THE TWENTY FOURTH INSTALLATION OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves. Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are. Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #BelleBoss series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart. Even if that means breaking a few rules and many societal prejudices along the way.
Could you both give our readers a little introduction about yourself?
We are sisters- Sharon, 25 and Mandeep, 26. We grew up together, alongside an older sister and a younger brother in a small town in Kent. We are Sikh, but we were not brought up in a particularly religious household.We grew up away from our extended families and so have learnt to be quite self-reliant as a family.
Our parents were brought up in India and so they have instilled strong Punjabi traditions and culture.
There are only 15 months between us, so we were pretty much dressed up and treated like twins.We have always grown up with similar interests, mutual friends but different hobbies. We share a lot of similarities in what we consider stylish and modish however we have a different sense of styles.
Could you tell us a bit about what made you both want to start Stylmk together?
StylmK as a brand was conceived 2 years ago now. StylmK came about through the realisation that we should have one centralised portal where people can communicate with us for fashion inspiration, trends and advise.
When we had separate social media accounts, we were being asked frequently where our outfits were from and how we have put it all together, garment aside, how we had constructed an outfit is what peaked peoples interests.
We decided to put this blog together with a lot of encouragement from Mandeep’s fiancé. Blogging is something Mandeep and I were very intrigued and fascinated by separately and together. We would discuss our favourite bloggers together regularly and unintentionally say things like: ‘if we were to’ and ‘if it were us’. When the idea of blogging successfully as an occupation became viral over 3 years ago now, we like many others, began to take it more seriously.However, we are very self-critical; and do not do things half-heartedly, we do it with a purpose and really throw ourselves into it.
Mandeep: We didn’t want to just be another pair of bloggers and so when rationalising whether to initiate StylmK, we really thought about what we could bring that would interest people and what the industry lacks. Whilst we follow trends we pride ourselves on constantly designing and styling clothing that most girls find accessible.
We are naturally very private people and so starting a blog together was not a light decision and something we had to pep talk ourselves into doing. As time has gone on, we have had to work on becoming more comfortable in sharing more about ourselves and our personal lives.
How would you describe your personal style and who would be your fashion icon?
I find I am only satisfied with an outfit when it’s layered. I think it’s because I’m constantly looking to personalise any look. I also get bored easily so if something looks easy to replicate or too simple I will try and customise it. For example, cutting sleeves, turning jumpers the other way around, redefining how to wear a shirt to breath fresh air into an outfit.
I would describe my personal style as: clean & simple. I focus on picking garments that suit my figure most. I tend to opt for fitted garments which either nip in from the waist and/or the hem of trousers as they flatter my figure the most.
We both focus heavily on tailoring.
Dependent on the occasion, we opt for strong silhouettes as opposed to colours. In other words, if we want to stand out, we would choose to wear a white structured blazer with strong shoulders instead of a strong print/patterned shirt.I love how daring and editorial Margaret Zhang dresses every day and how sharp Diane Kruger dress sense is.We find Victoria Beckham, Olivia Palermo consistently well dressed.
We also both love the stylist Monica rose for her ability to stay true to minimalism but constantly reinvent classic looks and compositions
What has been the most surprising aspect of running a business by yourselves?
Honestly ?… How difficult it is to manage the workload…even between us both!
It always feels as if we could be doing more and more often than not, there isn’t anything tangible to show for our day.
We always knew it would be hard as we began this journey with nothing but passion and a vision. Neither of us has worked in the fashion industry or possess a fashion relevant qualification. We have no family contacts within manufacturing or an existing supply chain – every aspect of our business has been funded by ourselves.
It is only when we reflect on this on the days that are most challenging do we realise just how far we have come.
However, we are nowhere near where we want to be. This leads us to one of the most challenging aspects of running our own business; impatience. We experience a strong sense of urgency for things to happen now and in the time frame, we need. It is extremely frustrating when something has not gone to plan, or an oversight on logistics has cost us money/time or both! On the upside, this has forced us to manage our time better very quickly.
How do you stay organized and balance work life with personal life?
Time is literally money in this line of business.
It’s taken us a while to learn how best to manage our time and how important it is to be proactive with planning ahead. We do this by sharing a ‘Business Calendar’ which we use to mark our deadlines/ networking events, so we both plan our personal lives around this. We also assign ourselves a To-Do list and give each other forfeits if they are not completed.
