Many a time, we come across a lot of graphics of women with multiple hands like Goddesses, resembling multiple tasks. It is not hard to believe that the very concept of multi-tasking evolves from the way women handle things in streamlining their own life and that of the family’s. Be it a home-maker or an office-goer, no woman is actually spared from a plethora of things that they need to on a daily basis. Imagine this in case of an office-goer: morning activities, household chores, office work, some more pending work (to be done at home), family’s demand, social life and much more. Totally, tied-up!
While a woman is running around the house to cook the breakfast, set the children’s bags, and what not, the issue to get ready for her own office always sets her forehead with with wrinkles. What to wear and what not to wear, is the biggest dilemma that they go through every day, but what adds to it is the preparation of attire, ironing them and setting them all to look neat, flawless and smart, which is time consuming, especially during the morning hours. And, getting ready for work for women, isn’t as simple as getting ready for shopping or anything else as a lot of factors creep in, like whether it looks decent and disciplined, not provoking, well set, and looks professional. Above all, your attire is a reflection of your personality. It can make or mar your impression. This is why, a lot of organization advise their employees to do power-dressing, so that their self confidence is boosted.
The best part is, The Luxury Label (TLL) has come up with a dress-up solution for working women, that turns their life easy, and helps them relax in the day-to-day hustle bustle. TLL is the brainchild of Nazia Erum, a TEDx Speaker and a pure Assamese woman. She has a range of formal collections that have created numerous fusions of ethnic and western formals to enhance the comfort. It offers Anti-Wrinkle Clothing.
Yes, you got it right, these clothes are not just crease free but will also leave you wrinkle free without having an anti-wrinkle cream. It eases your stress to get yourself ready for the office. Be free from worries and chase your dreams without worrying much about your clothes. Let’s hear from her how she did it:
Tell us about your life before you invented yourself.
I was born and brought up in the Oil town, Jorhat, Assam. I studied in Mount Carmel School, and Army Public School (Guwahati), till standard 7 and 10, respectively. I studied Journalism in Delhi University and went on to work in the development sector and the United Nations.
Since you are born and brought up in Assam, how would you describe the impact of your native place on your learning experience?
My birth place has a deep impact on my learning experience. We used to live on the outskirts of Jorhat in the OIL campus, shielded from the world outside. But that made me inquisitive about the world beyond. My gardener would get me a Lotus flower every year on my birthday and I would ask him to show me the pukhari (the pond) where he got them from. I was always curious to know more about the world and explore the opportunities it renders.
Jorhat, as a city, was the melting pot of the middle class academia. There were kids from RRL, agricultural university, engineering colleges, TOCKLAI, Army, Air force, ONGC, and OIL.
My classroom had children from different streams of educated families. I remember, once a classmate was trying to correct our teacher that his mother's name was 'Dr Saikia' and not just 'Mrs Saikia'. We were very young that time, and the pride in his voice left me with the will to do something in life so my kids would also have a similar pride in their mother's work. I have always been surrounded by strong, educated and independent women, in Assam,which was something starkly absent in the small town middle class of northern India during my childhood.
Later, when we shifted to Guwahati, Ajanta Chowdhury, a teacher from Army school with her impeccable grace and diction left a deep impact on my younger years. She was also a newsreader at Doordarshan. She used to go to DD after school hours to pursue her dreams. She was an exemplary example of "the will to do something you want to" while multi-tasking. This had a huge imprint on my mind. The opportunity of coming across such role models early in my life, I believe, has led me to a never settle for anything less than what I was capable of, kind of attitude.
Your life has taken different shifts in different times, offering you opportunities to reinvent yourself. Tell us about the fringes of each phase that pushed you to take a switch.
I pursued different streams of communication, media governance and journalism in my College life, but on the brinks of joining a news television, I shifted to the non governmental sector. At the outset, this was a weird decision, but I followed my instincts. Having worked closely with the news sector after having launched a startup while still in college, I wanted to gain experience in the work at the grassroots level.
In my first year, I worked on a proposal for the United Nations and won the grant and led a team of 30 on a countrywide study. The learning curve was extremely sharp. I multitasked between research, camera, writing and design. Two years of hard work gave birth to my first book, 'Closer to ground' for the United Nations.
Then came various jobs that took me across the world, including being the youngest at the Global Fund Board meeting in Geneva.
After having my first child, I took a break from work, but right after I launched The Luxury Label: the first exclusive Indian Workwear Brand for women. I was looking for a go-to clothing brand that would give me options in wrinkle-free, fuss free, polished tailoring and easy care - all the things that any modern, well-travelled and working Indian women who never any, would want.
Tell us about the emergence of The Luxury Label (TLL).
