Uncommon Fashion entrepreneur Parama Ghosh decided to live life in the only way that seemed feasible- that is, by following her heart.
A legal eagle by profession, Parama metamorphosed into a fashion stylist when she realized that it was who she really wanted to be.
“Listening to her inner voice, which exhorted her to believe in her dreams as a fashion entrepreneur, Parama is the name behind her brand ‘Parama’, which is a blend of creativity and vogue.”
The Uncommon Box met up with Parama in a special conversation and she was more than willing to share the saga of her journey from the corridors of juridical study to fashion entrepreneurship.
Parama speaks about herself:
I am a lawyer and an artist, who had been juggling chalk and cheese for two and a half years now.
A family of four generations of lawyers and a batch topper for almost all the five years at the University made it certain that I would fare well in law. But destiny had other plans.
8 years into the legal profession, I could clearly see that law and I were suffering a rough marriage. This was coupled with prolonged mental and physical health issues. The worst phase of my life culminated into the most beautiful- my venture, ‘Parama’.
“Years of training in Fine Arts cushioned me and gave me the strength to pursue my dreams.”
In the initial days, I was battling a full-fledged law firm job in the day and creating stories on handloom by night.
10 months into this juggling, I realised it was time to give my project its much needed attention. The decision was huge since quitting a full-fledged job involved a lot of risk. But like always, I obediently listened to what the heart had to say.
I joined a start-up as a consultant for 3 days a week, while the rest of the 4 days were dedicated to my venture.
It’s been some time that I have taken a break from law and doing what I love the most “full time”! The mind and hands would itch for that ‘your account has been credited by INR….’ Salary SMS, but then, in a battle between passion and fear, the former always scores 6-0.
#TUB Tell us about the name of your brand? What is the story behind it?
My brand is my namesake “Parama”. I call it “Stories on fabric”. I draw inspirations from everything around me. The books that I read, movies, songs and poetry, picture post cards, nursery rhymes, plants, people, food …anything interesting may be a theme for my work.
Calcutta has been my biggest inspiration and adventure. It is like a huge story book with art thrown in beautiful randomness. The old buildings, the hand pulled rickshaws, the yellow cabs, the boi-para (the locality of booksellers), New Market, Park Street inspire me.
I work a lot with the indigenous art forms of Bengal – Kantha and Batik. While I have experimented with quirky motifs on Batik and Kantha, what stays forever are the quintessential Bengal motifs, like birds, fish, butterflies, flowers done on fabric. Alpona art on silk by using Batik and Kantha forms a major part of my work.
#TUB: What sparked off your interest in fashioning clothes and accessories?
I had been put into an art school even before I was admitted to a kindergarten. So my friendship with colours, canvas and brushes is as old as I am. I started working with fabric seriously after my Class X Boards.
“I had started painting Rabindranath’s “ShahajPathh” motifs, Madhubani, Orissa patachitra on fabric for an aunt’s clothing studio. That was the beginning.”
For my wedding trousseau, Ma had gifted me one saree each from ALL the States of India. I read up all about all of them and the art associated with each. I designed each and every blouse on my own. I still remember how those mismatched combinations of sarees and blouses raised eyebrows then, out of surprise and shock, but became a trend later. I started designing for friends and relatives, when one day, someone quoted Joker to me, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free”. “Except kindness,” I added.
#TUB: Who and what inspired you to begin this journey? What keeps you motivated till now?
As strange as it may sound, my depression. Months of clinical depression and a girl’s trip to Shantiniketan with my mom to feel better, marked the beginning of this journey. I keep saying this and I would say it again. If that trip was a person, I would marry him. Spending time with one self, exploring things I’ve loved since I was a child and have been wanting to do, gave me a new perspective. It changed me completely.
‘Parama’ was conceived during that trip. Though an unplanned child, I love how it is spreading its wings and growing up beautifully.
The greatest motivation came from within to begin with. Because, in most Bengali households, taking a plunge, starting your own venture, making money or making enough money to sustain oneself is never perceived as a ‘bright career’.
But as my venture grew, I got a lot of support from friends, family, colleagues and absolute strangers. There are incidents, books and films that motivate me too. A few of them are: Sheryl Sandburg’s LEAN IN. When my ex-boss gifted me that book, she said it was her Bible. That one book changed my life. Films like The King’s Speech, The Reader and Agantuk too.
#TUB: Tell us about a couple of milestones on this journey.
The journey has been beautiful.
