Inspired by ‘stories forgotten and familiar’, Ayesha Kohli has combined her passion for storytelling and textiles in her cashmere business, Ayesha Cashmere.
What’s your story?
I am the founder of Ayesha Cashmere . I design and produce cashmere scarves, inspired by stories forgotten and familiar. I have loved textiles, print and pattern all my life. Having worked in journalism, brand management and public relations, I also love the art of storytelling. My cashmere scarves are reflections of my two passions – textiles and stories.
What excites you most about your industry?
The ability to leverage consumer insights, fashion trends, technologies and my personal passions whilst creating a functional product that uses premium quality materials and craftsmanship. I love every part of my business from sourcing, designing, production, distribution and brand building. I love that I have been able to create a contemporary product that appeals to people all over the world. A product they can wear on special occasions, take on holidays, on work trips or give as a special gift for their loved ones.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I grew up in India and have worked and lived in Singapore for 14 years. I produce my scarves in Nepal. I have also worked on many brand communications projects that cover the region. I have travelled extensively in the region and I absolutely love the varied cultures, textiles and foods that I am fortunate enough to experience.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. Without a question. Everything is transparent and easy to set up. The start-up scene is extremely vibrant and Singapore, being so multi-cultural, is a dream test market. Plus the Singapore government is extremely helpful and encouraging for young start-ups
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Do your best and the rest will take care of itself.” This was something my parents brought me up believing. The understanding of course is that I must be able to look myself and be able to say to myself, I have done my best. If I couldn’t, then clearly, there was work to be done.
Who inspires you?
The writer and columnist David Brooks, blogger Maria Poppova, the Victoria and Albert Museum (the exhibits, the publications), Liberty of London, Coco Chanel, craft revivalist Laila Tyabji, the movies of Meryl Streep and Kathryn Bigelow, the works of Murakami, Rushdie, Naipaul, Amitav Ghosh, my family, my friends.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am blown away by so many inhumane reports that seem to dominate our headlines and newsfeeds on a constant basis. These include, prejudice, violence, hatred, lynch mobs, violation of human rights, intolerance, corruption, lack of rational thought, lack of basic compassion, abuse. I don’t know whether this sheer magnitude of issues have always been under the surface or are they are just being reported more often, but yes, I am getting blown away by the lack of humanity there seems to be in the world today.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have had more business mentors at an earlier age. I would have learnt to sing in front of a big audience (this one is still on my to-do list!). I would put badly-behaved people in their place a lot sooner and I would have listened to my gut and instincts a lot more.
How do you unwind?
Read, sleep, experiment with new designs and colours for my scarves, hang out with my family, do yoga and listen to music.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sri Lanka. Amazing locales, food, people and artists. A beautiful place to discover every time.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Lean Start-Up by Eric Reis has great advice for start-ups . My take-aways are, I find a need, start small and simple, grow through learning, testing, measuring and innovating. Find a creative way to bootstrap your business till you can raise funding and one of my favourites, don’t waste people’s time!
Shameless plug for your business:
My cashmere scarves are very soft and sumptuous and people tell me that they really enjoy them. Come and have a look at my pop-up show at Boutiques Fair, November 6-7 at the Pit Building, Singapore
How can people connect with you?
Facebook – Cashmere by Ayesha
Instagram – Ayesha_Cashmere
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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