Avni Trivedi is living the American (fashion) dream—a dream she worked damned hard for. Born and raised in India Avni grew up amidst rich illustrious tapestries, whilst draping herself in fabrics from the local artisans in Gujarat. Taught from a young age, Avni quickly became versed in fashion by learning from her grandfather, who headed up a textile research unit and from her mother, a successful fashion entrepreneur. All the while young Avni was designing clothing from the artisanal fabrics that surrounded her.
As a young adult Avni moved to the United States to learn about the ruthless business world. She spent half a decade working for large American corporations like Intel, learning the ropes of commerce. Never leaving her designing ambitions behind Avni left the corporate world to pursue her dream—to design beautiful clothes from the fantastic fabrics she grew up with.
Avni's venture, Avni Fashion, uses her Boston-based workshop to blend the urban aesthetic she learned here in the West with her more-ethnic Eastern upbringing. This wearable cultural fashion fusion is now a brand well-known for its exotic artisanal textile sourcing and for turning those fabrics into something fit for the urban warrior.
In addition to being deeply-fabulous this fashion line is one of the few collections in the United States supporting economic stability for its fabric artists; artists employing time-honored hand-dying and weaving techniques like Bandhani and Kantha Embroidery.
We were able to catch up with Avni, an artist as down-to-earth as her name implies (Avni meaning 'earth' in the ancient religious language of Sanskrit), who was eager to get involved in our Interview Series and help aspiring designers. Her responses offer tangible advice for aspiring designers, with especially valid advice regarding interning and the importance of networking:
What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
I was about 10 years old when I started to learn and understand artisan fabrics. My mother and I used to go on shopping trips to artisan fairs in Gujarat, India and I fell in love with the fabrics and the people.
What is your focus within the industry?
Avni focuses on offering fashion collections that are environmentally responsible and support the centuries-old artisan cottage fabric-making industry in India. All Avni designs are crafted from fabrics that are commissioned exclusively by Avni. These fabrics are hand-made, utilizing customs that are hundreds of years old and uphold the tradition and history of India’s celebrated artisans. By requisitioning these fabrics, Avni not only helps maintain economic stability for artists, but also helps keep these ancient arts alive. Created from 100% naturally dyed, hand-made fabrics crafted specifically for Avni’s collections, each piece is unique to the woman who wears it; offering Avni women the individual style of couture in ready-to-wear collections.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today?
My training started in my teenage years in India when I would partner with various custom tailors to create unique pieces for myself. I think the experience of working first hand with obscure fabrics and clothing was what really taught me a lot about design and construction. I continued my interest in design and fabrics as a passion and in 2008, the idea of Avni was born. In order to better equip myself, I did study part-time and learned construction, pattern making, design, and textiles to get a good understanding of the technical aspects of design. Even though I had a full-time job, I used all my free time to immerse myself into the fashion industry. I researched heavily and talked to various contacts that I had in Boston and New York to truly understand if my concept had potential. It was October 2009 when I concluded that it was time to put both feet in the water and I took up being an entrepreneur full time in January 2010.
How has your career path progressed over the years?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and wanted to understand running a successful business first before I pursue my passion. I majored in finance in college and worked in the corporate world for a while before I realized my passion for the fashion industry. I came up with a solid game plan that would combine my passion with my ambition to be an entrepreneur and that’s how Avni was born.
What is your favorite part of working in the fashion/design business?
I love talking about my story and journey, as well as all the artisans that influence my collection. My vision is to bring all the traditional knowledge and history to as many people as I can. Having consumers read about Avni and its philosophy has been great.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashionistas?
Network, network, network! I cannot stress enough how crucial networking is. I started my network in 2008 by attending events for Boston Fashion Week and meeting Jay Calderin, its founder. Meeting him and keeping in touch ever since was one of the few reasons I was chosen as the new face of Boston Fashion Week. I also try and attend every fashion event that I can, from fashion shows at malls to panel discussions with our local Fashion Group International (FGI) chapter. You never know whom you will meet and how that will impact your strategy!
What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from?
We continue to be a small company with only three employees total. We have hired several interns from universities in the greater Boston area. And in a few cases, our interns have turned into permanent employees.
Do you think there is an overall increasing or decreasing need for people in the fashion industry?
I think that there is an increasing need for people in the fashion industry. As we all know, retail sales associates have an incredibly high turnover rate. Retail will always be hiring. Also, there will always be a need for creative, driven, and vivacious people. Without these people, fashion designs and trends wouldn’t exist.
Which roles in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
Any job that will get your foot in the fashion industry door is important. Learning and experiencing all different aspects of fashion design, marketing, production, supply chain management, etc. will propel you into the career of your dreams. Experience is an asset and companies will seek out individuals that posses it.
What designer(s) or brand(s) influenced you the most as a creative professional?
Donna Karen: I love her draping and I think our design aesthetic is very similar, and I follow her work diligently.
Hussein Chalayan: I think he is a genius with fabric manipulation. I absolutely love that he is so influenced by culture and travel.
Eileen Fisher: I am very influenced by the fact that she runs a massive retail empire and yet works so closely with farmers and women artisans. It’s something I strive to achieve for Avni.
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's touch or business-like ruthlessness?
The fashion industry is a business, creativity is simply not enough. You need to have a business mentality as well. If you have the conviction and passion, believe in yourself, no matter what anyone else says.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
I would say persistence, hard work and having a clear business sense is key to making it in the fashion industry. Understand supply chain, understand finance, and above all ensure you have something special to offer. Also, do not get discouraged. There will be a lot of people who will say you can’t do it; prove them wrong.
What do you think the future of fashion and design holds?
The future of fashion holds so much promise. There are children drawing and playing dress-up now that will turn into the next big designer, young people graduating from college with fantastic ideas and techniques, middle-aged people looking to break into the industry. Opening up our minds to innovative and different ways of designing is what will bring fashion into the future.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.