As an entrepreneur in the business of empowering women through what they wear, my interest lies in clothing and how it affects our daily lives. Different meanings are associated with clothing, like successful or mediocre; professional or sloppy; all of this decide what we choose to wear or what we don't. So, every morning when you stand in front of the mirror, you pick out clothes based on what you don't want to look like on that day. This process usually takes a toll on every woman. And, it's a Herculean task that gets over their mind. Well, to give this situation a solution, I came up with my start-up.
The Luxury Lable or TLL (power-dressers for power women) aims to ease this decision making process, while giving them the power to have control over their wardrobes. To look good, clothing must present us in the manner we deserve - with understanding, kindness and acceptance. It should reflect who we are, and where we are heading to in life. TLL helps women find their own power-suits. Not padded jackets, but Indian ensembles that wield a power over your inner-self by working around your Indian body shapes, and making you look more confident and smart. Our collections focus on work to network dressing for professional Indian women who wish to break the glass ceiling in every way, every day.
What challenges you faced initially in setting up TLL?
For not having a fashion design or business background, initially I stumbled upon certain roadblocks. Perhaps, it is more about people not expecting women to do things out-of- the-box. Additionally, finding the right mix that would give comfort, the right fall, and last long with easy care was difficult for us. These were certain other bottlenecks. I had to research a lot, and start from the scratch.
Today, my designs are loved because of the fresh perspectives they showcase.
Did your family approve of it?
Yes, absolutely and strongly as always. My family acts as a backbone of my initiatives. There was a bit of apprehension, for obvious reasons, but the support that they have offered me throughout, for being able to brave the odds is commendable.
How did you overcome your own and others' apprehensions?
My tools for cutting down apprehensions were and are: persisting hard work and challenging myself. These two elements have taught me more than I could have learnt from any formal training.
What are the USPs of TLL?
TLL brings in international aesthetics to create a stunningly simple, minimalistic yet a very Indian line of clothing. Our product range comprises of light, daily use Sherwanees, tunics, waistcoats, Shalwar-pants and scarves. We are working on a prototype of pocket-dupattas as well. Our product line focuses on travel and work friendly, collections while blending with it the Indian way of life.
But our major USP is that we do not use fashion models for showcasing our clothes, but real, on-the-job, working women who are excelling in their respective fields. They also are the true face of women in the workforce today, varied by age, region and religion. They relate designs more, with the real users.
Where do you pull your funds from to support TLL's activities?
We have had seed funding from angel investors who believed in the idea.
You have been one of the few chosen ones to present at the TEDx platform. Share your experience and your topic.
It was certainly a delight to be a speaker at TEDx Gurugram, as a part of the TEDx India Anchor program supported by Infosys.
My talk brought in the concept of how we can positively change our body image and the perception of our body by questioning and confronting our conditioning. One way to do that is by wearing our 'Powersuit'.
Wait for the video to be up to know what a power-suit can be and how it can become a part of your daily life. It should be out towards mid March.
Is TLL the destination you want to halt at, or are you also working on some other concepts and projects?
I believe that I am a serial reinventor of myself. I always think that it is justified to explore all the measures; lengths, widths, in fact, every dimension, to know the true self and potential. It's hard to halt. I never stop.
How does TLL support women empowerment and inclusivity?
The entire concept of TLL is rooted in female empowerment. The idea is to bring the ease-of-dressing to Indian women. We look at the pain points and think of ways to resolve them when we design our collections.
We also support various forward-looking initiatives around women at work. And, whenever and wherever possible, we give preference to women in our organization.
Silk industry is an agro-based industry, which requires low investment and can be functional in a small set up even providing employment opportunities to both the skilled and the unskilled. Share your views on what needs to be done in regards to utilizing the complete potential of this industry.
As my friend, Ibu Sanjeeb Garg in the revenue services has often recommended, and I would also agree with him; that a good way forward is that the government should establish a Silk Auction Board on the lines of the Tea Auction Board. This would help in effective price regulation that will save the small-scale traders from being exploited and help in making the industry globally competitive.
How does your brand support the local weavers of Assam or Northeast India?
We don't yet have local weavers working with us; however, have some plans of having local weavers from Assam on board, when TLL expands its operations.
Tell us about your other achievements.
In under a year, TLL has been recognized as a leading driver of digital change. Recently, it won the Orange Flower Award for Digital Excellence for our work in Fashion. I was also invited to speak at TEDx Gurugram, as TLL founder to talk about our breakthrough concept behind the brand.
Apart from designing, what else interests you?
My first book, Mothering a Muslim (Juggernaut books)will be out later this year. It carries warm memories from my years in Assam, and explains why it was one of the best places to grow up.
Your vision for TLL It should be the go-to brand for Indian workwear for women.
A few words for the women of north east.
Recognize that you are supremely privileged to be hailing from the North East. And, that privilege puts the onus on you to weave a legacy. A warm salaam to all the women of the seven sisters. I am you, you are me.