Interviews

Smitten Boutique owner Roshni Shewakramani on creating beautiful clothes for mums to be

Warm and charismatic, Roshni Shewakramani is a pleasure to talk to. This ‘through and through Dubai girl’ (as she calls herself), epitomises the qualities of the city in many ways – stylish and hardworking yet extremely rooted when it comes to matters of the family. Roshni’s business acumen along with her interest in fashion has resulted in the setting up of the stylish Smitten Boutique, which focuses on maternity, women’s and children’s wear. Armed with a fashion management degree from the London College Of Fashion and a stint as the marketing co-ordinator of a leading cosmetics brand, it’s not surprising to see why Roshni has made such a success of her venture…

How did your stint at the London College Of Fashion (LCF) shape your style sensibilities?

LCF was the perfect space to meet fashion-forward people from all over the world. With such diverse backgrounds, I got a chance to understand that fashion is the ultimate tool of self-expression. I learnt to be comfortable in my skin, mixing high-end with high-street and adding my own personal twist.

Can you tell us more about the planning that went into Smitten Boutique’s launch?

As a concept, Smitten is very close to my heart. I always wanted to enter retail; however, the idea was to launch a multi-brand store for a niche market.

Glamorous maternity wear isn’t represented well enough in the UAE. Combining it with occasion wear for children and their beautiful mums makes Smitten a one-stop-shop. From conceptualisation to opening doors, it has been a very exciting 12 months.

Dubai is a fashion hub; what makes Smitten Boutique different from the rest of the stores here? 

Yes, fashion-wise Dubai has it all. The collection at Smitten obviously belongs to my sensibility. I handpick every garment or accessory that is on display. It is what I call, ‘wearable fashion’ – trends which are applied for the urban fashionista (and her little one) but with a hint of practicality. These are outfits which can take you from a school run to a work meeting and all the way into a glamorous evening out with your girlfriends. For children, we have party dresses and suits with fun casual wear with matching hair accessories and shoes.

What did your experience at the Chalhoub Group teach you about the business as well as the creative aspects of fashion?

I was involved with the marketing aspect of a prominent cosmetics brand. So seasonal buying and regional marketing was part of my job. I learnt about the cultural differences within the GCC and their consumer psychology, along with the style preferences of each nation. Simply put – I learnt to apply the various theories we pick up in our business management class!

Tell us more about the trunk shows you have organised in Dubai. How did that experience help you in setting up Smitten Boutique?

When it comes down to dealing with people, you learn the most when you are on the shop floor. When I interacted with people during my trunk shows, I realised that what I may think is a ‘sure-shot winner’ may be the last thing hanging on the rail. With experience, product selection and fashion forecasting becomes second nature. The experience from the few trunk shows I organised gave me the confidence when I was planning Smitten’s launch collection.

Maternity and children’s clothing is your forte. What advice do you have for mums-to-be when they shop?

Maternity wear need not be frumpy and dull; we can always mix comfort and glamour up. A mum-to-be already has the gorgeous glow so why not enhance that with beautifully cut garments in premium fabrics? As for children’s clothing, they are a reflection of our personal style, so let it be exactly that!

You are a proud mother of two beautiful kids. How motherhood has transformed your life?

I have to use one of my favourite quotes ‘If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?’ by Milton Berle.
Motherhood, I feel, takes multi-tasking to a totally different level. Being a working mother I actually have to refer to my calendar at least 10 times a day before making any commitments. But Saesha and Shivraj are the centre of my being. Being a mum is my favourite role!

How did you go about planning the look and design of your store? 

I had a very simple idea of mixing French baroque with some clean contemporary lines. But I cannot take credit for that. Smitten’s interiors are the brainchild of my dad and my sister-in-law Anisha. Without their expertise, this space wouldn’t have looked the way it does.

What is the best compliment you have received for Smitten Boutique?

Nine out of 10 women who walk into my store say the same thing, “This shop makes me want to have more babies!” Many clients obviously don’t know I am the owner (which I love) so I get to hear genuine responses.

What is your favourite section in your store?

The maternity and children’s couture seems to be admired the most but my favourite part is actually the women’s wear segment. The mix of independent designers that we carry from all over the world makes it the perfect place to find that one special piece which no one else has. Cocktail wear as well as structured tea-dresses, jackets and accessories make Smitten your own treasure chest.

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