10% of Barjis London profits are invested in our not for profit organisation: The Barjis Initiative. For more information please visit our website.
Celebrating Barjis’s 5th Anniversary!
This is a special milestone for BARJIS – it is our 5th Anniversary this year. It seems like yesterday since the launch of BARJIS – luxury modest brand at Dubai Fashion Week in 2011. During these 5 years we have received an overwhelming appreciation for our brand.
In the build up to the anniversary in October 2016 we plan to dedicate these coming months with competitions, a pop up event in October 2016 and also free monthly giveaways to our loyal followers.
A great way to start this celebration is to share our journey by interviewing the Founder – Barjis Chohan
It’s been 5 years Barjis, how do you feel?
It feels quite surreal -Barjis started from humble beginnings with a need to cater for a growing market of young professional modest women around the world. We thought the best place to launch is in Dubai. The show was well received – the highlight were models sitting on a Harley Davidson to capture the mood of liberation for modest women.
Tell me why did you want a Harley Davidson on your debut catwalk show?
To be frank it was a personal dream to be sitting on a Harley. I just thought the Harley is synonymous for freedom and liberation and this is what Barjis stands for. So I thought this would be the best way to launch the label. I must say the men in the crowd were more excited about the Harley then the show. Even my brother disappeared from the backstage and started taking pictures on the Harley. He was supposed to fly from London to help me but instead he left me for the Harley!
What has been the biggest milestone for BARJIS?
There have been many! But what stands out from everything is receiving a hand written postcard from Paul Smith with his support and appreciation for my brand. I have kept that in my memory box as nothing can beat this!
Who is your muse when designing a collection?
Barjis woman is a well educated travelled woman who is not into conforming to trends and fashion cycles. She likes everything creative but functional.
If there is anyone that you would like to design for – who would it be?
I know every designers dream is to create a piece for Angelina Jolie. I am no exception, she has the class, elegance and modesty that resonates with BARJIS. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to create a dress for Angelina.
What made you want to go into Fashion? It is quite glamorous and doesn’t fit into the average Muslim girls lifestyle.
Like any designer I felt there was a gap missing in the market and I wanted to fill it. To be honest it has been a struggle and Fashion is not an easy profession to crack into. I don’t think it’s glamorous – like any industry you need to be dedicated and have a lot of patience to see results.
You said you struggled – what has been the biggest hurdle to overcome?
I believe modesty is prevalent in all societies. It is not about your religion but more about how you value yourself. So when I set up my business I knew that Barjis is not just for Muslim women, as women from other religions and cultures are equally as modest. Hence reaching out to my customers without being labelled an Islamic brand has been a very big struggle..
You have 3 daughters – how have you managed to balance being a mum and a business woman?
It’s not easy! I work from 9-3.30 and then I am a mum. I have kept this routine for a very long time, but I know that I cannot work after 3.30pm so my brain automatically switches off. My colleagues also leave at this time as I feel that hardly anyone works productively after 4pm. After 4 we tend to fiddle with our phones and get less work done. Less working hours – more productive, this is my motto and works well with my lifestyle and my team.
This is amazing! I have heard that you need to work around the clock to get a business established. So how have you managed to build it by only working 6 hours a day?
I will be lying if I said that I only work 6 hours. When kids are in bed( after 9pm) I am replying to emails so honestly I do work between 9-11pm. During shows and events the day is a bit longer. However on an average day it is always during school hours.
Your new resort collection is fabulous! Tell us more about the collection..
I am receiving positive feedback from my new collection. It was inspired by the Indonesian Islands, it’s fun, youthful, functional with lot’s of wild floral prints. I love prints but also minimal designs. This combination works well with my clients.
What makes Barjis such a huge success?
I think the fusion of my Pakistani heritage with my British upbringing. This comes out in my collections even if I am not consciously using it as an inspiration. There is this subtle conflict of cultures in my work which I find quite interesting. I cannot forget to mention the prints which have become the brands DNA; the quality and wearability of my clothes are very important to me.
Most of the modest brands out there are more towards a high street market and lack the aesthetics associated with a high end brand. While BARJIS is all about the luxury quality and the creative story of each collection. This resonates well with my customers, who appreciate the brand ethos – they are very loyal!
Who is your customer? Where do they live?
Women who appreciate good quality, love prints and are a bit quirky. I have a global customer base – but if I have to name a few countries then it would be Turkey, USA, France and then UK.
What is your plan for the future?
To grow my online business and launch new product lines which will include sunglasses, bridal and gift items. I am also thinking of putting my mark on the South Asian market by launching a Pakistani Shalwar Kameez line next Eid.
I would like to have some key stockists in countries where there is more demand for BARJIS but this is not something that I have actively pursued over the years. Ideally I would like to have my own outlet in the coming years.
What advice would you give to any new designer?
Don’t run before you can walk. Take one step at a time and have patience. If you take short cuts then you will lose out in the long run. If you are here for the money then you need to change profession but if you are passionate then you will succeed. Try to self fund your venture – Barjis is self funded till this date!
Finally don’t follow the crowd as the secret to Barjis’s success is that if the world is turning left – I turn right! Be a game changer – we have more than enough followers in this world.
Interviewed by Rebecca Smith.