The story of British Asian designer Barjis Chohan is far from the normal one you typically hear. It is the proof of destiny and will combined. This mother of two and hard working woman has come a long way in a very short period of time. What started as a simple wedding dress design for her sister has turned into an international success, award-winning, Muslim leading high fashion label in the West. Her next accomplishment is her label's first debut during this coming London Fashion Week. We caught up with Barjis before her showcase and asked her a few questions.
You are about to present your collection during London Fashion Week in a few days. How are you feeling at this very moment?
Barjis: Well to be honest I am quite nervous. It's a milestone for my label and to be associated with Swarovski Crystallized is very exciting. The expectations are high and I want to deliver the best results.
You have stated that it all started by designing your sister's wedding dress. Compare that moment to now.
Barjis: I never thought about entering fashion. It was purely accidental that someone told me to enter fashion after seeing my sisters wedding dress. It has been a long road but I have never been in a hurry. Like most women I wanted to get married,have kids but also have something for myself. Nothing has come easy for me,juggling motherhood with running a business is a challenge and I am a very hands on mum so burning the midnight oil is essential and my body is used to it.
I am the type who never enjoys her success because I can't see it. People around me can but I am so driven to achieve the next milestone that I don't enjoy the moment. So if I had to compare the moment then nothing has changed. I still feel like I have accomplished nothing and have a long way to go.
You are a big supporter of advising young talent and I often get questions as "How do I become a rich designer?" "How do I get my designs on the runway?", What is your response to this?
Barjis: I think for me personally money has never been a driving factor. I never entered this field to make loads of money. If I wanted to make money I would have ventured in Banking or another career. So if you want to become a designer to become richer then good luck. Because you don't become rich in Fashion. It takes years to build a brand. I think it all depends on how you define 'rich'. Yes my life is rich because I am privileged to live my dream but financial rewards only happen after a few years.
I do support young fresh talent and always advise them to not cut corners by following the crowd. You need to be determined,take risks and find your own style. Money can help you set up but that is not a guarantee for success. Coming from a conservative working class Muslim family I was not allowed to socialise or go to networking parties so how did I make it without contacts?.Simple...get your product right and people will find you.
How has the role of your faith played in your success?
Barjis: It has helped me to keep me grounded, take risks and seek guidance from Allah. I take huge risks because I am pretty much fearless. We come with nothing, we will go with nothing. So money and playing with money whether I have it or not is not a big issue for me.If I lose money Allah will give it again. If he doesn't then it's ok. My faith keeps me grounded because I am around affluent people and their money, status and life has never rubbed on to me. Why? because I don't like showing my wealth or status through buying a luxury car or buying an expensive handbag.These things have never appealed to me. I am pretty simple by nature and would like to keep it this way.Hence I use public transport as much as possible and try to live a simple life. So that when you have money nobody knows and when you don't have it, then no one will know.So faith plays an integral part in how I see life and success.
I couldn't help to notice that your models have this 'real' essence and is not your standard tall, thin blonde model. Not that they are not real, but I think the models you choose make the clothes more relatable to people. How do you choose your models?
To be frank I have never planned who I will be using as models. I try to bring models from all ethnic backgrounds as my clients come from diverse backgrounds.
What is your favorite quote of inspiration?
Barjis: This is my own quote,"Lower your head with humility and let Allah take you to your destination"