Mandeep is particularly great at organising and time management. And as for balancing with personal life; truth be told we are fortunate enough to have a lot of supportive and uplifting people around us who make it so easy to switch off and relax. Mandeep and I have a knack for talking business and making decisions wherever we are, despite what we are doing. In this respect, I guess we’re always switched on and throwing ideas around so we constantly have a lot of momentum between us.
Could you tell us about your bespoke Indian wear designs and where you draw your inspiration from?
Could you tell us about your bespoke Indian wear designs and where you draw your inspiration from?
We would describe our Indian Wear designs as Fusion wear.Our inspiration predominately comes from our lifestyle and who we are. It goes down to the very core of why we chose design fusion wear pieces.
As the second generation, we have fully integrated into western society all the while being brought up in a strong Indian culture. Naturally, our culture forms a huge part of our identity.
Dressing and appearances is a pivotal form of identity and whilst we have the autonomy to dress how we wish in western events we felt restricted with our choices for Indian events. We didn’t know where to go to find what we were looking for -without having to commit at least £400 to one outfit that we know would only be useful for the odd Indian wedding every year.
We decided that financially we couldn’t invest in both our western and Indian wardrobes despite how important they are to us. And so contemporary Indian wear was something we naturally started designing. There is nothing more elegant than a Saree but wearing bright colours and prints were not reflective of our style.
When we started to gain traction for outfits we were fashioning ourselves, we were inspired to make this available for others, who like us, felt like they must keep their Indian and English wardrobes separate.
We love that we get the opportunity to dress in a Saree or
Lehenga as much as a ball gown… but why must we compromise?
We created this Label to design pieces that are affordable, accessible and to redefine what it means to dress like the Indian woman of today. We also want others outside of our culture to not feel intimated to wear a Saree. But to give them the opportunity to wear a contemporary style Saree in which they also feel comfortable in and they can wear the blouse to another English event.
Where did the name StylmK originate from?
It was based on the word ‘Style’ as we wanted it to be clear that the focus is on our style as that’s what we are all about. The K represents our Surname, Kang, which is one thing we will always share as sisters and where it all began.
What are your dreams and hopes for 2018 both for StylmK and yourselves?
We have a lot of dreams and hopes for StylmK … but the priority is to get people of all backgrounds and diverse cultures to appreciate the beauty and modesty of Indian Wear by making it accessible and affordable to them. With our focus on Ready-To-Wear, we aim to be the fast fashion retailer for the Indian wear space, all the while maintaining quality in material and tailoring.
We want people to start thinking about Indian fashion differently; Incorporating it in their Date-nights outfits with friends/ partners and not just Occasion-wear. Hence the introduction of our first fusion outfit: The Lace Body Saree. The lace body is designed with modesty in mind. It is fully lined with a nude lining which gives the all-important contemporary look. It is a Body and so covers the entire waist in the most flattering way possible.
It can also be worn with skirts, tailored trousers and shorts for a dressy dinner look.
Every single one of our designs come about from things we struggle to find ourselves.
The lace body was created as we found it particularly challenging to find a Black lace top that wasn’t too plunge or uncomfortable to wear both with Indian and English outfits. We will continue to create pieces from our personal struggles in the hope those who can relate have a solution.
We want our customers to stop feeling obliged to spend hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros on overpriced Indianwear that can only be worn a handful of times in order to feel their best.
We want ladies who are admittedly intimated and nervous about trying a Saree to feel confident enough to buy one and mix & match it with their existing wardrobes.
Ultimately we want to bridge the gap between English and Indian wardrobes.As for short-term goals, we are currently working on free worldwide delivery.
We already offer Free Uk delivery but a lot of our customers are buying from Canada and America and even Australia!
As for ourselves, we hope to strengthen our brand individually and together through events and exhibitions. We will, of course, continue to use our personal experiences when innovating new designs. Mandeep will be getting married this year so there will be plenty of events to showcase our designs.
We have a huge surprise this side of the year and so cannot wait to reveal what we have been working on for over a year now. Ultimately, we are just beginning his journey and so look forward to what the year brings…
This is it for this interview. Scroll down to follow the Belleboss Interviews every Sunday and be inspired every week.