Building a company is never easy, let alone in a country you do not live in. But the team behind Victoria Road is doing just that and changing the dynamic behind what it means to be socially conscious. Their business acumen is so on point that a Kids label that started from the scrap fabrics of the Women’s Ready to Wear is now sold exclusively at Barney’s New York. When I met Megan, her authenticity was the first thing that blew me away. And once I heard Farina’s story, I knew it was a story I had to share with you.
TBS: You are both lawyers by profession. What spurred getting into fashion?
Shannon has always been passionate about fashion and the art of tailoring clothes. She grew up watching her mother sew and learned how to make patterns and design her own clothes from a very young age. Each season she watches the runway shows with critical interest: her favorite design houses are Chanel and Dior.
Despite it being her greatest obsession, Shannon didn’t consider fashion as a potential profession until she found herself in Pakistan for work and became deeply interested in learning about the design and garment production industry there. She was lucky enough to befriend one of the country’s leading designers and started spending weeks each month at his workshop learning everything about the design process through production. The detail and intricacy of hand embroidery and beading on luxurious fabrics resulted in spectacular pieces unlike anything she had seen in the U.S. markets. Shannon wanted to incorporate this type of work into designs that would appeal to Western buyers but remained an authentic representation of true Pakistani and South Asian design and craft – a way to “bridge cultures through design.”
Megan came to the team from the sustainable development side. She has always loved fashion, textiles and particularly the South Asian and Middle Eastern aesthetic, but she is most interested in how Victoria Road promotes inter-cultural understanding while supporting small business entrepreneurs in an emerging market that is often overlooked by the West.
TBS: More and more I see people working on global companies with teams spread out all over the world. How has it been running a global team? How often do you make it back to Pakistan?
Yes, we are definitely a global team! Our production facility, lead by Mohtshim, our Director of Production and Global Logistics, with support from Farina, our Head Designer, is in Lahore, Pakistan. Shannon, our co-founder and CEO, lives between Dubai and and Pakistan working closely with the design and production team. Megan, our co-founder and CFO, lives in New York, where she heads our finance and marketing operations. Tonia, our Director of Communications & Distribution, lives in San Francisco.
TBS: Why was being socially conscious so important to you?
From day one, Victoria Road has been about the warm, welcoming people and culture she found as an American woman traveling to Pakistan. By using the fashion she brought back to the U.S. as a stepping stone to a more meaningful dialogue that didn’t begin with topics usually found in the U.S. news, she sought to break down stereotypes some may have held about the country and its people. With a brand mission based on respect and understanding, being socially conscious across all aspects of our business was a commitment we made from the beginning.
TBS: Why “Victoria Road”?
Victoria Road is the name of a historic market street in Karachi, Pakistan. It was the place where all the merchants gathered to sell their wares. We founded this brand to bring together and market the fabulous designs we were sourcing in Pakistan. As we expanded, we developed our own production capacity and established our first fair trade workshop in Lahore. We decided to build the brand as a luxury label that would showcase the rich cultural aesthetic without losing sight of our commitment to authenticity. As we grow, we will be incorporating new designers and artisans from across Pakistan and the greater South Asia and Middle East regions into our process and our brand story.
TBS: Farina has such a touching story, one full of perseverance. How did you meet her and decide to bring her on board?
Farina is an amazingly inspiring woman. She was only 24 when she began working for us less than two years ago; before that she had been working in a small workshop designing embroidery motifs for local designers. She had never designed for the Western market before coming to Victoria Road.
She heard through others at her workplace that we were searching for up-and-coming women designers to work for us. She reached out to Mohtshim directly to apply. Serious determination! She and her brother met with Mohtshim for her interview, and showed him her work. Both Mohtshim and Shannon were impressed not only with her work ethic and perseverance, but also with her designs and her technical skills in the various embroidery and digital print techniques that are a key part of so many of our designs. We are so glad we hired her! It’s amazing how fluidly she has adapted to our East-West aesthetic, and how much she’s grown into her new responsibilities as our Head Designer.
TBS: What lies in the future for Victoria Road?
Now that we’ve set the groundwork over the last few years to build our production capacity without straying from our mission, we’ll be expanding our brand presence nationally and internationally. Our first exclusive collection just hit the floor at the Barneys New York Madison Avenue flagship and we are so thrilled!
TBS: Where can we shop the products?
We have an exclusive capsule collection of girls’ embroidered denim jackets and coordinating dresses, skirts and tops at Barneys Madison Avenue Flagship and barneys.com. Our women’s and children’s clothing can be found in specialty boutiques down the East Coast and across the South (see here for a list of stores), and we have a Mommy & Me collection available on maisonette.com. And of course, you can find most of our styles available on our own website, victoria-road.com.
TBS: The product is cut in western silhouettes but the work is still very authentic to Pakistan. Has this been intentional? Tell us a little about the aesthetics of the brand.
This has absolutely been intentional and is the centerpiece of our brand aesthetic. When Shannon began traveling to Pakistan eight years ago, she would buy as many beautiful pieces as she could fit into her suitcase. Once back in Washington, D.C., she would have them altered to fit the way she wanted to wear at home. She used each compliment she received as an opportunity to share what she loved about Pakistani fashion and culture. The idea of making clothes that are authentic to Pakistani design and craft yet accessible to the Western woman represents our founding mission of bridging cultures through design.
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