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In this candid interview Jayanthi Ballal talks about her journey from owing just a small tailoring unit of two sewing machines in her home to being the owner of Mysore Fashion Week. A story of hard work and dedication.
Jayanthi Ballal, a fashioner designer, owner of a contemporary boutique, a modelling school and the Mysore Fashion Week has come a long way from the days when 18 years ago she had a tailoring unit in a small room of her house. With two machines, one tailor and one designer, she seamlessly integrated her fertile imagination into her designs. Here’s a conversation with her, where she talks about her journey from a small unit of two sewing machine in her home to being the owner of Mysore Fashion Week.
Your journey from a tiny tailoring unit to the owner of the Mysore Fashion Week is impressive. Tell us your growth story from the beginning. How did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I started a tiny tailoring unit in my house 18 years ago as I was passionate about fabric and designing. Along with taking care of my tailoring unit, I assisted my husband in his production company. I was responsible for marketing and PR. Though he accepted my ideas, ultimately he was the decision maker and it was his company; I was just helping him out. Moreover, it was not my area of interest. At that time, I thought, “If I have to work so hard, why don’t I start something in my own field and also get the satisfaction of having my own identity?” My husband supported me fully when I shared my thoughts with him.
That’s when my contemporary boutique called Needle Works came up. At that time, I had no idea that I would open up a modelling school and then own Mysore Fashion Week. It happened out of necessity. I had no one to showcase my designs; that’s when I thought of a modelling school which would help not only me but also other designers to showcase their designs. My first show was a stupendous success which encouraged me to organize more shows. I have had 70 fashion shows so far. In 2014, I started Mysore Fashion Week on the lines of Lakme Fashion Week which instantly put Mysore on the fashion map of the country.
The second season of Mysore Fashion Week is due in September 2015 where the designers from all across the country will showcase their designs. I singlehandedly take care of all logistics as I don’t have any partner. Even though I am an entrepreneur, I prefer to call myself a fashion designer as designing is my passion.
In tier 2 cities, there are not many role models for those women who want to be entrepreneurs or take up off beaten tracks. Who was your role model?
Unfortunately I didn’t have a role model or mentor as fashion designing was still at a nascent stage in Mysore. Two decades ago, when I began, I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I have learnt everything through trial and error. If I had a mentor, I would have had better and faster professional growth but now I am a mentor to many upcoming designers.
What is your advice to those women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Passion about your work drives success. You need to be determined and diligent. Think big. If you are from a small town, it doesn’t stop you from aiming big. Take criticism and negative feedback in your stride, that’s the only way to grow. It is equally important to have excellent communication skills. It is not sufficient to churn out creative designs, the client needs to be convinced of its suitability. One also needs oodles of patience while dealing with difficult customers and moody workers. People become your clients not only because of your stuff but also because of how you treat them and the service offered to them. Every client should be given equal importance irrespective of the magnitude of the order received.
People become your clients not only because of your stuff but also because of how you treat them and the service offered to them. Every client should be given equal importance irrespective of the magnitude of the order received.
Did you come across any gender biases in your journey?
There were no overt biases but definitely gender issues as people don’t tend to take a woman seriously. She needs to work harder than a man to prove that she means business. In my industry, I have to meet people from various strata as my business is all about interacting with people. To avoid drawing unnecessary attention, I need to maintain a fine balance between being approachable and overtly friendly. I need to appear friendly as well as reserved in the same breath.
Mysore is better known as a pensioner’s paradise and a laid back city. Is the city receptive to professions like fashion designing and modelling?
As compared to metropolises, it is relatively difficult to start a new venture in tier 2 cities as people don’t have much exposure and they take time to accept change. Secondly, there is a dearth of resource persons but once you take the courage to start something new, ultimately people accept it. You need to give exposure to people for your own good, and someone needs to start it – so why not you? Though Mysore is known as pensioner’s paradise, people are receptive and value quality.
What is the investment needed and skills involved in your profession?
Two decades ago, I spent only Rs 40,000 to start my boutique. Today, you will need much more. It is not difficult to venture into fashion designing; one can start even without a huge investment but it is extremely difficult to survive. You need to be knowledgeable, innovative and keep yourself updated with the latest in the industry. These days, people have access to internet, a designer needs to prove that she can offer something distinct which is not on the internet.
Is professional degree a must to be successful as a fashion designer?
A professional degree in designing and internship with reputed designers do wonders to your exposure but there is nothing compared to on- the- job learning. You should be always willing to learn more. The day you think that you have learnt everything, it is the end of your business.
Fashion show image via Shutterstock
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