Jackie originally studied Fashion Journalism at University, before working for major fashion houses such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin, Alexander Mcqueen and Jimmy Choo.
During this time she developed a real passion for luxury and high-end fashion, having always believed in styling a look to make it your own.
Whilst wedding planning in 2014, Jackie found it really difficult to find anything across the UK fashion marketplace that matched her western style and sensibilities.
However, during a shopping trip to India she discovered amazing brands which she immediately fell in love with, and soon after she got married, Jackie realised that the Indian fashion marketplace only had a real emphasis on the bridal/wedding market.
Overlooked were some amazing designers which offered truly unique Pret collections, featuring pieces away from the bling and stereotypes.
As a result, Amrika was born in 2015 and Jackie established the multi-brand store in Essex before turning into a private appointment based showroom, located in the heart of Mayfair.
Recently launched, the new Amrika website infuses Indo-western fashion, representing leading designers from around the world, who offer a real ‘cross over’ appeal.
In celebration, we get in conversation with Jackie so you can understand more about her personality, traits and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Q1. Tell us about yourself, how did you get involved in the fashion industry?
I’ve always had a keen interest in fashion from a very young age.
I recall sitting with my mother by her sewing machine as young as 2 or 3 years old, as she would work from home as a dressmaker. Surrounded by yards of beautiful, rich, colorful, fabrics I would watch her seam ladies suits from traditional Indian salwar kurtis, to dresses, and even one-off pieces for me - often with the cut-off fabrics.
She was so incredibly talented in her work that her passion was so contagious and truly enchanting that for me it was osmosis, I got the bug for fashion!
Her designs and creations always made me feel so special and unique when I wore them (to this day) that I guess my love and fascination for the transformative and empowering nature of fashion all began with my mother, and the fact that it was her side hustle, also taught me about combining your passion with commerce from a young age too.
I went on to study Fashion Journalism for my degree and had a career working with luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen before going on to find Amrika, which my mother still lends her experienced eye to every now and then!
Q2. Can you tell us the story behind the brand and what values Amrika stands for?
Ironically, back in 2015 Amrika was founded through my own bridal shopping experience.
During this time I saw how much is focussed on the bridal market and any events associated in this space specifically. As such I felt there was a real lack of representation for contemporary, fusion designers from South Asia.
I was dumbfounded by the sheer beauty, innovation and stunning designs from some of the designers who are only really known for their heavier and more ornate pieces. Looking through their full collections as well as discovering some amazing lesser known designers, I was able to identify the Indo-Western look. A fusion of Eastern fabrics and embroideries paired with Western silhouettes and cuts. These are on par with leading Western designers and truly hold a real ‘cross over’ appeal, narrowing the gap between cultural wear and making it a global conversation just about fashion.
As a brand Amrika stands for innovation, quality and design.
We want our customers worldwide to feel transformed every time they wear a piece purchased from us. We believe that fashion is not just clothes that you wear, it’s what you want to say about yourself without speaking. It's being confident in your style, whatever that may be and we aim to be a helping hand in that journey for our customers.
Q3. Why did you decide to make Amrika into an online marketplace?
We have been working tirelessly to curate a carefully chosen edit of contemporary Indo-Western wear that has a truly global appeal for all women who love fashion.
Going online was a conscious decision to make our edit more widely and easily available for a larger audience, many of whom cannot access these designers easily unless travelling to India. We want to promote style and excellence and feel that no woman should ever compromise when it comes to her style and what she chooses to wear. Going online enables us to offer options and these amazing designers globally... ultimately it's an exciting time for us and our customers worldwide!
Q4. There’re so many exciting labels out there, how do you decide on which designers to stock?
I am a self-confessed fashionholic so I am constantly scouring the market for cool and upcoming designers. My husband calls it shopping; I on the other hand call it research! I have to feel the appeal of a brand or collection and really connect to it.
