Rising designer Malini Murjani sat down with Sapna to talk fashion.
SAPNA: I know you come from a fashion background; your dad (Murjani Group) has worked with the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt and is currently working with Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Calvin Klein and more. Tell me about your personal journey and what made you step into fashion and venture into the field of handbags.
Malini M: I grew up in a family with a fashion background and was exposed to this industry at a very young age. I was in boarding school till I was 17 in England. Once I decided to study fashion, the next step for me was FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] in New York City. I wanted to study the business side of fashion, so I stepped into marketing and merchandising. After graduating, I decided to explore different areas of fashion. Designing bags and being a designer was not something I sought actively, at least initially. I was not into bags all that much and pretty much carried the same bag since I was lazy as well.
I then started working in PR with someone that worked with Vivienne Westwood. It was a lot of fun since it was a very cultural PR agency. I was representing galleries, and since I was into art and interior design this was a lot of fun. One year down the road I realized that this was not where I wanted to stay. This was when I met someone who worked with Donna Karan and we decided to start our own line. We ended up working together for about a year. Even though things did not work out, this was a great learning experience for me. I really started my own line about two years ago. This is where my line really matured and developed. I moved my production to Italy , everything is done out of Italy. Automatically the line matures as you mature.
SAPNA: Why do you think you will succeed in such a competitive field where so many others have failed?
Malini M: I was fortunate to be able to take a little bit of a gamble. I went ahead and produced a line and worked hard at it. I used to stand on the street with suitcases of bags, and my sore back can still vouch for it. Scoop NYC was the first store that carried our bags. I could not believe it, but it was highly encouraging. Then we succeeded into selling at Barney’s, Bergdorf, Henri Bendel, all in our first season. They all have egos so they won’t carry a designer, if the other stores are carrying them. So, the fact that all of the high end stores had decided to carry the bags gave me lots of hope and encouragement to grow. I then realized that I have to decide who I want to go with, and decided to stay with Bergdorf and Bendel.
SAPNA:What were the difficulties you faced while you were getting your line off the ground? How did you handle it?
Malini M: When I first started, I was relatively young and I am definitely the kind of person who learns from my mistakes. Of course, there are definite mistakes I could have avoided had I known about them before, but it’s a learning process. The business side of me is the most definitely the hardest side for me. I always thought that I would go to my studio, with my iPod, my inspirational pieces surrounding me, and just get inspired! That’s not the way it works at all! All of it is business, the sales, the accounting, the invoicing, the shipping etc. Design is only about 10% of the whole deal. In the beginning you feel so honored that the stores are buying your bags that you don’t put down terms and conditions and this normally leads to messes later on. This was a very hard aspect for me. I am taking the time to better understand this, but it definitely is not my forte. I am actually on the lookout for a business partner, which would help me focus on the designing part of the business.
SAPNA: What motivates Malini Murjani: the designer? The woman?
Malini M: As a designer I am constantly drawing energy from people around me. I throw cocktail parties, or do trunk shows at my home or elsewhere, where my friends who are editors and designers come in and mingle while giving me pointers and discussing their likes and dislikes with me. Knowing that these people love what I create gives me the drive to work harder to further create special pieces. Also seeing someone carrying my bag, someone I don’t even know, makes me want to work hard.
Figuring out what motivates me as a woman is definitely the harder question. Designing bags is what I do as a business but I also understand and acknowledge that there is a life outside of fashion. Fashion is fun but sometimes I feel shallow because I am putting so much time into materialistic things. It’s not the most heroic profession to go into, but knowing that I make people feel good and knowing that I put a smile on their face helps out a lot. Also, knowing that I can use this as a tool to do charitable work, like the fact that I work with Sunflower Children foundation, aspires me to do more. So basically as a woman, I know to make time for other things, like being a good friend, being there for family, mainly help someone on a daily basis is something that keeps me going.
SAPNA: Any parting words for our readers?
Malini M: It’s very important to try to do something you love because that is what you will be best at doing. This will make life go by easier and less stressful. It won’t be a chore and it will help your creative juices to flow. Don’t give up on your dreams and work hard to reaching your goals. — Swetha Amruthur
Shop Malini’s official site: www.malinim.com