I want what she has

Updated: Oct 27, 2019, 08:08 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Mumbai's entrepreneurs are choosing to be the face of their own brand on social media, because customers connect better with genuine creators than models

Alyssa and Simone Chesson Face of: Bono Ice Cream @bono-boutique icecream
Alyssa and Simone Chesson Face of: Bono Ice Cream @bono-boutique icecream

Parsons graduate, designer Simone Khambatta says she had always been a skinny girl. Being thin in the head, and imagining what a large woman wanted was at best a guess. But when she was carrying her first child two years ago, Khambatta put on 28 kilos. She was suddenly dressing differently. "It changed my perspective. I understood how some women wanted to hide their arms, some, their tummy. I started designing clothes that I could wear myself."

It was one of these dresses, which she designed for her baby shower —a white star-print maxi—that turned Khambatta, 34, into a model for her brand. "People who saw me on Instagram wanted the same dress." She decided she'd expand the business into maternity wear. Now, she and famous friend, actor Rhea Chakraborty, are the face of Simply Simone, inspiring would-be, and new mothers to dress stylish no matter what their size.

Pallavi Swadi Face of:  CooCoo @coocoo.in. Pic/Shadab Khan
Pallavi Swadi Face of: CooCoo @coocoo.in. Pic/Shadab Khan

Being full-time mother to 21-month-old Zephyr and 15-week-old Serena, designing and modelling are surprisingly far from exhausting. "I have realised how much strength I have, and that mothers are true multi-taskers. If I am too busy, I call the team home so I can spend time with the kids. You learn time management. But what has worked for me is that I don't put on make-up or do my hair. If you are real, it shows, and that's why people respond to the brand. I don't see this as a con. My business is expanding organically."

Quite the contrary, sisters Alyssa and Simone Chesson are a picture of perfection on their Instagram handle @bonoboutiqueicecream. One photograph is a close-up of Alyssa's face drenched in caramel, captioned #caramelskingirl. Alyssa, 31, is a pastry chef. Simone, 26, handles the business. Being the face of the boutique ice cream brand helps customers know the team behind what they are buying. "People recognise us now, walk up to us and offer feedback, which wouldn't be possible otherwise. We don't own a restaurant, so the interaction opportunity is important," says Alyssa, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.

Simone Khambatta Face of: Simply Simone @simone.khambatta
Simone Khambatta Face of: Simply Simone @simone.khambatta

"Simone studied psychology in New York. She's better with numbers and social media. I front innovation in the kitchen," she says about the artisanal brand that offers experimental flavours like blue cheese and honey, chocolate and truffle oil. The girls start their day with pilates before heading to their Bandra workshop to work and brainstorm. "We strike a good balance. We talk and strategise all day—what should we put on social media, and how we want to do a mix of professional photos and behind-the-scenes footage. It's all about interacting with the customer and them knowing who we are. So our Instagram is full of pictures and videos of what we do in the kitchen," says Alyssa.

Pallavi Swadi, 43, the woman behind kidswear brand CooCoo, launched her business at a time when not too many people were making pure cotton clothes for children. The banker, who has spent time in Geneva, Boston and New York, turned designer 10 years ago when her son, Nihal, was born. It was only natural that she'd turn to Nihal and later, daughter Anika, to photograph them in her garments. "If they don't wear it or like it, I don't put it out in the store. As they have grown older though, they are getting shy, and I am not sure if I want to continue to expose them to an Instagram-obsessed world. Now, I photograph them only when I am putting out clothes for special occasions," she says, sharing how the womenswear line was added to the business recently.

"Mothers who bought clothes for their kids, liked the material and asked if I'd design for them." A sister brand now specialises in workwear for women. CooCoo also has Mommy and Me, and a father/son clothing line. Keeping it personal has helped. Together with photographs of the family in her creations, Swadi also discuss the problems that children face, on her social media page. "I discuss kids' health. For instance, when my son was struggling with allergies, I spoke about that. Now, mothers with children battling eczema choose to buy clothes from us since the fabric is skin-friendly."

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