I’m not a huge fan of ‘fast fashion’ and replicating trends. I much prefer when there is a sustainable backstory to a designer and learning about their inspirations, direction and message, just like what we are trying to do today.
I am the main buyer for Amrika and feel our customer should always have a piece of mind when purchasing any item from us - knowing that the quality has been checked, sustainability and manufacturing processes have been vetted and of course you are purchasing an item which we are proud to put our ‘style stamp’ on!
When building out our edit, I will often see a piece or a collection and think ‘would I wear this? If so how would I style it? Does it have wardrobe longevity/versatility? What does it say about me?
Q5. Contrary to most companies, why does Amrika focus on Indo-Western fashion?
At Amrika we love working with both established and lesser known Indo-Western designers.
That’s because we believe they represent a unique, creative and a celebration of fusion fashion which is reflective of our current lifestyle needs.
Personally, my style identifies strongly with Indo-Western life, since being born and brought up in the UK but with a proud Indian heritage, style sensibilities have become reflective of that.
Ultimately, Indo-Western fashion is chic, refined and easy to wear in comparison with heavier more opulent structured pieces often found in bridal based collections from South Asian designers.
Marriage is not a frequent occurrence and therefore we need luxury, affordable wardrobe options outside of this one-off event. Indo-Western’s ready-to-wear pret collections address this demand and give a new, refreshed perspective on ethnic fashion, which we are proud to curate and represent.
Q6. In your opinion, what should be the three must-have items in every woman's closet?
- A drape/ dupatta which one can wrap or belt or overlay over any item be it a traditional anarkali, lehenga or simply your favourite going out jeans and tank top.
- A statement necklace which can lift a simple Indo-Western look or add some real ethnic flair to a classic white shirt showcasing your confidence in style and everyday fashion.
- A great sari - You honestly cannot go wrong! A sari can be traditional, can be sexy, can be chic. I prefer a pre-stitched or pre-draped contemporary look for ease of wear and silhouette. You can alternate blouses to update a sari, and play around with the drape to give a different look each time you wear it. One of my personal faves!
Q7. What's the biggest misconception you think people have about Indo-western fashion?
A stereotype of Indian wear is often associated with blingy-Bollywood fashion; the brightly coloured and theatrical costumes often seen in Bollywood blockbusters.
This outdated association is frequently that of excess, opulence and extravagance, as opposed to the modern, refined style and chic ensembles within our Indo-Western curated edit.
Amrika has essentially been founded to create a platform which opposes these misconceptions and stereotypes, showcasing the cutting edge innovation of Indo-Western fashion.
Q8. Looking back at your career, what is something you wish you knew when you first started?
Save money! Stop spending it on the brands you work for, as you will need this money when starting your own venture.
Q9. As a woman in power, what advice do you have for future entrepreneurs in this space?
I would advise any entrepreneur to trust their own instincts and create their own opportunities. So often in life we wait for an opportunity to arise or come to us and we stay in a job that we don’t particularly connect with or enjoy holding out for that opportunity.
I would say create your own moments; take the risk.
You will be doing what you love and no matter how hard or uphill a struggle that appears, half the battle is won when passion and love for any venture is at the core.
Q10. Lastly, what was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome when building the brand?
I’ve always had a very clear vision for the Amrika brand and how I want it to serve a global audience and therefore offer a real cross-over appeal.
By convincing others that we are not a bridal brand and Indo-Western fashion, we target a more chic and style conscious woman (which has been challenging and perhaps one of our biggest obstacles!)
When creating a brand which works with ethnic products one is also automatically pigeon-holed. Fashion in my opinion, is far more complex and inventive than a stereotype. Limiting a market to a certain look (in this instance a bridal look) doesn't allow for growth, creativity and means the customers' needs are not being heard.
Amrika aims to address these voices and represents a wider female clientele, not just an Indian or ethnic. We aim to change the landscape of Indo-Western fashion and ensure these designers are recognised on a wider scale and have fun helping our customers explore and discover such unique wardrobe additions, which are perfect for any occasion.