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Fashion Talk

Raishma Islam

Founder
Brand - Raishma

We are looking to launch in India in a big way

UK-based fashion brand Raishma’s couture collection boasts a global fan base comprising Hollywood stars and even royalty. Today the brand has a boutique store in Marylebone (London) housing all of its ready-to-wear collection and one-off pieces. In addition, the brand has a strong online presence and is sold through a number of retail partners in the UK and worldwide. The brand’s founder Raishma Islam chats with Fibre2Fashion about her journey as a fashion designer, the need for preserving traditional crafting techniques, and her sources of inspiration.

Fibre2Fashion: Can you tell us about your journey as a fashion designer, from learning your craft as a child to becoming the creative director of your own brand?

Raishma Islam:

Born and raised in the UK, I always knew I would become a fashion designer. Learning my craft from my mother, I was given my first sewing machine at the age of eight and I haven’t stopped creating since. Even then I was drawn to style and glamour, and my exposure to a breadth of cultural influences due to my British Asian heritage sparked my interest in bringing together the beautiful silks, hand embroidery, and vibrant colours of the East with Western cuts and tailoring. By age 12, I was designing and making beautiful fusion fashion.

Twenty-five years later, I am the founder, designer, and creative director of my own independent business. Intricately connected to the product throughout the entire process, I sketch each piece, select every fabric, and personally oversee each style to ensure perfect quality and fit.

 

F2F: Could you describe your journey and influences that led you to become a renowned couture designer with a global fan base that includes royalty, A-Listers, and Hollywood actresses?

RI:

After completing my fashion degree at De Montfort University, I worked under Elizabeth Emmanuel—co-designer of Princess Diana’s famous wedding dress—where I developed my skills and passion for couture design. I then went on to create over 2,000 bespoke pieces for brides over the next 18 years. I loved creating fusion, beautiful hand-embroidered gowns with western cuts and tailoring.

F2F: Can you share any memorable experiences or stories from working with celebrities on custom pieces for red-carpet events?

RI:

Oh yes, I’ve had many exciting experiences! Years ago, I designed many outfits for Mel B of the Spice Girls. One memorable project was a jacket and hot pants ensemble that was hand-encrusted with Swarovski pieces. We designed it together at her house one Saturday, and the following weekend, she was wearing it live on ITV. The entire piece was handmade within just six days. It was stressful but fun!

F2F: How did your experience of working under Elizabeth Emmanuel contribute to your love and passion for couture design?

RI:

I learnt how to use corsetry and create structured boned bodices which I then incorporated in my own couture, created boned Basques, hand-embroidered to wear with full skirts or lehengas. Attention to detail and precise fitting were two of the many key skills I picked up working for Elizabeth.

F2F: Could you describe your ready-to-wear (RTW) collection and its key style signifiers? How does it differ from your couture line?

RI:

Drawing upon my extensive expertise as a couturier, I have developed a commercial line filled with affordable dresses, without compromising on quality or design aesthetic. The mastery of authentic hand embroidery and meticulous eye for detail ensure every design is made with exceptional craftsmanship. Unlike couture, which is bespoke and made to order with a three-month lead time, this line is readily available as RTW pieces in UK sizes 8-18. These pieces can be received by the next day, making the line more accessible, affordable, and versatile than couture.

F2F: What motivated you to establish Raishma Studio and develop a collection of printed dresses? How did you identify the gap in the market for affordable, high-quality pieces?

RI:

Even as we were adapting to change during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there were no occasions or demand for beaded dresses. At that time, I noticed a gap in the market for a high-quality and affordable line of printed dresses for both day and night wear. Raishma Studio was developed to house this collection of elegant, flattering, and well-priced styles that worked for a number of customer profiles.

F2F: Your designs are known for their use of colour and pattern, as well as beading and embellishments. Could you talk about your sources of inspiration?

RI:

I take inspiration from a wide variety of sources, such as history, art, and nature. My collections draw from a broad selection of starting points, such as William Morris and Monet, all the way through to coral reefs and Japanese florals. Highly inquisitive by nature, I am constantly searching for new inspirations which helps keep my designs at the forefront of fashion and adds to the confidence of women, making them feel beautiful.

F2F: You have been collaborating with independent makers, social enterprises, and cooperatives to foster enduring partnerships. Can you discuss your ethical trading practices and their impact on sustainable employment?

RI:

We are working with different factories and make sure they have certifications for implementing fair wages. We also encourage more employment opportunities for women. We are a women-led team and ethnically diverse.

F2F: Sustainability is important to your brand. How do you ensure the longevity of your designs and discourage throwaway fashion? Additionally, what steps are you taking to enhance sustainability, such as implementing eco-friendly packaging?

RI:

Our plastics are over 70 per cent recycled, and we use cotton tote bags instead of paper ones so that they last long. In terms of our brand, we are slow fashion and our dresses not only last years but are also timeless. We are also using more sustainable fabrics for Raishma Studio, such as cotton, viscose, and are now looking to add linen.

F2F: The handmade touch and artisanal skills are key elements of your brand. How do you work with suppliers who use traditional crafting techniques, and why is it important to you to protect and revive these skills?

RI:

Traditional crafting techniques, which have been passed down through generations and reflect our heritage, are unique and valuable. It's crucial that we preserve and upscale these skills for the long term.

F2F: Are there any upcoming projects, collaborations, or collections that you are particularly excited about?

RI:

We are looking to launch in India in a big way. We are also excited about revealing our new website next month. I intend to do a podcast and events to talk about women’s issues such as menopause, health, beauty, and fitness.

F2F: Could you share your vision for the future of Raishma? How do you plan to further grow and evolve your brand while maintaining its core values and style?

RI:

We aim to expand our brand internationally with a woman-led team, staying true to our core values as we grow over time. I plan to continue designing to maintain our standard and style, gradually building a design team around me.

Could you share your vision for the future of Raishma? How do you plan to further grow and evolve your brand while maintaining its core values and style?

Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
Published on: 05/06/2023
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