in the family. Nausheen remembers that the dress she wanted cost as much as a car. She ended up making it herself at a fraction of that cost.
“I wanted this particular dress for an occasion, so I called up the designer to make an appointment … He quoted the price tag and I told him my budget. I had two options back then, I could buy that dress or I could buy a car with that money … I decided that I’d rather buy the car and make the same dress myself. And I did, in a fraction of that cost.”
Enamored by her craftiness as well as appreciation from friends and family, she turned that skill into a business.
“Appreciation got me going, and designing for friends and family was a natural transition that started off my career professionally.”
Nausheen explained that even though she has turned this ‘hobby’ into a career choice, she’s still driven by passion but doesn’t let her creative impulses get the better of her.
“Having an artistic mind with a creative impulse can hurt you if you cant channel that creativity through proper means … It’s only recently that I have started viewing it as a career, it has and still is a channel for my creative impulse.”
Inspiration and Implementation
Where and when did this creative spark exactly come from?
“Before coming into designing clothes, I used to collect materials that caught my eye, try my hand at different embroideries and closely study things that fascinated me.
Her source of inspiration still remains to circle that block, but she is her own muse.
“I have a reverence for vintage and classical things, old school crafts, embroidery techniques, architectural designs, fabrics, old motifs, mughal miniatures, heritage jewellery and furniture are mostly my sources of inspiration.”
That explains why she’s intent on her clothing being an expression of the wearer. This explains why she doesn’t follow trends and sticks to staples and classic cuts and silhouettes.
“I want my clothes to speak about the person wearing them before the wearer talks about herself.I want my pieces to last, or at least could be reused in a different style, altogether … Although I do add a little touch of present, like a cut or a neckline or sleeves to give it some relevance”
Speaking of fashion with a purpose, Nausheen’s clothing-line aims to create lasting items with lasting value.
“My aim is to try and make an outfit worth wearing quite a few times in different seasons as well as make it appealing worth a second and third glance.”
She wants to make couture accessible to everyone, rather than a niche group.
“My aim is to try and make an outfit worth wearing quite a few times in different seasons as well as make it appealing worth a second and third glance … I want to make couture more accessible. Everyone wants to wear designer clothes but not everyone can afford them, so I want to eliminate this awkward gap,”
She also aimed to steer towards a more female-driven industry. Help more women shake off dependency on ‘male karigars‘ (male expert).
“I also want to create a women empowered business … I want to help and employ single women and empower them, hone their talents and reduce the dependency on ‘male karigars’. This will not only work to better their lives but also create a fraternity of female labour which is quite rare to find,”
Teaching women to run the show from sourcing material, and creation to distribution is what real economic empowerment requires. This is how we can cut back on labor rights abuses and unethical practices amidst this era of ‘fast fashion‘.
“There are women who work in factories under questionable conditions because they don’t have a choice. I want to build a skill teaching as well as a healthy and respectful working environment for such women.”
Speaking of teaching, Nausheen wants to deck out old school art.
“I want to school women in ‘the art of zardozi’, and revive old school embroidery techniques, like wasli, tilla, and marori. Creating a design house that caters to women and created by women.”
Business and Expansion
Right now Nausheen has finished putting out heavy formal outfits for ‘Shadi season‘. This includes winter shawls, pret-wear, and semi-formal outfits. She’ll start working on the spring/summer pret-line and Eid collection soon.
Her business has really grown over time so how much more will she expand?
“Time and consistency prove to be a solid base on which you can uphold your career and have a steady growth. It becomes easy when your profession is also something you feel passionate about and Ive been fortunate in this regard….There are some plans in the pipeline. I believe its wise to not talk about them until they materialize.”
As a one-woman army running a business, she had many difficulties along the way.
“Nothing actually lasts forever, seasons come and seasons change. Consistency and sincere hard work always pays off.”
Knowing what a woman can face in the field, she’s supportive towards fellow fem-prenuers.
“There are many women entrepreneurs working in this field, their work speaks for itself and its the same for me. At the end of the day, the gratification I get from my work and my clients’ satisfaction is more important for me. Competition is good, it keeps one wanting to do better.”
There have been ups and downs like any other profession and there are good and bad days like any other job. Yet this designer is intent on making it work.