It’s no cakewalk making it to the top in the fashion world—Any insider will vouch for the fact that it takes years of networking, hard work, sweat, tears and unmatched creativity. To put it simply, the formulae to make it big in the business of fashion is Taking Risks + Creativity + Being an Opportunist. Safe to say that upcoming fashion designer Shivani Awasty is currently acing this formula. After being trained at Slade School of Visual Arts in oil painting in London, her strong inclination towards fashion and go-getter attitude landed her in one of the most renowned fashion colleges in the world: Central Saint Martin’s. She then went on to work under the biggest brands in the International fashion space, namely John Galliano and Marchesa. Her journey until now will inspire you and reiterate how hard work and passion can trump anything.
Where does your love for designing stem from?
My interest in design and the visual arts began at a very young age, from being drawn to the expressionist dabbles of Monet to the controversial statements of Tracy Emin. Art communicates to a viewer on many levels; it is this complexity that evoked a strong emotion and connection in me. I was trained in fine art – oil painting and sculpture at Slade School of Visual Arts in University College London. After which I went on to pursue my Foundation degree at Central Saint Martins.
It was during my time here, the home to many of the greatest designers in the world that I found myself drawn to the art form of fashion. The complexity of design in the fashion space from the masters such as Alexander Mcqueen, Hussein Chalayan, and John Galliano is where I found my true passion to create. This led me to make the move from Fine art to Fashion Design and complete my 4-year formal training in BA (Hons) Fashion Design in a pursuit to gain knowledge in this field and find my personal voice in design.
What was your first job in the fashion industry?
Deferring my final year in BA (Hons) Fashion Design, I took a year off to gain industry knowledge and experience in fashion houses. My first job was in the couture department at the famed couture house of MARCHESA, in New York.
Take us through the reality of what you went through of getting into Central Saint Martins – How slim were the chances?
Central Saint Martin’s is renowned as the best fashion design college in the world and is one of the toughest institutions to be placed in. When I decided to apply for a foundation diploma in fashion, I was faced with the fashionable reaction—that this is virtually impossible. The application process is extremely tricky as applicants are in the thousands and one is generally rejected. The ability to project all your creative work in a few slides sent in an email did not seem like a good way to better the odds.
During the time I was applying, I learned that a representative from London would be coming to India to interview a few selected students for placements in all 6 colleges for University of the Arts London. Having a strong background in oil painting and sculpture, I decided to make a swift decision of transporting all my works of art (some over 5 and a half feet tall) in a truck to the interview location.Everyone had come in waiting patiently with their portfolios in hand, and I stood in a corridor with my large art creations, waiting. When it was my turn to be interviewed, I still remember seeing the expression of shock when the interviewer saw all the work I brought with me. It was this risk that got me my foot in the door. I was the only one there to get into CSM that day.
The Foundation diploma year was another crazy ride as this does not guarantee admission into the BA programme. There were 400 students from all over the world dying to gain the coveted 60-70 spots for fashion design in addition to the thousand other direct applicants from all over. This phase was truly one of the most grueling and creatively inspiring periods in my life that led me to gain my place in the BA programme.
What were the most valuable learnings from your internships at Marchesa & John Galliano?
Deferring a year to gain industry experience was one of the best decisions I ever made. My first work experience was at Marchesa, I was placed and working within the couture department and sometimes working on their other label Notte. I worked with the team on their Spring Summer 2013 couture collection and Marchesa Bridal 2013.
My time there was my first real taste of the design world, working crazy hours every day but invaluable as I was able to work on actual runway looks and create with the team. I also worked on a few special projects during my time there such as Blake Lively’s wedding dress, red carpet gowns for Eva Longoria and Sarah Hyland amongst others. Marchesa creatively instilled in my design perspective the appreciation for the feminine quality.
After New York, I immediately moved to work one of my idol’s brands – John Galliano in Paris. This was nothing short of what I imagined it to be with their beautiful atelier and creative space and of course the room with all the archives of older collections and beautiful garments. I worked on the Men’s and Women’s Autumn Winter 2013 collections during my time there. It is here where the androgynous and feminine collide in the fashion aesthetic to create beautiful collections.
Working in several facets of the collections and the brand’s business not only helped me gain knowledge on design but also the commercial business aspect behind it. My experience behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week will always be the most invaluable experience in my career.
What is it like running your own brand now—what are some of the challenges you face?
After moving back to India, I established my label SHIVANI AWASTY in September 2015. Having gained experience working for fashion powerhouses and being trained with a strong European sensibility, I decided to create a line that would cater to the growing demand of western wear in today’s Contemporary Indian Market. I was fortunate since the very beginning of my career as I was able to start retailing with one of the biggest Indian luxury retail chains – AZA almost immediately. Starting from there I grew to retailing in several markets such as Mumbai, Delhi, Banglore, Calcutta, Nagpur and Raipur within India and thereafter internationally primarily within the Middle Eastern & European Markets.
Like any new business, it’s always a struggle to ensure you are creating a demand for your product. Fashion today, is a very competitive space, and creating a niche and keeping it is a constant challenge. Fashion is constantly evolving in all markets and aiming to stay ahead of the curve while always staying competitive is something that always remains a challenge to work around.
We’re feeling all the #GirlBoss vibes from this up and coming designer. Cannot wait to see all the accolades she recieves in the future.