‘Blending ethnic with modern’, designer duo’s bridal couture
To satiate the demand of Kashmiri brides with umpteen choices of exclusive bridal wear, the upcoming designer duo Mehnaz Mir and Afshan Mir launched their designer boutique 'Akbar Fashion' at Bagh-e-Mehtab in the year 2015.
Twenty nine-year-old Mehnaz, a graduate of foreign trade from Pune University decided to do a diploma in fashion designing and styling from Delhi to add to her knowledge of fashion, while Afshan, 26, after finishing high school decided to follow her aspirations and move to Pune to study fashion design at School of Fashion Technology.
"Since childhood I wanted to learn the art of fashion designing. More than the strings of alphabets, designs used to fascinate me and accessorising dolls was my favourite pastime. Sharing the same interests, Mehnaz and I held to our dream and made it a reality with the establishment of own boutique," says Afshan.
Giving employment to three professional tailors, the founders of this studio believe that the exclusive collection of designer wear available at their store is unique and different with a fusion of diverse styles and ethnic patterns.
This designer boutique for women produces designed and customized fashionable women's apparel alongside ready-to-wear bridal and contemporary clothing with a detailed handwork and vibrant colour palette.
"What makes us different from others is the fact that we customize the designs as per the customer's preference. We obtain the raw fabric while our clients explain to us their requirement in detail and we try to live up to their expectations by producing the exact same results," says Mehnaz.
The cousin duo is part of the Kashmir's new beginning, where women are venturing into, what was earlier completely male dominated profession, business and entrepreneurship.
Overcoming the initial opposition from family members at the time of initiation, the duo was able to convince their parents regarding the usefulness of setting up their own venture rather than opting for a conventional occupation.
"In Kashmir, girls are mostly associated either with the field of medicine or teaching. The reason for this disparity may be due to the deep-rooted social belief that business is the domain of men although women have a great role to play in the growing segment of entrepreneurs nowadays. It was difficult to convince our parents initially, but with time they got convinced and supported us fully," says Mehnaz.
From the setting up of boutique to the procurement of necessary items, a total of Rs 10 lakh capital was invested in this project, which was arranged with the help of their families. Everything was going according to the plan for the owners of this boutique till last year's unrest followed by six-month long shutdown which affected their business gravely and resulted in financial losses.
"Due to last year's troubled situation we had to cancel many orders and pay back the advance money. But we still tried to overcome this difficulty by working during night hours, as we had to cater to the needs of our clients especially brides-to-be at any cost. With the grace of almighty we have recovered from the losses we had to face due to the turbulence and are ready to bear any kind of risk," says Afshan.
Sitting inside their boutique whose major highlight is its décor, the duo talks about their desire to open various branches of their store in a more commercialized area to increase footfall and to make more people aware of their business operation.
"We are thinking about expanding our business by opening branches of this store in other places as the footfall in this area is very low. Since we have introduced readymade apparels exclusively designed by us from this year, we want to present our customers with more variable choices," says Mehnaz.
Encouraging the young women of Kashmir who want to enter this whole new world of entrepreneurship to overcome problems arising due to biases and prejudices and follow their aspirations, the duo says:
Don't ever be intimidated by any sort of societal pressure, which is meant to bring you down. Being an entrepreneur has made us realise the vitality of being independent. In this profession, you are your own boss. There will be risks and uncertainties but with a strong will you can overcome it all and reach newer heights.