East meets West this week on my blog as my guest is Nina Paul who grew up in India but has spent her adult life in England. Nina is founder and director of ByNina, a fabulous clothing and jewellery range with Indian influence but tailored to western trends. I caught up with Nina recently to find out more….hi Nina!
Hi! I’m Nina .. and I have just launched a luxury, ethical clothing and jewellery range. My aim is to provide “pieces of art” that shows off the beauty and craftsmanship that can come for materials produced and made out of India.
What inspired you to set up your brand, ByNina?
I’ve been working in the corporate space for over 15 years but despite launching several innovative products, I lacked a sense of satisfaction. I was helping myself, but really.. was I making a difference to the world? NO. So when I went back to India and realised that my one true love,which is handmade fashion, was declining rapidly, it became my mission and goal to help revitalise this and give people back their faith.
Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?
To be honest ..fashion is what you make it. My passion as always been about finding pieces that mean something. Of course I love looking at all the amazing shoes, clothes and jewellery out there, but recently I’ve come to realise these are just material things. When you buy something that has an impact (no matter how small) on helping an entire economy and combined with the fact that it it is a piece of art.. no matter how small or big the art is, it just makes you feel all the more precious. Every piece in my collection comes from loving hands and made with pride and care.
I love the Peach Flower Dress, the Sheer chiffon kaftan dress & the Silk Chiffon contrast kaftan dress! The colours of all the items in your clothing collection are gorgeous. Have you got a favourite item from your collection?
My favourite from the collection is the sunshine dress… but I love them all. We worked so hard to create each piece it would be like picking your favourite from your own kids, Impossible! The best part is seeing the artisans go from “What is a cuff??” to actually coming up with their own designs.. it doesn’t matter how weird or wonderful, they each have a special place in my heart as I know the care that has gone in to them, and the fact that it is bringing back FAITH and HOPE.
Although you love travelling, India is your 2nd home as well as being the place you spent your childhood in. What is it particularly about India that has captured your heart?
India is a land of colour. I was inspired by this but also by the hospitality of the people. When you first land to when you leave, you will realise you can’t forget India 🙂 There are people that either love or hate it, but hey. that’s fashion right?
Apart from fashion, you also design some exquisite jewellery using gemstones sourced from mines all over India & crafted by artisans in the “city of gems”, Jaipur. Do you have a favourite personal gemstone? What gemstone is popular at the moment amongst your customers?
As I said .. that would be like asking to pick a favourite child. I love them all, but I would have to say the sapphire range and the sunshine dress are my babies. The sunshine dress was the hardest to create as it was one of the first in my range and we went through several versions, till they finally got it right. You truly do feel like a princess. The sapphire range.. well sapphires stand for themselves, beauty, strength, purity, sparkle, colour. And a whole lot of people involved in every piece 🙂
Your company is based in England – are your designs available to purchase worldwide?
Everywhere, and everyone. The more you buy the more I can keep the artisans at work. But it’s not just me, you only have to visit India and find out for youselves.
When designing outfits/jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?
Well… shy as they may be, my artisans have a mind of their own, While I did take in to account what I liked, I also let them run riot. Why not… let creativity flow 🙂
Your outfits have been tailored to western tastes for ready-to-wear looks. When discussing your ideas & designs with the artisans, was it easy to get your ideas across? Is there an east/west fashion taste difference?
Well.. yes, the funny part now looking back, although it definitely was not funny at the time, was teaching them that short is OK, see-through is OK, frills NOT ok:) So many stories and adventures, I hope one day I can put them all down in writing. For now I am storing them in my memories.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I LOVE clothes, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE shoes even more. But, then again I’ve had time to reflect.. now that I have put everything in to the business, I actually wear my own stuff ..not so much to show off but it just reminds me of the care that went in and how proud I am of the people behind each piece.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)
Everlane, people tree, independent boutiques round London (So many it’s hard to pick!)
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
My wishlist .. I “wish” … that will be a long time to come. My next list is to have a jewellery range that is based around star signs and birthstones, but I’m going to let the artisans come up with their own ideas and name each piece after them.
Boots or Shoes?
Both.. boots for walking, and shoes (in my world these are slippers or heels) for flaunting 🙂
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about ByNina.
It was great to chat to you Nina and I hope you do put a book together detailing the many stories and adventures involved in setting up your fashion business. It is fascinating how different cultures approach fashion, eg the Indians liking frills, the French smart dress sense etc Dear readers, have you ever bought an outfit from a different country than your own? What differences in style did you find? Do tell, I’d love to know,
All photos published with kind permission from ByNina/Nina Paul