Meet Dubai's new fashion mogul: Dhara Bhatia

24-year old credits UAE's environment for setting up business, Baesic by DB


David Light

Published: Mon 2 Aug 2021, 11:38 PM

Being brought up in Dubai has its advantages beyond the obvious. After moving here at the age of two, Dhara Bhatia has not only gone on to enjoy a successful media career, she is now the CEO of her own fashion label: Baesic by DB that recently celebrated its latest line, Sai and Ki, named after Bhatia’s nieces. The 24-year-old credits the city’s entrepreneurial spirit and gender equality empowerment with instilling the drive to begin this adventure. It’s also a question of spending more time with family, which we found out when we sat down with the American University of Dubai graduate.

How did you find the process of setting up a label and what is your background in fashion?

A mix of research and real-life experience showed me the UAE’s female population was primed for a brand that would offer a fusion of self-love and style. I’ve been living and working in Dubai most of my life, so I’ve seen my fair share of office-to-opera, desk-to-dinner outfit scrambles! Baesic by DB is a product of Dubai and gives the UAE’s #bossbabes luxe fashion staples that will take them from boardrooms to beach clubs without a wardrobe change.

There’s incredible support for start-ups here, and when I discovered local ateliers for crafting the clothing, that sealed the deal. I took the help of brand advisors, fashion consultants, and stylists before finalising the collection. It went through a series of demographics and only then I started producing the clothes. At first, I was nervous about starting something I had no experience in, but I have learned so much in the past eight months because of the industry experts I’ve worked with.

How has it been juggling this with your day job as a media professional? Did the pandemic inspire you to set this up?

I’m not going to sugarcoat this; it’s extremely difficult. Especially considering the field I’m in. PR is a job that works around the clock. After my day job, from 7.30pm to 1am I work on Baesic. Though in the beginning, I was pulling all-nighters every day.

It was not the pandemic that inspired me to set up, it was only the fact that I wanted more time with my family. My parents are 60 plus and with a day job, it’s hard to spend time with them and take them for their daily errands or doctor appointments. I wanted to start a brand so I could fulfill my dreams as an entrepreneur but also be a good daughter.

What does your label offer Dubai others do not?

It’s more than a fashion brand. It’s a lifestyle label made locally, with love. I say that because while we’re complementing your closet with crisp basics and silky must-haves, we throw in some feel-good female empowerment for free. We’re growing a community of women who inspire and want to be inspired and reminding them that dressing well is a form of self-care.

Also, before launching the brand I’ve done a lot of research on what’s available in the market. When you think of a private label, you immediately think expensive. But that shouldn’t be the case at all times — I wanted to provide affordable luxury to women of Dubai. Something I haven’t seen after living here for over 20 years.

And the latest line?

My first collection is named after my two nieces Saina and Kianaa. They both have been an important part of my life and are more like daughters to me. In fact, the collection was launched on Saina’s seventh birthday. It is a portrayal of fabrics that inspire me and clothes that comfort me. Based on that, I combine a mood board and start working on the designs. I have a team that assists me in the technical drawings as that’s something I’m still learning. Once the drawings are complete, I start working on the sample production.

Tell us more about ‘self-love.’

Not to sound dramatic, but I think this was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced: loving myself. I always thought that putting someone above you makes you a better person, hence you should do it. I believed that if I do good for someone else, people will think I’m kind-hearted, and if I do something for myself, I will be marked as selfish. So, I spent my whole life being a people pleaser and I believe my friends can confirm this too.

I didn’t realise it would take such a toll on me. But better late than never. I realised the pain it was causing me and I started to listen to myself. I know so many women face the same issue — if not with their friends then with their kids, their families, and more. I want to create a platform for this. Although my brand has just launched, every step I take, I keep self-love, self-acceptance, and real women in mind. Because we’re living in a fantasy land of filters — it’s becoming hard to tell what’s real and what’s been tweaked and tuned.

For instance, in my first campaign, I used all real women — working girls with different jobs; one’s a personal trainer, one’s an architect, one’s a lawyer, but no matter who they are, they are beautiful just the way they are. The women you see are the friends and family who have supported me every step of my journey — there’s nothing more real than that. Other than that, I also have a Baesic blog section on my page where I aim to interview like-minded women and share their stories. The first one I interviewed was Anna Roberts, founder of Achiever and super-mum.

Is this reflected in the label’s name?

The name is a combination of two fundamental brand values. Number one being self-love. The acronym “Bae” is commonly associated with your loved ones, i.e., someone you put before anyone else. So, I decided to make it ironic because, remember, we are a self-love brand that promotes acceptance. Our mantras are to love yourself first, before anyone else. Look after yourself first, before anyone else. And the fact that there’s a difference between “self-love” and “selfish.” The second reason behind our name is our brand aesthetic. Basics are the future; it’s sustainable, it’s versatile, and it works. You and I could walk in wearing the same dress, but we style it differently, so it’s a different #OOTD. There’s a reason why women purchase more little black dresses than any other garment, which they would probably end up repeating only one or two times.

What are your thoughts on setting up a business in the UAE?

It was very straightforward. You just have to find the right company to help you set up, plus my family is filled with entrepreneurs so I had guidance throughout the admin process. I think Dubai is one of the easiest places to set up.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

The biggest thing I would say is to stay patient. Because if you have the strength to face all the obstacles, you can pursue your dreams. I walked into this blind and invested all my savings into the brand with no idea if it was going to work. It worried me every single day, but I stayed strong and am so happy.

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