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Oorja Shah on dressing for success

by Masalathai Admin

Shah is the moment.

By Shaan Bajaj

23-year-old Oorja Shah grew up with a familiarity of Bangkok’s street wear and dreams of one day starting her own fashion line. After completing her high school education at Bangkok Patana School, she pursued a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Analytics at Babson College. However, after graduating during the recent global pandemic, she and her university roommate, Vatsala Kalani, took the uncertainty of the time as an opportunity to start Mauve, their very own fashion label. As this issue’s ‘It Girl,’ Masala sat with Oorja to talk to her about her sense of style, her journey to making her dreams come true, and what being a co-founder of a fashion brand really entails.

Oorja’s appreciation for fashion began at home, as she explains: “My mom has always been interested in fashion and she passed it onto me. She tells everyone that she used to dress me really cute, but I actually disliked the way she dressed me when I was a kid,” Oorja adds with a laugh. “I always loved dressing up and experimenting with different styles. I went through a huge neon phase, wanting to dye my hair neon pink but now I prefer neutral and pastel colours. My dad also prefers neutral colours, so I started to add more neutral pieces into my wardrobe, and now I would describe my evolved style as more neutral and simple.”

The last decade has seen social media influencers and YouTubers take centre stage, and this was actually the catalyst for Oorja to take a leap of faith and dive into the fashion business. “It is probably one of the biggest industries right now, so I saw a market for the type of clothes that I wanted to create and decided to give it a go,” Oorja explains. “I initially thought I would pursue finance, accounting, or something related to math, but I wanted to stand on my own two feet. The good thing about Babson is the school has a very entrepreneurial focus and it made me realise I could use the information I have learned to start my own business. Additionally, my dad has his own diamond company, and I wanted something of my own too. I remember printing my own name on t-shirts and I imaged having my own clothing store or boutique, so launching my own clothing line made sense to me.”

Moving onto her role at Mauve, Oorja proudly tells me how: “At Mauve, we design each piece so it can be versatile. You can dress it up or down, and use it in many different styles,” a fashion rule she explains she subscribes to in her own daily wear too. “My role sometimes feels like co-founder, but also everything else. Vatsala and I started Mauve on our own in March 2022, it’s still new so we don’t have a team in place. Between us we do accounting, packaging, marketing, design, and everything else you can think of.”

“While I’m in India, I help with warehouse checks, but in Thailand, I do all the back-end work. We’re a small team for now but won’t be for long as we’re looking to expand very soon. For example, when production comes in, quality checks are required and for that we need a good quality control team. We thought we could do it all by ourselves, but we are releasing how much work it takes. When it comes to designing, we try and launch six pieces at a time since we design the clothes ourselves and a lot of time goes into each piece. My biggest challenge with Mauve has been travelling between India and Thailand but that is less of an issue now, thankfully.”
While explaining her vision, Oorja also tells me how she plans to grow Mauve and her plans to introduce sustainable clothing. “We’re looking into using sustainable materials, although it will take a while. We also like to work with factories that hire predominantly women, and where the working conditions are good since we are a women-led business. We are excited to grow our team and clothing line,” she enthuses. As a young woman myself, Oorja’s determination to start her own business and put in the work to make it successful is not only inspiring but admirable.

In regards to day-to-day clothing, where do you enjoy shopping?
I buy the majority of my clothes from local shopping malls like Platinum Fashion Mall
or street markets. I also really love Jaspal, because their sizing is perfect for me. I like
the high-end luxury brands like Prada but I am trying to stop purchasing leather. Stella
has become my favourite vegan brand, and I’m also trying to use more vegan makeup and use products that do not harm animals.”

If you could only wear one colour, which colour would it be?
“Black. I love Black. I can dress it up or down, I can wear it to dinner, a party, or to the office. It’s a really versatile colour.”

What are your five fashion essentials?
I would say my Jumpsuit by Yves Saint Laurent perfume, my YSL cardholder, my
Gucci sneakers, my rings, and my blush!

Fusion Wear

Oorja dons a blazer from an Indian boutique, trousers designed for Mauve, and Charles & Keith heels to elevate the look.

Out and about in Mauve

Oorja wears a top and trousers from her upcoming Mauve line, paired with heels from Christian Dior.

Street smart

For an elegant but casual look, Oorja wears a button down from Cotton On along with trousers from American Eagle. She completes the look with sneakers from Gucci.

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