“Don’t Cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.” If you asked me to write you a list of all the mistakes I have made in the first year of business, my list would probably take me an hour or 2 to compile. There’s a lot. But, I have learned that I can’t keep going back and wishing I did things differently. After all, I learned some valuable lessons that have made me and my team stronger and smarter. I do my best to practice mindfulness and living in the present moment, it keeps me focused, on track, and grateful as opposed to worried or regretful.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karina Shivdasani.
Karina is a young entrepreneur based in Houston Texas. In Sept 2019 she launched her dream business, a fashion business based on kindness called Common Assembly. Common Assembly shares the message “Kindness is Our Thread” and encourages people to foster self-love and support ethical clothing because when you feel good, you do good.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was in college when the passion started. I wanted to create a clothing brand that built people up as opposed to making people feel insecure. I wanted to show women the beauty I saw in them, I wanted to show women that size doesn’t matter, and it is how you feel about yourself that truly matters. I myself experienced the false highs and lows of fitting into certain sizes and saw women around me doing the same. I realized this is not the way for us, we are letting external forces build our worth. Self-love and self-worth is an inward journey, and when I experienced that for myself, I wanted to find a way to share it with people.
Once my vision was clear in my mind, I was committed to getting into the fashion industry and working my way up to learn all that I needed to learn to bring my vision into reality. I got a job as an Assistant Buyer in Women’s Apparel as a national retail chain, and I worked my way up to Senior Buyer of Apparel over the years. And then, I stepped out on my own to start Common Assembly in 2019.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
When we were having our first photoshoots for Common Assembly, we invited women who were not models in their profession to be our models. We launched with the intent to give everyday women a day to play dress up and glammed and to strut their stuff in front of a camera and feel beautiful. What happened then was really beautiful. By bringing women of all walks of life together in celebration of kindness we ended up creating an environment that fostered real and vulnerable conversations. Women ended up sharing life stories, sharing experiences, vulnerabilities…it was beautiful! We recognized that the energy of what we created was bigger than what we imagined, we created a safe space for women to come together and feel accepted and we wanted to make that available to more women…so we started Common Hour. Common Hour is a once a month event, where we invite women into our offices to come together and discuss a topic that is real to them. Things we have discussed are: How to live authentically, How to feel comfortable in your own skin, How to deal with friends who may try to compete, How to rise above cultural mindsets, and more! Since Covid hit, we have not been able to provide space to bring women to, but as soon as we are able to we will bring Common Hour back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
HAH. We are a Houston TX-based company, and we were influenced to do our first photoshoot in NYC. Our hearts told us we could get what we needed at home, but we didn’t know too much at that time and went with the advice we got. We had a beautiful shoot for the launch, however, we spent way more than we needed to, we were out of our natural element, and did not get as much content as we needed. Lesson learned- a vision can be brought to life anywhere =) From there on out our shoots have been in Houston, TX.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe the heart of who we are and what we do makes us different. We live by our motto Kindness is Our Thread, and we aim to inspire every customer to remember that as well. If we can do our job in inspiring and fostering self-love and conscious consumption, then the ripple effect of kindness is in motion =) That is our goal.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self- Care is really important. It’s easy to put in 12 hour days, it’s easy to forget to eat, it’s easy to run around and forget to pee or drink water! But what is your goal? Is your goal to build your dream business to work around the clock? Or is it your dream to build your business to live in your passion, to have time to enrich your life and make a difference? It’s important to keep your eye on the prize and a pulse on what is happening, but it is important to take care of yourself so you can be more productive and do your job better.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I truly hope so. That’s why we are doing what we are doing, spreading kindness to women, and creating an Assembly of women who is doing the same is why we are here.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t Cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.”
If you asked me to write you a list of all the mistakes I have made in the first year of business, my list would probably take me an hour or 2 to compile. There’s a lot. But, I have learned that I can’t keep going back and wishing I did things differently. After all, I learned some valuable lessons that have made me and my team stronger and smarter. I do my best to practice mindfulness and living in the present moment, it keeps me focused, on track, and grateful as opposed to worried or regretful.
Ok, thank you for that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
1)Brand Belief — Your brand belief is your north star , your “why” to what you are doing. The Fashion industry is so saturated and highly competitive. If you don’t have a clear why, then it is easy to get discouraged. At Common Assembly, we do what we do because we are on a mission to spread kindness to women and create a space in the world for kind fashion. When we get discouraged, we go back to our north star regroup and keep on going!
2) Agility — The industry, our country, the world around us is ALL CHANGING. This year (2020) is probably our best proof of that. It is important to adjust with the times. This year , 2020, was our first year in business . We set out with a plan of action, had goals set , and then everything changed. Our marketing strategy changed, because we felt pushing product was insensitive. We focused on self care, building relations with people, building content that would be uplifting. Next our product strategy shifted, we moved from dresses to lounge wear like most of the market in response to customers needing to stay home and thus be comfy. There is a long list of other things that had to change, but the end of the day — change is the name of the game. It’s about going with the flow and adjusting to where your business is guiding you to.
3) Patience- Sales, success, loyal customers, and online engagement all takes time. Patience patience patience. One thing I have learned this year is to keep pushing forward, even when it feels like the cards are against you. There have been so many moments where I felt discouraged and defeated and in hindsight I was looking for overnight success and upset that it was not coming. It takes time…
4) Don’t Take it Personally- Everyone from family members, to strangers on FB, to loyal customers have their opinions. And they are all entitled to it. But do not take it personally! They may not see your full vision, they may not understand your niche, and frankly they may not be your target customers. I have received many rude, critical, and offensive FB messages and it used to get me down. But I realized, I am going to take from it what serves me and the business, and let the rest roll off my shoulder.
5) Problem Solving- When you start a business you are a glorified problem solver =). Thinking 3 steps ahead is the name of the game. When I launched the business we experienced a lot of issues from website development issues, photography missteps, wrong investments, you name it we probably experienced it! That is when I learned the lesson to forecast issues, have back up plans ready, and do my best to think 3 steps ahead! It goes back to have an agility mindset and to be ready to pivot and put out fires quickly and efficiently.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
I am so excited about the slow down of the fast fashion industry and the rise of conscious consumerism. Our choices have an impact on the environment, on garment worker’s safety, and their livelihoods. It is time we become more conscious of our decisions. With this shift in the culture, there is the rise of sustainable options whether its items made from sustainable materials or items made to last season over the season and not be disposed of. It such an exciting and necessary shift!
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
In my mind, the most successful shift for the industry is pure awareness of impact. I think the fashion industry is on the right track with slower fashion, ethical fashion, and sustainable fashion. But this shift also needs to be supported by a shift in consumerism for it to be a permanent change.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A kindness movement! This is the path I have embarked on. It’s simple, kindness starts with the self. When you honor and are kinder to yourself, you have the capacity to be kinder to others. The ripple effect goes on from there. We could all use a little more kindness in our life =)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@common.assembly or @karina_shivdasani
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!