Taking leaps of faith involved a lot of strength. In the past two and a half years, I have received a response, I could never foresee. I have had amazing collaborations with a few national brands. The number of people I had engaged for my work has increased manifold. That is the most important milestone for me – engaging people in the work that I do and generating employment. Most of my Karigars have learnt to try new skills and new designs from what they had been practising for ages. That is a good thing.
#TUB: In your opinion, what are the key traits required for anyone wishing to pursue a similar career?
As clichéd as it may sound, love should be the foremost trait. When one pursues something, one has to love it enough to last for a lifetime. When one loves what one does, the sky is the limit and the stars are ready to line your hair in silver.
Alongside this emotion, one also has to evaluate one’s strengths and weaknesses and of course, the financials. The primary input in any business is the labour of love, but money comes second.
In order to give your venture a comfortable life to grow at its own pace, and churn out what you love and has a long journey, money is important. Not primary, but important.
And one has to be honest to his/her art. There is no other way. There is no short cut. Patience and hard work gives you results which even money can’t buy.
#TUB : How have you gone about dedicatedly building this brand? What has been the process?
Perhaps the only thing I started the brand with was to be happy. At that juncture of my life, being happy with myself was the greatest truth and I tried sharing that happiness with everyone that came along my way. That has been the path of my brand’s journey.
Let me explain this with something I heard Oprah Winfrey say in one of her speeches. She said, “You’re nothing if you’re not the truth’. The biggest reward is not financial benefits though it’s really good.But living a life of substance, can. Substance through your offering of your whole self. The baseline for how do you live a life of substance is whatever is the TRUTH for you, what you stand for.”
This sums up exactly how I have been building my brand, my soul particle with everything that I have. I have been working with honesty, integrity and getting connected with beautiful humans all over the world through my work.
I have never negotiated ‘rates’ with the people who work for me. I saw them growing along with the brand. It has been a wholesome growing process. Not a personal growth for me or my brand but everyone who came along.
In that same speech, Oprah quoted the phenomenal Maya Angelou, “Your legacy is every life you’ve touched”. This is how I would like to create my own legacy.
#TUB : What is the USP of your brand? With what qualities would you like to associate your brand with?
When I was approached for the first time for an interview about my brand, the author of that interview wrote, “The complete portrait presented like a peek into an otherworldly reality – of lazy afternoons with friends and reflections in solitude – rather than a product waiting to be sold.” I think that is my USP.
I have been told by clients that they have taken home a piece because they loved the story behind it. I have also been told by many that they haven’t bought a single piece from ‘Parama’ but they keep coming back to the stories.
Strangers have shared stories of their personal losses, victories, stories of their love, pages of their personal diaries, art they have made. They have inspired me to create art out of those stories.
I have also been very irregular at times with my response to the clients given the responsibilities of a law firm job. My clients have lent me patience.
“So qualities that have made Parama unique is honesty, story-telling while making clothes, complete absence of ‘force-selling’ and making people fall in love with handloom, handmade and ‘slow fashion’ every day.”
#TUB : What has been the response of the market for your brand? How have you learnt from the pitfalls if any?
Touchwood, the response has been much more than I ever imagined or fathomed. I have built a steady clientele nationwide over these two and a half years. There has been a considerable international market for my products as well.
There have been many lessons learnt in the process. At the very beginning of my journey, one of my karigars ran away with my money and fabric while another passed of my designs to others. These are the things that one constantly faces and I am no exception.
Every mistake is also a lesson learnt. I have learnt to be more careful over the years. Sometimes, a lawyer’s brain comes to rescue when the artist’s heart is making mistakes.
#TUB: What would be your advice for aspiring fashion entrepreneurs like you?
- Pursue it only if you love it enough and not because it is ‘profitable’ or because everyone else is doing it.
- Make what you believe in and make people believe in your art. And to quote my spiritual Guru, Mr. Neil Gaiman (who I quote so often that some people think that these words are my own), “Leave the world more interesting for your being here. The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.”
- Be an original. That’s the only way to be.
Undoubtedly, what makes Parama stand apart from others is a rare blend of honesty, perseverance anda clarity of vision. She has discovered what she wants and she is giving it her heart and soul to get the desired results.
It is a saga of inspired thinking and living out those thoughts in reality.
On behalf of the Uncommon Box, we wish Parama, the brand and the brain behind the brand all the very best for all future endeavours.
You may connect with Parama on the following links:
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