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Fashion Mogul Pernia Qureshi On How She Became The Queen Of Online Fashion Retail In India

khushboo sharmakhushboo sharma  |  Nov 25, 2021
Pernia Qureshi

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Classical Dancer, designer, and entrepreneur—Pernia Qureshi is Indian fashion retail’s most celebrated prodigy. She started her career in 2010 by styling Sonam Kapoor for Aisha and gave Bollywood its first taste of high-end fashion. A perfectionist, Pernia sourced costumes from designers across the world to transform Sonam into India’s very own Audrey Hepburn. Upon its release, Aisha immediately sent the fashion factions into a frenzy. The film was a hit and everyone was talking about Pernia’s talent as a curator and stylist. However, as a self-confessed “restless soul,” Pernia was hungry for more. With Aisha she had seen the power that luxury fashion wielded in India and decided to harness it by starting Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop in 2012. Through the venture, she brought India’s premier designers under one e-commerce platform and made them accessible to a global clientele.

Today, Pernia is credited for changing the way luxury fashion is consumed in the country. In less than a decade, she has created a flourishing fashion empire and has already helmed five independent labels including her own eponymous line. A thorough businesswoman, Pernia recognises the power of a good brand and is constantly looking for ways to fill gaps. 

Pernia Qureshi

After successfully expanding Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop, she handed over the baton to Purple Style Labs’ (PSL) in 2019. However, you can understand the power of Pernia’s name from the fact that the brand continues to reference her and run the business exactly as she used to. Moving on from Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop, Pernia pivoted to a retail business model revolving around responsible fashion and sustainability. In 2019, she started a 100% organic and sustainable fashion label, called Gud Organics. Earlier this year, she added another brand to her illustrious repository, called Saritoria. It is a pre-loved fashion marketplace conceived with the aim of creating a circular fashion economy and reducing wastage.

Pernia also has a reputation for being a go-getter and someone who believes in the dictum of carpe diem. While managing her successful fashion career, Pernia is simultaneously pursuing a progression of hyphens as well. She is a professional Kuchipudi dancer, has played the lead role in Muzaffar Ali’s Jaanisaar, and has even authored a fashion handbook, called Be Stylish With Pernia Qureshi. 

With her determination to constantly forge ahead, Pernia has successfully shown us what it takes to be the queen of all trades. The revolution that she has brought to the fashion industry had to be a part of our #POPxoWomenWhoWin series. In a recent chat with POPxo, Pernia talked about her fascination with fashion and what it took to make her name synonymous with fashion retail in India. Read on. 

How do you begin your day?

I begin my day with water, an apple, and almonds, but it’s usually downhill from there on how healthy I eat. Although the first thing I do is check my phone for work messages, I do try and make sure my mind is clear when I either practice my Kuchipudi or yoga in the morning. 

Pernia Qureshi

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Most of the work I do is on my phone via Whatsapp and email. I like to be on the go, whether it is meetings, shoots or calls. I sit at a desk in front of my laptop only about 2/3 hours a day maybe 4 times a week at most! 

How did your first experience in the fashion industry shape you as a designer and a fashion entrepreneur?

I have had so many firsts in the fashion industry. The first time I was on a photo shoot was to model for an Airtel print ad when I was sixteen. It’s then that I understood what a stylist was and how it all works. I was so excited about the prospects of modeling that I did a complete portfolio shoot after that. Now looking back those photos are hilarious! Another first that really shaped me was my Elle fashion internship in New York after college. I was an accessories intern and our job basically was to do anything we were asked. From cleaning closets, steaming clothes to coffee runs, I have done it all! What really shaped me in that internship was getting a firsthand look at how the industry actually works between fashion shows, editorials, PR, and ads. I knew this was my future! I remember Nina Garcia was the editor and just about on her way out then.  It was so exciting to see her come back and forth from shooting Project Runway and talk about it. 

What went behind conceptualising Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop. How did you get the idea?

I basically wanted to start a business of my own and felt like there was a gap in the market for an e-commerce platform that showcases and sells Indian design talent. It really was a passion project and I’m proud of where I took it. 

Pernia Qureshi

How did starting your own labels change the way you looked at fashion?

After selling the Pop-Up Shop I wanted to continue to do work that was relevant for the future of the fashion industry. I’m a restless soul always waiting to create the next big thing that will break some new ground. Gur Organics came about as a need to make stylish, flattering silhouettes in fabrics that were not harmful to the planet. After so many years in the industry, I realized that fashion is very wasteful when it comes to depleting resources. With Gur, we make a conscious effort to create in the most natural, sustainable way possible. Saritoria also came about with a similar ideology. My co-founder Shehlina came to me with the idea and I thought it was genius! It is the need of the hour. The Indian and South Asian diaspora worldwide consume so much designer fashion with nowhere to store it beyond a point. Saritoria is a helpful tool to clear out closets and make some money selling clothing that will never be worn again. It’s really a win-win for everyone! We encourage a circular fashion economy where beautifully made garments can have a new life in another wardrobe. Buying preloved means that whatever is already made is being consumed for longer rather than being discarded and ending up in a landfill.  

What would you say has been the biggest turning point in your career?

I honestly feel like I haven’t reached a stage in my career where I can reflect on a turning point yet. I have so much more to do and so many more milestones to reach. Maybe in another twenty years, I will be in a place where I can recognize my biggest turning point objectively. For now, I’m balancing between surging ahead with a plan and at the same time going with the flow in my career. 

What has been your biggest professional accomplishment so far?

I think my biggest professional accomplishment so far has been doing work that I enjoy, that is relevant and that resonates with people. 

What are the skills or qualities that have helped you succeed?

I am not sure, maybe my need for perfectionism and really caring about what I do. 

Pernia Qureshi

A mantra that you swear by in your professional and/or personal life?

Do your best and leave the rest. I need to practice it better though 🙂

How would you describe your own style?

I think it’s classic, feminine with a slight edge. 

Three life-changing fashion tips that you swear by?

Seamless underwear, fashion tape, and white t-shirts. 

What advice would you give to people considering a career in fashion retail?

I would advise them to study the brands they love and figure out why and what they love about them. I would also advise them to then find a gap in the market that their retail idea would be fulfilling. 

And lastly, how do you unwind?

Good food, guilty pleasure shows, and a lot of sleep.

Featured Image Courtesy: Pernia Qureshi