“Do you want to start a fashion business, seriously?”

As a startup enthusiast, I took for granted that everyone was aware of the hacker culture and other movements like Maker Fair, Slow Food and also Make Sense. I’m not a developer and do not describe myself as a hacker either. But it still inspires me because I witnessed this positive energy that fuels creativity in such environments. Yes, there are thousands of young minds in the world, including in Paris, that strive for success and work outside big corporations. They have a strong vision: that “everyone can be a changemaker” (as the founder of Ashoka Bill Drayton likes to put it). Innovation and creativity are not intrinsic quality in some people, it requires a specific environment where people share the same values: cooperation, knowledge sharing, learning by doing, discussing ideas without judgment etc… This kind of environment has been existing for a while in the tech industry. But I’m sure it is worth replicating in other areas and industries such as fashion businesses.

Now, explaining your ambition and goals with people that have a different mindset, including your parents, is a different story. Maybe, they don’t understand why you participate in workshops or seminars, why you connect with people you don’t know or why you don’t focus on generating revenues before building your e-reputation at the first place…I’m sure you had a hard time telling them why you don’t want to have a corporate job and why you’re obsessed with your small project that you believe will grow into a powerful and socially committed organization in the future.

As far as I’m concerned, I launched my fashion business recently after my trip to India where I was amazed by the skills of rural artisans and the beauty of handicrafts. Many of them learned the skills from their parents and the social reproduction goes on. India has a tremendous heritage in the textile industry and the splendor of the costumes that were prevalent in royal courts in the past tells a lot about the Indian mastery in the textile sector. The vast amount of traditional techniques (dyeing processes, hand embroideries, embellishments, tribal or ethnic motifs and designs…) are endangered in a world where the quantity is becoming more important than the quality of the garment we choose to buy, where the fast fashion brands are setting the pace for everyone: buy it, use it, throw it, and buy it again…

Today, I’d like to discuss my entrepreneurial journey by sharing all the mistakes I did in the past years. Not that I want to give you a list of DOs and DON’Ts but I feel like sharing what I have experienced recently to start a conversation with you.

  1. I refused to stick around ONE project for a long period

I have to admit that I was scared to take the wrong decisions. Interested in too many things, I was scared to engage with only one thing at a time because I might lose the opportunity to follow another path. Choosing one project would prevent me doing another project that might be equally interesting. I started one project and kept switching between them until now. The truth is that until I don’t fully dive into one thing for a long enough period of time, I would never know if I’ll succeed doing it. It’s not about the idea or the project; it is about keeping going forward and resolving one problem at a time without constantly questioning the project itself.

2. Each new obstacle made me doubtful about my capabilities

An obstacle is meant to test your commitment to that project. Instead of looking for another idea and giving up the current one, I now ask myself how to do it differently and find another way of progressing rather than keep doing the same thing over and over again with no tangible results. For instance, I realized that my values that motivated me to launch this project were not clearly displayed. Rather than focusing on selling my products, I need to educate people first about the core project and create valuable content for them.

3. I thought I have to become an expert in something before initiating any project

I have no formal education in fashion design or textile, but it’s my project that will help me grasp concepts and learn what I would have otherwise only learned through theories in the classroom. It certainly works for lots of people, but I prefer to learn things that help me with my project rather than accumulating knowledge in a corner of my brain. And it is a lot more fun too! There are lots of ways for experimenting: with two tubes of acrylic paint, one potato, a plain scarf and a bit of imagination, you can do a lot, believe me! That’s how I began with block-printing. Even silk-screen printing is quite easy to understand, I’ll let you know in another post how my workshop at L’Etablisienne went :)

It’s only the beginning, and that’s what excites me, because there a hundred of possibilities around this project that I called Shazia Couture.

Thanks for reading :)