Ohaila Khan aspired to be a fashion designer since she was 6 year old. Now, one may think that a little girl fascinated with fashion and couture was probably inspired by magazines or glamorous movies. But Ohaila’s inspiration came from an unexpected source – her father. As an exporter of couture embroidered garments, her father worked with almost all the biggest fashion houses from London, Paris, Milan and New York. Having such a strong influence, working so closely with the fashion industry in her life, Ohaila set out to make her dreams come true. She graduated from The London College of fashion with a degree in Design and Marketing.
She gained knowledge and experience by working in her father’s company as a design director where she would research and develop innovative embroidery techniques and artworks, and create swatches for the likes of Giorgio Armani, Elie Saab, Versace, Monique Lhullier, Marchesa and Roberto Cavalli to name a few. She also gained exposure by working with a British couturier Lindka Cierach, who designs for the British and Middle Eastern royalty.
Ohaila then joined the famous Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra and worked under him as an assistant designer on fashion shows and production for one and a half year. Talking about her mentor she says, “I have never seen anyone more hardworking and passionate about their work. He wakes up at five and six in the morning and sleeps at four in the night. And he’s always thinking about his work.”
Today, the 25 year-old has a collection of several exquisite garments which she retails to multiple places. Talking about her favorite embroidery techniques she says, “I like to mix things and try new techniques. In Indian, I like gota, dabka, zardozi — that kind of work. I like to mix things around — shapely beads with zardozi, for example or mix geometrical with floral designs.”
“That’s my passion and I really like to focus on embroidery. I have always come to my father’s office, looked at samples and made my own clothes. I like to create things I want, inspired by the new artworks, printouts from books etc. I started making clothes for my sister, mom and myself,” she shares. We caught up with this talented, young designer and here are a few excepts from the conversation.
1. Which Indian designer do you look up to?
Manish Malhotra, Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi, Abu-Sandeep.
2. Does your current collection have a theme?
Yes most of my collections always have a theme. My current collection is called ‘Aurelia’ derived from the Latin word ‘Aureus’ meaning golden.
This collection reflects a radiant shimmering girl with a golden perspective on life, who spends her days in sunlight and love.
It is a mix of lehengas, anararkalli, draped sari, and draped fusion gown. It targets a contemporary modern bride and her family looking to shop for her trousseau, or wedding functions. The color story for this collection ranges predominantly between peach-blush, peach-rust, moving deeper to coral, red and black. The embroidery for this collection is predominantly zardozi, applique and hand beading.
3. Which ensemble/outfit would you like to be known for?
I wouldn’t like to be known for any particular ensemble or outfit. Fashion is constantly changing, I’d like to be known even after a particular ensemble or outfit is outdated. I believe quality and craft and finish determine a true couturier styles come and go.
4. What kind of outfits do you specialize in?
I specialize in bespoke outfits with classic cuts with a focus on hand embellishment. I design couture evening gowns as well as have a ready to wear line of contemporary and traditional Indian festive garments.
5. Describe your customers, their age, background, taste?
I think my work is more classic yet not something that’s too mature for a young person and can be worn by quite a wide age bracket due to that. But ideally my customer is not someone who’s just looking for a fun outfit to wear once just because it’s trending right now. It would be someone who values good embroidery craftsmanship quality and is a connoisseur of garments which they value cherish and probably even reuse 2 or 3 years down the line because it’s a classic.
6. How would you describe your brand?
A fusion of classic and traditional with modern contemporary clothing with a deep focus on innovation and experimentation in terms of embroidery.
7. Which season do you get the most orders?
With the Indian market it’s normally the obvious wedding season. Winters being the season time for Indian festive as well as Diwali. But we have a lot of NRI and Middle Eastern clients for whom we do bespoke orders throughout the year.
8. Which stores do you retail to?
I retail to Aza, Pernia’s pop up shop and Studio 8 in Dubai. In terms of Pernia’s Pop-up store, it’s been overwhelming. It’s been my best retail experience, I have to say. I didn’t meet her for the longest time. It all started with the process of sending pictures of our collections and them approving it. I was in touch with the buyers. Whatever I have given them, it’s been sold out within a week most of the time. Aza has been very nice too and I’ve been retailing there for two-and-a-half years.
9. Which celeb would you want to style or design for?
No one in particular since I prefer making clothes for real women/girls next door. With my garments I intend to make them feel extraordinary rather than designing for a style icon who already looks amazing at every appearance she makes.
10. Who is your favorite celeb/ client so far?
I think Huma Qureshi, she’s such a natural beauty. She has this effortless Indian beauty vibe to her, a girl next-door appeal.
11. Any fashion tips for college students? Dos and Don’ts?
Create your own style, don’t try and mimic anyone else’s. Being dressed in brands from head to toe is not style, it’s how tastefully you put a look together that matters even if it’s from a flea market