How is Aisha Saraf Kothari's fashion portal AISPI shaping the independent European fashion scene?
Belgium-based fashion curator Aisha Saraf Kothari has a job that’s almost too cool to exist; a couple of years back she founded AISPI, which is a curated and intimate look at the heart of European fashion. The concept is simple - whether you’re in Paris, Milan or Capri, AISPI guides you towards noteworthy labels and local designers, away from high street hoi polloi, names which are essentially the ‘next big thing’. “The idea is to catch up to them before they go big and everyone’s talking about them,” Aisha tells us. You can discover, shop, and explore some of the exceptional labels from AISPI’s site.
During a two-day trunkshow at The Loft, we caught up with Aisha and tried to understand how she works:
How can AISPI help us?
We cater to a lot of travellers, especially Indians who are travelling abroad, we curate a list of boutique stores for them. We are launching our e-commerce platform as well, and it's all very focused, everything that you find is a personal curation based on people's preferences.
Have you noticed a buying pattern in the people of Kolkata when it comes to high fashion?
I've observed that people are here are really educated about their choices. I love the fact that they want to know the story, they want to know the designer, and that is exactly our target audience, people who are looking for ways to dress differently. Fashion is the first give-away of your personality before you even speak. People in Kolkata ask questions constantly, which is so great.
You're in many ways a decision-maker for others. How challenging is that?
When I spend my own money to buy something from a designer, it's a form of validation; it means I like what that is, and other people might like it too! In addition to that, as a curator you have to understand that everyone's space is different. Which is why we are working with a lot of fashion editors, influencers and we research a lot.
The labels which we go for are already featured in some of the best line-ups in Europe, be it in Selfridges or Farfetch, so it's like the next big thing and we are constantly on the lookout for designers who are on the verge of becoming huge, so we can explore their work before they are already household names.
One styling trend that's going to be big in 2020
One trend that's really set to go big is that there is no trend. If you see closely, today the whole spectrum of fashion is moving towards self-expression. And there's really no trend in that, as people buy what they love, what they feel helps them showcase their personality.
Do you have a take on Indian fashion?
I absolutely love Indian fashion, and I think the future is all about bridging the gap between the cultures. I'm currently in talks with a couple of Indian designers to see if they will collaborate with a few European names. Abu Jaani-Sandeep Khosla has always been my favourite. I love what Rahul Mishra just did at the Paris Fashion Week, where he translated Indian aesthetic into western apparel.