Ambika Lal is a capital market’s lawyer by profession, who switched lanes on moving to Kolkata. As a person who has been passionate about fashion, clothing and styling, she took on the industry with her head held high. She was also invited to the Lakme Fashion Week, just six months after her debut as a fashion designer. Ambika Lal actively promotes body positivity and encourages women not to pay heed to societal constructs of beauty.
In her interview with Storiyaan, she dwells on the transition from being a lawyer to creating her own fashion label. She also reveals her plans for exiting future collections. She elaborates on the difficulties she has faced and the mantra that kept her going.
Questions and answers
You were a professional lawyer and have worked with some of the top law firms in India. What are the things you miss about being a lawyer?
I miss the high pressure environment, the professionalism and the structure associated with Corporate Law at premier law firms. I found it difficult to transition from this strict regiment, to running my own label. I am used to replying to emails instantly and holding meetings exactly when they’re supposed to be held. Although the transition was an up-hill task, today I’m more measured and relaxed in my approach.
What was the source of your fascination with fashion and makeup?
The love for the industry has always been within me. I can go as far back as my memory allows and I remember still being in love with fashion and makeup. I can’t put my finger on an exact time in my life. Imagine a sportsperson who knows that he’s going to play a particular sport for the rest of his/her life. That’s the closest analogy I can think of for my fascination with fashion and makeup.
You are a motivational speaker for universities and corporates, including Birla, Tata and JLL. What are the skills that you believe are most necessary to inculcate as a speaker?
I am a firm believer that empathy and confidence can take you a long way. You have to project an image of supreme confidence in your abilities and at the same time not intimidate your audience. That is where the empathy kicks in. You have to make them feel comfortable to open up to you without making them feel insecure. This is a tricky balancing act, but it is essential.
About your first collection – The Celestial Collection- which was inspired by the sun, moon and stars - how did you come up with such a unique and innovative idea?
I have always turned to nature and my surroundings for inspiration. This time, instead of looking sideways I decided to look up, and the rest is history.
You won an award as the emerging designer of the year, and on the same night you were invited to showcase at Lakme Fashion week Winter Festival 2019. Did that become a turning point for your fashion career?
Indeed, that was the turning point for me without a doubt. Getting the award made me believe in my abilities and getting invited to Lakme Fashion Week was the cherry on top. I was trained a lawyer and I think there’s always some self-doubt that comes with changing professions. I always wondered if I was good enough, but after that night, I knew that I was and I never looked back again.
You mentioned that you plan to make new designs for the youth. What are the trends that you plan to introduce?
It is my dream to bring back past trends like metallic and drapes. I think they’re very representative of today’s woman.
What was the inspiration behind your Festive Collection ’20.How did you design it so as to make it a blend of luxury and comfort and who is the targeted consumer?
This collection is for a very niche audience; particularly independent women my age who are working and want to step out in edgy modern clothes. I believe that women want to wear amazing modern clothing not just for weddings but also for events like dinners, parties or just a night out. My main focus was to cut down on hand embroidery, to introduce better cuts and fabric and to do something which isn’t just wedding oriented.
In your view that “It is our choices that make us and break us”, what do you think were the most significant choices that you made that built the strong, visionary woman that you are today?
I am of a firm belief that we must try and make a business out of something we love. That’s the only “choice” that matters and everything else will fall into place. I may look like a strong and visionary woman from the outside but I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It’s what I learnt from these mistakes that have made me who I am today. My work is something I am passionate about; and nobody can stand in my way.