Ayesha Fahad was interning at Shell Tameer's entrepreneurs desk in 2011, training a group of people about business ethics at a slum near DHA when the idea to start her own business came to her.
The 27-year-old's inspiration was not top designers or luxury brands but a poor man. She had asked the group of slum dwellers in her workshop to draw their dreams and aims on a piece of paper. She was surprised when she saw a man's dream of opening a school for the children in his area.
"That was a significant realisation for me," Ayesha said. "I thought if these people can have such big dreams and want to do something for themselves to change their lives then I should do something for myself and start my own business."
Days later, she discussed her business plans with the Shell Tameer team, and after consultancy, initiated her own business and brand of bags - Ash L'amour. 'Ash' is her nickname and 'L'amour' is a French word for love.
A few months later in November 2011, she launched her products at a bridal exhibition; her 25 designs going viral on the first show.
Four years on, she sits in her house with her purses adorned with kundan brooches and embroidered Rexene scattered on a glass table. In this collection are Ayesha's unique clutches that are shaped and designed like a box. "My purses are for people who want to make a style statement. My style is bold," she says. The young designer says her collection of box clutches varies significantly from the traditional Western style.
Her collection has now turned more tradition and ethnic. "There is a market for ethnic products because there are a lot of 'culturally hungry' people," she smiled. "The future is ethnic."
A bag lover herself, Ayesha likes to carry large, random bags. "I usually have a lot of stuff to carry," she explained. In the local market, Ayesha said she likes the works of designer Mahin Hussain.
Talking about the specifics of her collection, she says she likes to name the items in her collection. 'Laila' is an oval-shaped embroidery purse priced at Rs3,500. A silver grayish box clutch is named 'Mahnoor' while 'Mumtaz' is heavily decked with red, green and gold stones. 'Sassi' appears pleasant to the eye and has embroidery on it.
In February this year, Ayesha showed off her work in Dubai at a hotel near Dubai Mall, where her work was displayed alongside those of Indian and other South Asian designers. "My product stood out as it was different," she said, beaming with pride.
Starting the business was difficult for her as she was only 23. To bring down costs, she would travel in buses and deal with snappy traders in crowded markets. But, the young entrepreneur has come a long way.
It hardly came as a surprise but Ayesha proudly pointed out that all the women in her family carry the bags designed by her. "I don't come from a business background but my mother supported me immensely," she said.
The price range of her collection is reasonably set between Rs1,000 and Rs6,000 and she mostly uses jamawar, satin and velvet materials in her bags. Her karigars [workers] work from their homes to keep the prices down. "I make sure the quality is good and that the customer gets a good product at a lower price," she said.
Currently, her work is on display at a shop in Park Towers and another outlet on Tariq Road. She also uses online shopping websites to sell her collection.
In the future, Ayesha plans to expand her business beyond bags. She feels ecstatic when people carry her clutches. "I get real satisfaction when people buy my things and then I see them at parties carrying them."
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.