South-Asian entrepreneur Megha Rao reveals how she created a successful niche brand in New York City

Megha Rao is an American born Indian entrepreneur, who founded the fusion clothing brand holiCHIC
Found of holiCHIC Megha Rao spoke with PinkvillaUSA South-Asian entrepreneur Megha Rao reveals how she created a successful niche brand in New York City
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Megha Rao is the founder of holiCHIC, the brand that is known for churning out wonderful designs, that has the fragrance of Indian designs and the spirit of Western fashion. Megha revealed to @PinkvillaUSA that she never planned to be an entrepreneur but life lead her on this path and gave her opportunities that Megha took head-on, to create the meaningful, thriving brand that holiCHIC is today. Megha's journey is stimulating and her principles are truly something that all young girls can take inspiration from. Read on..

What were your plans for the future when you were in college? Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

To tell you honestly becoming an entrepreneur was not something I had on my wishlist. A lot of experiences happened as life unfolded before me which led me on this path. When I was in college I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. So I went into finance without exactly knowing why but I ended up loving the opportunity. I loved interacting with lots of people in this field and connecting with them. Learning people's stories is something I truly enjoy. How I got into the fashion industry is a different story. Many years ago I did a pageant and that opened many doors for me. I met lots of people from the fashion industry. I became really interested in South Asian textiles and embroideries. As a Newyorker I started thinking about how people like me who are born and raised in America can create a fusion piece that really spoke to this Indian American identity. This whole entrepreneur thing was a big surprise even to me. I just started playing with elements in my closet and mixing pieces from my American wardrobe with outfits from my Indian wardrobe. When I wore these fusion work people became interested and started asking me from where I got those outfits. They wanted to know where they could get it from and I think that's how this idea of holiCHIC came about.

Did you face any challenges when starting off? What were they?

Yes, I would say that we faced two key challenges when we started this company six years ago. During that time the concept of shopping online for Indian clothing was not so popular. People were skeptical and they were hesitant about the sizing and the process of buying. This was the first and foremost challenge we had to face. In India when people shop for clothes, they expect everything to be custom made and be exact in measurement. So we had to work at building trust with people and explain the process of shopping. We also went about making alterations to the outfits to get a perfect fit. 

The second challenge which was really a huge concern was imitation. We, the people in the fashion industry, find it very frustrating when our ideas get copied all the time. You put in a lot of time, energy in creating new concepts and when you see them copied and put on the market at a lower price within a few weeks you feel frustrated. It was a big challenge for me to put up with this but now I have learned to overcome such feelings. At the end of the day, people really know the pioneers of innovation and the trend.

How did you maintain the balance between the desi look and the Western look in your designs? 

I am somebody who is very into what's happening in the fashion world both in India and here just by being plugged into social media. By doing my homework and research I know in terms of what fabrics or color palettes are trending. The fact that I was born and raised in New York and have been exposed to fashion my entire life helps. It's not like I have gone to fashion school or every New York fashion week but it's just living and working in New York City where you are constantly stimulated by the amazing and unique street fashion. That is where I get my ideas from. I keep planning how I can give a slight Indian look to a certain style just by adding a border here, a button there, and so on. A lot of people tell us that we are a fusion brand and I agree with that. However, I also feel there's a fine line between fusion and tackiness. We must be aware that pushing the boundary will turn out the outfit into a costume. It's got to be tasteful and it's got to be done in a respectful way. My thing is to always add very subtle hints of South Asian influence and culture.

What is a fashion trend that you like a lot when it comes to Indian clothing? What is in vogue today?

You know in this time of the pandemic we have to consider the fact that people would be going to small, intimate gatherings with family and friends like going out for dinner than attending big weddings. So we are trying to create outfits that are practical and comfortable with a slight Indian touch whether with laces or buttons. We are also doing a lot of plain outfits like very simple maxi dresses with statement elements like very intricate back with silk-sari-like borders and dresses of simple cotton fabric with right trimmings and without much embroidery. That is very much in trend now.

The first couple of stereotypical things that come to mind about Indian clothing is that it's expensive, and you cannot wear it more than once. Do you think that view is changing?

We really want to be pioneers and think differently. I don't even know where my expensive wedding dress is now. I don't know in whose house it is. I think it's in my mother-in-law's house. Yes, that's what happens. People spend thousands of dollars on their wedding dresses and never wear them again. So whenever I design for brides or wedding guests, I always think about how you can repurpose the dress later like making a new blouse or bring the skirt alive again or turn it into a dress that you can wear again as well retain the memory of the wedding. So these are the things that I keep in mind when I am designing and creating garments, especially the heavier ones. We are doing a lot of styling videos with style tips where we are showing our community and our audience how our brand can be versatile and reward in multiple ways. 

Was it challenging being a South Asian entrepreneur in the global arena? Any highs and low?

I'll start with the low I think. We are such a niche market, it is sometimes hard for us to sell that brand story. I'm from South Asia and I have immigrant parents, and not everyone is going to relate to that. So getting into the mainstream audience or get buying from different communities has been a bit of a challenge for me as a South Asian entrepreneur. But at the same time, I think we are seeing a turn where people and companies want to work with diversity and inclusion. I think we are beginning to turn a corner. If you turn on the news there's often something on small businesses led by diverse women and there is this curiosity among people on diversity. So I feel there's a lot of opportunities right now to really celebrate our culture with non-South Asian audiences.

What is your advice to other young girls who want to get into fashion?

So my advice would be to stay true to who you are. I know it probably sounds super cliche but I'm a mother. I'm on social media all day, it's my job. I'm also in this bubble where I'm supposed to be wearing things that are considered cool. But many times it's just me, a mom going out to get groceries in my true form. I'm not heavily inspired by the trend like changing your outfits every five minutes. Everyone has got their own unique personal style and I try to really build my personal style and that's when my audience is most receptive, and that's why they come to me. When you come to my page you'll find me in my Indo-western or in my mom-style. So stay true to who you are and stay true to your story.

Also Read: Sravya Kalyanapu: Being a South Asian female founder has been so empowering