Marking the opening of her first bricks-and-mortar store with ready-to-wear pieces earlier this year, Dubai-based celebrity fashion designer Ayesha Depala is all set to change the face of fashion in the Middle East. Launching her sustainable, ethically-sourced clothing line under the store name of 963 Ayesha Depala, the designer views this as a brand-new phase of her career, one that is ignited through her personal journey of self-transformation and inner healing.
Hailing from a textile and arts heritage in Kashmir, India, Depala moved to Dubai in 2001 to launch her eponymous label that has since garnered several accolades. Being based out of the city for over 21 years now, Depala has enjoyed a tremendous career, dressing the likes of Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Kendall Jenner and other global celebrities.
Recollecting her early memories of what intrigued her about the world of fashion designing, Depala mentions, “After finishing my high school from The Lawrence School, Sanawar, I remember I used to enjoy dressing up but there wasn’t much available to choose from. Local brands, such as FabIndia and Anokhi, were available in marketplaces but Indian designers at the time were primarily working on couture and made-to-measure. We had very little access to high-end or high-street fashion. I would spend a lot of time at the textile market and subsequently at my tailor’s shop to create pieces for myself. This was the onset of my fashion journey.”
According to Depala, having the ability to change and adapt quickly is what has kept the brand flourishing and alive. “As an entrepreneur, it’s very important to cultivate a protean quality,” she adds. In 2022, the designer seeks to retain the ethos she started off with, while aligning her organisational goals to her personal journey of mental and spiritual growth. “My new concept, 963 Ayesha Depala, retains the DNA of the Ayesha Depala label, maintaining luxury and high quality of both construction and textile delivering a ready-to-wear product.”
Her new line has a resort-feel, which works well for hotter climates but what takes precedence for the designer is the focus on making her product line as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. “The line is crafted from natural fibres whilst considering the planet, supporting biodiversity and helping educate our consumers on the detrimental ramifications of excessive consumption of the Earth’s natural resources as though they are replaceable,” says the designer, adding that spreading awareness among her consumers on the importance of slow fashion is the mission for label going forward, “moving from unconscious to consciously conscious.”
So, how did Ayesha Depala label’s renewed focus take shape? Five years ago, Depala took a trip to Costa Rica in South America, to visit a plant medicine retreat, which initiated her journey of self-transformation. “I often use this analogy as though pulling the initial thread of a tapestry that continues to open and unfold at its own pace subsequently. After this trip, I visited several centres and retreats and continued to educate myself about mental wellness,” adds Depala, who went onto study neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis to learn further about the physics of consciousness.
The self-transformation journey has also led to a change in her business acumen, admits the fashion designer. “Learning that we attract who we are, not what we want has been a pivotal understanding in how I am as an entrepreneur. There’s also a greater sense of serenity while making business decisions as I have surrendered the need to control the outcome as opposed to constantly pushing to make things happen,” says the designer. “It’s also helped me in understanding my clients and my staff and their needs without them having to communicate much to me,” she adds.
Depala’s new clothing line also draws attention to the frequency of fabric that is used for clothing. Fabric with higher frequency energises the body, mentions the fashion designer, who derived the name of her new collection 963 from 963 Hertz, which “is the healing frequency in the book of numbers also known as pure miracle tones”. She further adds, “It is the frequency of the activation of the crown chakra (sahasrara) and a connection to the higher source of humanity. My new line 963 Ayesha Depala is curated for women across all ages and demographics with the intention of creating garments to wear each day as a celebration of a ceremony.” The clothing line works with certified fabrics such as Ahimsa Silk, Banana, Rose Petal, Bamboo, Eucalyptus, especially developed to not kill silkworms in the manufacturing process.
The fast fashion industry is often criticised for an unsustainable growth, accounting for serious climate change issues. According to BBC Smart Guide to Climate Change, the fashion industry accounts for about eight to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions and almost 20 per cent of waste water. “While we have been conditioned to the idea over millennia that fashion is, in fact, ephemeral, where new trends overshadow the old and, therefore, there’s a constant need for new clothes. The chain from planting seeds to the end spectrum of a finished garment takes a heavy toll on the Earth’s natural resources. We are destroying the Earth’s top layer, its soil, its very microbiome that sustains life due to excessive use of natural resources,” says Depala.
As a fashion designer and champion for sustainable fashion, Depala strives to be conscious of all that her label consumes and wastes. “How we use the Earth’s natural resources is paramount. We don’t consume any plastic at all as a brand. Plastic is cheap and easily available. All the plastic ever manufactured still exists on this planet and in our oceans causing the very seafood we eat to ingest plastic, which ends up in our bodies as micro plastics,” says Depala. “As entrepreneurs and leaders, it is our responsibility to clean our immediate environment (homes and schools) and educate the youth of today to be mindful of what we consume and how we consume it.”
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