Joe Zee on Designer Aysha Saeed

Her Challenge: I found Aysha an extremely interesting case from the moment I first arrived to meet her. She seemed very confident, poised, in control and yet she wanted my help, which intrigued me. After listening to her story and seeing her clothing, I had a better understanding. First of all, she’s invested almost one million dollars (one million!!) of her own money into the company and just wasn’t seeing the return on revenue she was anticipating. Sure, she was selling SOME of her collection but it wasn’t the blowout success she had anticipated. And in terms of her collection, she had some pretty shift dresses but that was it – just pretty shift dresses. I could see this being a bigger business for her in the dress departments of major retailers but she wanted to make a splash. And a splash requires creativity – which means taking her designs out of the confines of her personal dressing and into something that will stand out in a bigger way on a department store floor. But you can’t even begin to make that splash if you’ve closed yourself off to any creative brainstorming. Aysha was strong-willed and often apprehensive when it came to taking advice so welcoming ideas from her team wasn’t always top of mind for her. She needed a creative intervention – and quick. Enter a new inspiration exercise.

Lesson Learned: Getting Aysha to see beyond herself was the first challenge. When it came to inspiration, I wanted her to see INSIDE of herself. She was already designing dresses that fit her shape and personal style, but what about actually tapping into something she knows best so she can take her collection to another level – her roots. Aysha is a Pakistani-born designer so maybe my decision to have her be inspired by her own heritage may have seemed a bit obvious but it was really more driven from a place of where I see fashion going. Fashion is definitely reaching bigger global proportions every year and ethnic themes are rampant on the runways, and here was Aysha, someone who can authentically and genuinely borrow from her own culture. Personally, I think it’s always tough incorporating ethnic themes into any fashion collection where it can straddle a fine line between costume and clothes and I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous with Aysha but in the end, she and her team did it beautifully and meticulously and I’m glad we pushed through with this idea.

Next Steps: Don’t be so rigid. Those are my words of advice for her. My biggest issue with Aysha from the beginning was that she always did what she believed was right and was apprehensive to new ideas, especially ideas that may have contradicted her own points of view. This was the one issue I really wanted to see her overcome because it would only be after that, could she allow herself to let in new ideas and thoughts that could grow her business in a bigger way. And welcoming new ideas means listening to her staff and not just me which she does now. Yes, I may have helped when I was there but she needs a constant sounding board which is always tough for someone wanting to be alpha and in charge. By the end, though, I think she definitely succeeded in this aspect.

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