Hi, my name is Suraj Mehta and I am a fashion designer based in Mumbai.
Since a tender age, I have been fascinated by fashion designers. I was fascinated by their designs and production processes, and simply because of that I was inclined to pursue fashion at a very young age.
Being so in awe of what designers do, I decided to get into fashion where I can make clothes for myself and also make something good for a lot of other people because I saw a genuine need of making fashionable clothes at a much more affordable rate.
My journey began at a young age when I landed a position at Gabbana. I am now the creative director of my brand. Yet, for all the ups and downs, I stayed focused on my dreams of becoming an important designer.
When I was young, I wanted to study at NIFT. But NIFT was in Delhi and not Bombay in the years 1989-1990. I spoke to my dad, telling him that I want to go to Delhi to study fashion. But that was not possible because of the fees and the logistics.
So to learn what customers need, I worked at a local tailoring shop in Bombay itself where I learned how to understand the clients, what is comfortable based on their requirements and suggest them something they will enjoy wearing. The satisfaction of making a really good piece of garment with good fitting for my customers which goes above and beyond their expectations means a lot to me.
What I make is not over the top: not something which costs lakhs of rupees, which people just keep in their wardrobe forever. I want my customers to use my clothes and get value for their money. I have independently built myself and my brand from the very beginning. I have faced a ton of challenges along my path, one of them being unsatisfied and angry customers.
Some customers get angry so I try not to fight with them. I try to listen to them and explain to them what kind of stuff will suit them. I do my best to be nice and sweet to them and try not to antagonise them. Because sometimes, these customers will give you a bad review which is something I don’t like. I try to give them a soft touch.
There are also people whom you recommend your creative ideas to but they don’t take you seriously as they don’t want to explore something else and they ignore your advice. They do exactly the opposite of what I say but you have to live with it and that’s okay! Let people do what they want to. You can only advise them, you can’t force them!
I have also found that another key to success is working as a team.
I’ve always been a team player. I have structured my company in such a way that I have different teams for different operations altogether. A sales team, follow up production team, an accounts team, a marketing team, etc. I have office meetings regularly for the smooth functioning of my organisation.
My office wear is very basic: normally a cotton trouser and a cotton shirt because I have to go and sit in the workshop also because cotton is very comfortable and a piece of very breathable fabric and it’s like in a workshop in Bombay there’s a lot of humidity in the workshop so it’s a good fibre to absorb all the humidity.
As a designer, I am not influenced by what other people are doing, I try my best to create my style statement. The only thing that should influence a designer is what he wants and what he wants to present. I stay up to trend with the latest styles through movies of course.
Movies that inspire me are the James Bond movies going on for the last 40 years. I like English fashion, I like European fashion, British fashion because they know exactly how to mix the colour palettes very well. The colours they typically use are baby pinks and colour combinations with a little hint of lavender. I think they still stand out.
I have seen that pricing is a major issue in the World of Fashion. I see in the fashion industry that people make very bad quality clothing which customers buy because it’s cheap. But they barely use it 5 or 6 times. It’s a bad quality product which doesn’t last long, and they eventually throw it. I don’t mind a slightly expensive product, but it should be a good quality garment which should last you for at least 40 or 50 washes.
Work has never been stressful for me. I love working because I’m doing something in fashion, and as I have established before, I love fashion: so it’s not even one per cent stressful. I love it and the only break which I love to take is on a Sunday and I like to spend that time with my wife and daughters.
I keep on looking for different styles and different ideas and inspirations. I keep on improvising using different combinations and offer them to my customers. At the end of the day, it’s in the customer's hands to decide what is good for him.
You cannot do the same thing you have done yesterday as variety is key.
My advice to the youth out there: Following your dreams may not always be easy. You'll never achieve a long-term goal by just sitting and day-dreaming about it. You will instead need to commit to a vision, carefully plan, and learn how to stay focused for months or even years.
While reaching your dream might be hard, with organization, motivation, and self-discipline you can do it. Never give up.