Syed Junaid Hashmi
It’s not failure but fear of failure that ends dreams. Nafisa Rachel William realised it a few years ago. And she decided to fight her fears. Now 30, William knows following your heart is the only way to realise your dreams. Three years ago, she said goodbye to her career in journalism to start her own brand.
Such was her passion for design and fashion that despite no formal training or degree in fashion, she decided to start designing. And today, her brand is gaining popularity among women across India, Dubai and United States, her stuff is now also available at leading e-commerce sites like limeroad.com, indianroots.com and secretlable.com. Nafisa is daughter of Ex-IG (Modernisation and Technology) Johney William, now retired. Her mother, Esther Monica William, is a known academician.
Okay. At 13, you went to a boarding school, away from your parents. Anything special u remember about 13 when u were with it family?
Nafisa Rachel William: Yes, I was just 13. And it was not easy. Leaving my family, friends and the comfort of my home. And going to an unknown place. But I was also very excited about the new journey. I used to read a lot of books by Enid Blyton so in my head I felt like I was walking into one of her books. What I remember the most is meeting my parents after spending the first three months in boarding school.
You were in which school in Jammu?
Nafisa Rachel William: I went to Presentation convent before Auckland.
So let us talk about your boarding school. How long u stayed in boarding? And what did the boarding experience teach u?
Nafisa Rachel William: I was in a boarding school for 5 and a half years. Those days were the best days of my life. It made me stronger, independent and sensitive at the same time. A hostel life teaches you to live with one another and yet make your place in the world. I participated in everything in school. From athletics to dancing to acting to studying. Debating etc. I was involved in all aspects of school life.
What followed after school? You choose neither medical nor engineering?
Nafisa Rachel William: No never! I’ve always been a dreamer. I wanted to study literature. So it was a dream come true when I got through St. Stephens’ in Delhi University. And my parents were very supportive. While other kids were taking up medical/ commerce/ law, both me and my sister took up arts. I did English Honours. I went on to do my Masters too in English. Three years at Stephens’ felt right after school. I was in a hostel at Stephens too. It was here that my love for Literature grew and it gave me friends for life. This is also where I realised how much I loved fashion.
What would you like to pick out from as special from your St. Stephen days?
Nafisa Rachel William: The faculty, the friends and its architecture is what left an impact. I also loved the Chapel in college. Life here wasn’t easy either initially. Delhi can be pretty intimidating when you’re 18, especially for a small town girl.
What inspired you to take up fashion designing when you could have easily become an academician like your mother or a civil servant or a police officer like your father?
Nafisa Rachel William: My decision to become a designer didn’t happen overnight. I am a sum total of some right and wrong decisions. There was a time I wanted to be a lecturer, a cop, a sports person. I took up designing because I love what I do. And I realised it once I started making clothes.
When did you exactly take up designing? I mean how many years ago?
Nafisa Rachel William: I started designing while I was finishing my masters. So let’s say around 2011. I started it as a hobby and then took it full time in 2014 because I got an overwhelming response. In 2013, I created my label–Nafisa Label William with a Facebook page. While most designers of my age were turning towards Western wear to make some quick bucks, I took the path less travelled and chose to design sarees. I grew up seeing my grandmother, mother and famous personalities like Maharani Gayatri Devi and Indira Gandhi wearing sarees with great elegance. I just felt connected to clothes especially sarees. I love sarees so I started designing sarees at first. I experimented with 4 sarees, designed them, made them, modelled for them and sold them. It wasn’t easy but that was the challenge. I was ready to take an extra step to learn because I enjoyed it so much and still do.
Has Kashmir and the situation over there ever inspired u to design something?
Nafisa Rachel William: Yes, Kashmir is a beautiful place. And Jammu Kashmir is home for me. I am what I am today is because of my roots and where I come from.
Do you think as a designer you should have been living in the valley and designing there than being in Delhi and designing for the rest of the world?
Nafisa Rachel William: I think I can be anywhere is the world and design. The place doesn’t matter. What’s in the heart is what matters. And how I put it across through my work matters.
Whose dressing sense inspires you the most?
Nafisa Rachel William: Any woman who knows how to carry her head on her shoulders is what inspires me. And right now for me, that’s Priyanka Chopra. I would love to dress Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan. Why? Because in return, I would get to learn so much from them. People on Bollywood I would love to dress
Whose dressing sense carries the most impressive style statement?
Nafisa Rachel William: Everyone has become aware of fashion nowadays. So most people are well turned out. Indira Gandhi, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Pandit Nehru, Rekha, Waheeda Rehman, Jackie Kennedy are a few people whose style I find eternal. I mean, they owned their personalities.
What inspires you the most as a designer?
Nafisa Rachel William: Life. For me, it isn’t about what’s in vogue. Instead, I focus on what would look good on my clients. My endeavour is to create timeless pieces that would make heads turn even after 20 years from now. You just need confidence to carry yourself well in what you are wearing. I connect with my clients when I tell them, look, this is designed by me, I am not a model, and this is how I look wearing it.
What about traditional kashmiri embroidery and fabric designing..
Nafisa Rachel William: I love the Kashmiri tilla work. It’s an art. There is a lot of potential in Kashmir that needs to be tapped. I have some projects in mind.
How are you promoting your brand these days? What is it called?
Nafisa Rachel William: My Label goes by my name, Nafisa Rachel William. See, what you call brand is my baby. And I have built it single handily. I believe in the power of word of mouth. To me that is the best form of marketing. And then there is social media of course.
Do you think Kashmiri designs still have the market that they once used to have?
Nafisa Rachel William: Of course! Kashmiri designs and art is eternal. Infant, Kashmir is eternal. And the world loves Kashmir. But there is still a lot that needs to be explored.
And lastly, your ambition and future plans?
Nafisa Rachel William: I don’t reveal them.