BPF caught up with British Pakistani fashion designer Raishma Islam, who worked as anAssistant Designer to Elizabeth Emanuel, famed for creating Princess Diana’s iconic wedding dress, she then was inspired to launch her self- named label in 1998 after much anticipation and to high acclaim. From a couture and bespoke background, Raishma is renowned for creating exceptional and beautiful gowns.
With 20 years of expertise and experience, the established designer has had the privilege of dressing British Royal Family member, HRH Princess Beatrice and HRH Princess Eugenie and A-list celebrities. Since the launch of Raishma, the brand has seen rapid growth and great recognition from the press and fashion industry. Recently, Raishma presented her collection at New York & Paris Fashion Week & shows seasonally at London Fashion Week.
Can you tell us a bit about your background (where you grew up, any memorable/life-changing experiences)
I grew up in Hertfordshire and started sewing at the age of 10. I used to make clothes with my mother from dresses to Asian suits. Watching Bollywood and US programs like Dallas, Dynasty got me interested in 80’s red carpet glamour!
Can you tell us about how you chose to become involved in fashion design, and what was your motivation to do so?
I loved clothes from as long as I can remember, our background has a lot to do with that. Beautiful silks, hand embroidery, rich colours all come from my heritage. Western cuts and tailoring from the West, shaped my fusion inspired look from an early age, and I then started mixing them together by the age of 12.
With your 18 years of expertise, what wisdom can you impart to people at different points in their fashion design career journey?
Being in fashion is very hard, but I love creating something new and seeing my clothes being worn. I have always done it for the passion, not the money, that’s probably why I have kept true to my style even though I have gone into the mainstream now. After creating couture bridal wear for over 2000 brides, I needed a challenge and creating the ready to wear collection gave my business and me a new lease of life and a new direction. I am only here today due to changing my business strategy and reinventing the business. We still create stunning couture for our brides, but we are now accessible to a much bigger international market.
Given that you have trained under Elizabeth Emanuel, are there any other mentors you have been influenced by?
I have had great business mentors on my way, who have helped me move my business forward.
Being of British Pakistani background, what are the pros and cons that you have faced – if any?
No more than any other Asian in the fashion industry. You do get pigeon holed as being an Asian designer, I needed to be seen as a British designer which was the biggest challenge. Moving from the Asian sector to the mainstream sector.
Who has your been your favourite personality to dress up?
I loved dressing Mel B she is great fun, supportive and a real character. I have also dressed Princess Eugenie and Beatrice which was a huge honour.
How was the experience of presenting your beautiful collections amongst the London and Paris Fashion Weeks, and at the New York Bridal Market?
The last 18 months have been crazy, globe trotting and showing in Doha, Abu Dhabi, New York and Paris. We have had great fun, and made new business relationships. We are launching in the US at Anthropology and at Namshi in The middle East amongst others, so it has been hardwork but fruitful.
Are there any upcoming projects by Raishma that we can look forward to?
Further international growth is on the horizon in the Middle East, plus lots of events at my store in York St W1 and shows here in the UK.