Tania Mohan (right), founder of Tabla, talks about her background in law, finding her niche in fashion and pioneering an India-inspired lifestyle brand in Hong Kong.
How has the industry changed since you started your label, in 1999? "There are many more home-grown talents in fashion and design now, which is great. The customer hasn't really changed that much; I believe they always look for good quality and design. We're lucky at Tabla - I find that Chinese ladies love the heritage and craftsmanship of India. We now also have a great mainland clientele.
"I was super lucky to be at a Louis Vuitton party in 1998 and met someone who inspired me to open a shop. This chance meeting changed my life. I come from a family that ran department stores in the 1960s, so retail is in my blood. I grabbed the opportunity and just hustled my way through all the stages of setting up shop. I was in my 20s and ready to try anything. Training in law, a bit of modelling and being a fashion editor [at The Standard] beforehand all helped tremendously with growing Tabla, and still does everyday."
What motivated your recent return to law? "I had one step left to complete my childhood ambition to be a barrister, and that was pupillage. I took the bull by the horns at Christmas last year and decided I was going to complete this and qualify. It was something I needed to do for myself: complete something I had started. It was the most incredible year but now it's back to Tabla."
How do you make traditional Indian styles work for modern women? "Drawing from Mughal architecture, to forts and temples, paisleys to peacocks, colourful jewels and a majestic history, India is a playing field for inspiration. But Tabla creates silhouettes that are versatile, easy and modern, to suit well-travelled international women."
Ethnic-inspired labels are on the rise. How does that affect Tabla? "I was probably one of the first people outside of India, and definitely in Hong Kong, to adapt Indian style commercially. We were Westernising the beauty of Indian craftsmanship long before India had a Vogue, or Harper's Bazaar, which were introduced, respectively, in 2007 and 2009.
"Today, with social media, wonderful magazines, the ease of travel and an awesome platform for designers during India Fashion Week, the access to creativity and ideas is easier."