Vanita Bhatia, founder of DIVAlicious, on creating a brand and making it a success
As a child, Vanita Bhatia would strut around in high heels, wear lipstick and would attempt to give her family and friends makeovers. This inherent interest in fashion and matters of style stood her in good stead as an adult too when she chose to set up an enterprise in fashion after bravely quitting a successful career in banking. Her flair for textiles combined with her financial acumen proved to be a winning combination as she went about making a huge success of her brand DIVAlicious – a platform for exhibitors, designers and shoppers to come together under one roof! Now, she has extended her creativity to the world of design too with the launch of her apparel brand Aaveshu.
Vanita tells us all about the inception, growth and expansion of her brand...
You were a banker for many years. How did the switch to fashion happen?
Yes, I have a degree in finance and pursued banking for a while but I was always interested in fashion. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by colour, texture and fabrics.
With tremendous support from my husband I finally decided to move to the next phase in my career and plunged into establishing DIVAlicious, a brand for promoting upcoming and existing names in the fashion industry. My banking experience helped me in growing the brand and my interest in fashion gave it further direction. DIVAlicious has now established itself in the market and people want to be associated with it as a sponsor, exhibitor, designer and shopper! I then progressed towards creating fusion apparel under the brand Aaveshu which is being stocked at a few stores and is also exhibited at DIVAlicious.
So how has the journey from the dry field of personal banking to the dynamic world of fashion been?
The journey has been very interesting, to say the least! The past one year has been quite an eye-opening and overwhelming experience. There is a huge difference in the two worlds I have engaged in – banking and fashion. But they have been complimentary and not contradictory. My finance background helped me get a wider understanding of the business aspect and my talent for fashion enhanced my creativity.
My aim was to create a brand that every individual could relate to as a shopper, exhibitor and a sponsor.
There was a desperate need to organise an event that not only gives the exhibitors full involvement but also gives shoppers a pleasant and luxurious experience. DIVAlicious was designed with these objectives in mind.
I deliberately started small to ensure that my vision could progress slowly and steadily. Today, DIVAlicious is a grand shopping haven for trendy and stylish Dubai ladies. We have top exhibitors showcasing apparel, accessories, footwear, diamond jewellery, edibles, art, gifting solutions, home décor and beauty products.
All this gave me confidence to launch my label Aaveshu. We have now decided to explore other avenues besides fashion and go into art, concerts, product launches and more.
Dubai is known for its trunk shows and exhibitions, what makes DIVAlicious different from the rest?
At the risk of sounding clichéd, I would say DIVAlicious is truly different. We have never benchmarked ourselves to any other event. In fact, we have always worked on being the benchmark. And this comes by constantly improvising and innovating. Our events in 2011 were hugely successful. In fact we feel proud that our unique concepts are being used by other exhibitions; it means we are doing a great job by setting the right standards!
What goes into the planning of a big exhibition? Which has been your toughest one so far?
Planning and organising an exhibition is a Herculean task. We organised three exhibitions last year – in April, October and December; each was unique and challenging in its own right. Working with various exhibitors across a wide array of sectors and putting them all together has been a great learning experience.
Also, bringing together the crème de la crème of the city to participate and make the affair a grand success was very challenging and gratifying. I can’t really say which exhibition was the hardest.
Can you describe a typical day during an exhibition?
We usually try to get set-up a day prior to the event since we have so many exhibitors and sponsors. The exhibition mornings start at 8 am and exhibitors mingle before the people start arriving. From 10 am onwards shoppers enter and they are gifted goodie bags. Before we realise it, it’s 9pm and time to wind up! There isn’t much time to rest, however, as we have to start work on the next event soon!
How would you describe Aaveshu?
Aaveshu was launched during the October 2011 exhibition and got a great response. I started with a few pieces which sold out immediately. Since the party season doesn’t end in the UAE, my designs are perfect for all the city’s social butterflies! I have recently started to stock my collection at established stores and one of them even had a ‘mother-daughter’ fashion show featuring clothes from Aaveshu.
What according to you are the hottest trends of the season?
I honestly don’t believe in trends for every season. There is no ‘it’ style or ‘it’ colour. Every individual is blessed with a personality to bring out the best in what they wear; wearing what you want with confidence sets the trend!
What is your fashion mantra?
Make a statement and don’t follow one!
Where do you see your brand over the next few years? Do you have plans to take it to other cities?
I definitely do. I would like to make the DIVAlicious brand bigger and better known across the globe. In addition, we always try and venture into new segments with each event. For example our upcoming event is themed around fashion and other forms of art. Apart from launching in other cities and countries, we also want to progress to newer segments and product launches. We’ve been great at launching brands using the DIVAlicious platform and plan to soon unravel some very interesting plans for the brand!