Walking down the corridor of an old building in South Bombay where Masoom Minawala awaits to be interviewed, I think to myself, 'how different can this be?' The gist was clear; thanks to my research…the person named made a mark in the fashion domain at a very young age. Many may ask: isn't there a passel in the segment, designers, stylists et al? Reasoning out that there was something edgy I was to discover, I looked forward to the tête à tête.
Occupying a cornered zone in her father's (a jeweller) work-space, Masoom Minawala is a regular twenty-something with ideas that one wouldn't equate with a girl of her age. There's always this 'stereotype' about people associated with the fashion industry (especially when one is just about new.) Minawala, on the contrary, seemed unpretentious. Rather free-spirited.
Talk to her about her early days will make one wonder how a tom-boy, who chose heading the school's football team as opposed to discussing makeup and clothes with the girls, would undergo such a radical about-face. She laughs, "I'd get back home super-dirty and never gave a rat's ass about how I looked or what I wore. But all throughout my school life I was very experimental with my clothing. When my dad and brother travelled abroad, they'd buy me clothes that were always fashion-seasons ahead. I'd wear something and people would ask me about it. Maybe that's why they say the smallest things influence you in ways."
At a raw age of 17 when one's struggling to answer 'What to do next?' Minawala interned with BMI (a brand house that handles major names like FCUK and Calvin Klein). As part of her research project, she had to look up fashion blogs in India. That helped trigger the interest. "I was a twelfth grader back then and in my mind, blogs were what an 'Amitabh Bachchan' wrote. It was too generic," she laughs. But gradually, on examining the concept, she took a liking to it, "I loved the concept—it is like your personal style diary on the Internet. And there's no limit to the number of people who read your opinion. It was very exciting."
With about ten blogs in the country, the blogosphere was at a nascent stage. Starting with just publishing posts randomly, Minawala decided to network so as to market her blog. Meeting new people, sharing new ideas; the sequence of events that followed only motivated her and she finally decided this was what she wanted to focus on.
She tells us how the idea of owning an e-commerce zone struck her while on a holiday. "You know it's easy to get trendy stuff at an amazing price abroad. And that's when it hit me… I wanted to bring fashion at an affordable rate to cater to India as a country. I put up about 25-30 items for sale post creating a blogstore as a sub-domain. In about 24-hours, it totally sold-out. The feeling was overwhelming; just to know that the buyers trusted the personality behind the blog while paying (there was only bank transfer back then)," says Minawala.
She strongly feels that fashion should not be restricted to just a vicinity or a city; that's when she decided to start a fashion brand. She says, "I knew an online brand would help target the entire country. I don't see why a person living in Pune or Surat should be deprived of fashion because an international retail chain is not set-up in their zone." Minawala took up short courses at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins to enhance her knowledge in the field. Post this she launched Style Fiesta-an online store which, now, also retails to other sites like Koovs, The Trunk Label, Jabong, among others. That's not all, this just-a-year-older than 20 consults for other online brand aspirants, and has a fashion job portal. From styling to collaboration with brands, this youngster has tried it all, "That's one mistake you don't really want to make… to do something that you don't love."
Any city you go to influences you, even if it's in the smallest manner. Minawala feels that "today, she is so opinionated because of growing up in Mumbai." She says, "There's so much diversification here, it makes you want to comment on everything and think about everything that's happening."
Even in terms of her personal style, we ask how much of Mumbai does it hold? Minawala states, "Step out, and there's so much inspiration. Mumbai is the street-style hub of India. It's a bold city and everyone's out there to express themselves. Stand on the road, and you'll see a contrast in every aspect; fashion sense, lifestyle, income, what people wear and how they carry themselves. It's interesting and captivating at once. That gives me a voice of my own."