“I am a firm believer of women empowerment; in saying so, I must clarify that ALL WOMEN ARE EMPOWERED, they simply have to channelize it in the proper way. ”
Farheen Rahman, Managing Director, Toile is a professional with a fine blend of fashion sense and sustainability and she launched her brand ‘fbr.inc’ to promote sustainable fashion. This was soon followed up with the opening of her signature store ‘Toile’. As she speaks about her journey to Poonam Sinha, she appears to be completely dedicated towards achieving the objective of sourcing, manufacturing and designing clothes which maximize the benefits to the industry and society at large, at the same time minimizes the impacts on the environment.
Q. When did you get the ‘Big Idea’ to start your own fashion label?
I was pursuing a designing course at London College of Fashion in 2005, where I interacted with other students from various nationalities. Through these interactions I realized that people were very interested in Indian embroidery and culture. They loved Indian aesthetics but were reluctant to own them as it was very ‘loud’ for their taste. That’s when I decided to launch my own brand to fill in the gap between western silhouettes and Indian embroidery and handloom. I launched my label in London in 2007 and I wanted it to be a juxtaposition of western sensibilities and Indian aesthetics. I always wanted to globally flaunt the Indian craftsmanship and it was easier advertising the same while studying in London.
Q. Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?
Honestly it was very easy for me because I launched my label in the UK. As already said, there, the demand for subdued Indian designs is very high. Also, work culture there is very organized and the international fashion industry does welcome diversity. However, when in 2012, I decided to launch my label in India, it was a wee bit difficult. As a new-comer, I was not given opportunities immediately. However, those were just initial ‘teething’ problems; now, being a woman in the fashion industry has worked out just fine for me.
Q. Do you think woman entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? Have you impacted/supported/mentored the careers of other woman?
Well honestly, I do not see much of camaraderie between female co-workers. There is much talk about supporting your own tribe, but unfortunately not much action taken in that direction. Women still have to struggle to make their own place in the society. I believe that things would be much easier if we did support each other.
I am a firm believer of women empowerment; in saying so, I must clarify that ALL WOMEN ARE EMPOWERED, they simply have to channelize it in the proper way. I have created my own family trust which works for the health and education for the lesser privileged women. We give them job opportunities so that they can be financially independent. 60% of these women are employed in my stores.
Q. Give us an insight into your family’s role in your success as a woman entrepreneur. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
My family has always been very supportive. I come from a family of doctors. Education is very important in my family and women are given equal education just as the men of the house. When I first decided to venture into fashion, it was a surprise for my family. Yet, they supported me and helped me realize my dreams. Each and every woman in my family has been my strength. Also, the men who married into my family believe in female equality and have supported their partners in their professional spheres. This attitude is very important for women entrepreneurs and this is what helps me balance my personal and professional life with ease.
Q. What does the road ahead in 2020 look like?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. Going digital is the new ‘normal’. I have launched ‘Toile’ in 2017 in India and we have stores in Mumbai and Kolkata. It is India’s first sustainable multi designer store. The concept behind this is to provide a platform to emerging or well-established designers working towards sustainable fashion. We work with weavers and along with providing employment to these deserving craftsmen, we are also trying to revive the handloom industry. In 2020 I am launching the third store in London. Technology will be a great enabler in 2020 and I intend going ahead with my plans using the e-commerce platform.
Q. Any words of wisdom for aspiring women designers?
Fashion and Glamour Industry is very attractive and addictive. It is very competitive too as we have thousands of designers graduating each year and it becomes difficult to find your feet in the industry. I believe it is always better to intern and learn the trade and then launch your label when you have learnt the ropes. There is no place for mediocrity. Just believe in your craft. CREATE RATHER THAN DUPLICATE.