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Meet Avnee aka Akasha Mithaiwala of Namaslay in Downtown Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Avnee aka Akasha Mithaiwala.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a little girl, I grew up playing dress-up with my mom’s saris (traditional Indian garments) As I got older, I had to go to my cousin’s 7-day wedding in India and I didn’t have the proper attire so my mom and I went to India two weeks early to look for outfits. I couldn’t find anything that fit my style, all the box-cut super conservative styles were not really how I wanted to express myself. So I was lucky to find a place that helped me custom make a few outfits in time for my cousin’s wedding. With no experience, I designed the most dazzling pieces that became the talk of the wedding. All my cousin’s friends started asking me to make some for them, and that was how Namaslay began.

But I lived in Los Angeles so I wanted to take my creations there and see how they sold there. Transitioning into a whole new world, I found my designs were not as mainstream in this world. But I found a market of people that wanted to be transformed into Indian Goddesses, the festival world. Since 2016, I’ve been vending at festivals like Lightning in a Bottle, Oregon Eclipse Festival, Bhakti Fest, Desert Hearts, Disclosure Fest, Lucidity Fest, Burning Man Bazaar, etc. Now Namaslay is one of the leading brands in the festival scene for goddesses.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As I mentioned earlier, finding the right target audience was a big struggle for me. In addition, I didn’t have any initial funding except what came out of my own bank account so all my money went into inventory so that didn’t leave any money for my website, marketing, etc. I made the website myself on Shopify, using a provided theme I downloaded from an app I found. I taught myself everything. YouTube Academy is no joke, you can teach yourself anything, but at the time it was a much bigger struggle at the time than it is looking back at it right now. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do any of this myself, I didn’t go to school for fashion or computers or anything related to what I ended up doing. But if you really put your mind to something, its unbelievable what you can accomplish. All the marketing was Instagram and Facebook. I got my homegirls together, would take us all to the park and have photoshoots. I would collaborate with photographers that would DM me on Instagram to get my product shots and photos for social media.

Please tell us about Namaslay.
I take traditional conservative Indian looks and make them sexy. I take intricate saris and fabrics remake them into modern sexy wear. I use vintage saris to create kimonos, slit pants, crop tops, slit skirts, dresses, and robes. I’m most proud of what my clothes do for my clients. At festivals, I will see a girl try on one of my dresses and first their eyes and then their entire body just becomes alive, they transform into a goddess, I feel like my clothes empower women, my clothes give women a chance to see themselves in a new light, from a new perspective: from the perspective that they are not just a woman, but a Goddess. I went to a class at a festival about transformation, and they talked about when others see you in this new way~ in this new certain light, in the way you want to be acknowledged as, you start to feel more confident in your growth because it becomes more real.

We acknowledge each other as Goddesses, I look all my girl’s eye to eye, heart to heart, and there is a bond that is created. I feel like I know where all my dresses are and in good hands. I feel like a mother to all my pieces sometimes. Even in the booth at festivals, I normally get my girlfriends or fans of the brand to volunteer at the booth in exchange for a trade for clothing, festival tickets, etc. Regardless, the bond we create in the booth together is like sisters so the entire experience is elevated. It’s like coming into a goddess dress up cave where you make friends and get to live out your Indian Goddess fantasy.

Ever since my festival sales have taken off, my online store followed suit. The main issue with my clothes( sorry this should be in the struggle section) is that all my pieces are one of a kind because of the fact that all my fabrics are one of a kind pieces/ and are vintage. So for example, if I do a photoshoot for one outfit, and that outfit sells I make my $100 and then I have to delete the product off my website. Do a whole new photoshoot for the next set. Of course, when I plan out a photoshoot, I try to get the girls to do 5 to 10 outfits so thats 5-10 outfits I can sell for the week until I get to do another photoshoot. This is also a reason why I struggle doing wholesale and with boutiques because they ask for line sheets. And want to order quantity of one particular outfit, but I can’t reach that demand due to the way I source fabrics in my eco-friendly ways.

Also, I do the fabric sourcing not only so I can keep the cost down for the customers but also because reusing these Indian fabrics is much better for the environment.

I made my runway debut at LA India Fashion Week 2019

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I remember I used to love singing as a little girl so my mom and I would have little mini-concerts and we would sing to each other using empty water bottles as microphones and dressed up in my mom’s saris and fancy Indian jewelry.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sagar Shah

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