It’s rare to come across a Director who is both grounded yet confident in their abilities. Savita Kaye, CEO of House of iKons, occupies this tricky space to spread awareness on the need for more diversity within the fashion industry. Here, she describes her journey to success, including the challenges she’s faced along the way.
Osazeme Osaghae: Hi Savita! Thank you for interviewing with me. So, what was the inspiration behind House of iKons?
Savita Kaye: Hi Osazeme! Thank you very much for having me! I started writing as a hobby, as a journalist like yourself, writing for many magazines both here and in the United States. Back in February 2012, I covered my first London fashion week show with my film crew. I had my microphone and got a lot of interviews. I then got invited to event after event and by chance, got asked to do PR and Marketing at some events. Soon after, I became a Radio DJ, (hence the name Lady K) and by September 2012, I became head of Production for a London Fashion Week show.
"I asked the designers ‘Why are you paying so much money, what guarantee have you got?’ They all replied, ‘In the hope of being discovered."
Still working in corporate banking, I set myself a challenge and said ‘right, I’m going to do a show myself and see how it goes’. So, we did. The show was in September 2013. We raised money for charity and had one designer sign up to Louis Vuitton from our show. Three or four designs were sold straight off the catwalk. From that show, I also had a designer who ended up dressing Paris Hilton and Rihanna. My little makeshift team and I saw a gap in the market, and thought ‘what do we do?’
I didn’t like the name that we had at that time, so we changed it to ‘House of iKons’, purely on the basis that we wanted the designers to come home and feel comfortable. We wanted to open doors around the world for international designers. I kept my radio name as Lady K Productions because I wanted to highlight a strong, independent woman.
Osaghae: How does House of iKons differ from other fashion houses?
Kaye: We have a heart in comparison to other fashion houses. We care about our designers. At the end of the day, their success is our success and we want to keep pushing them as much as possible. London is the only city in the world that would accept fashion trends and different cultures from around the world. New York, Paris and Milan certainly don’t. I want more plus-size designers. Designers like Diva Bigg and NHN were amazing in our show. The models walking the runway were perfect, I didn’t have to tweak it at all.
Osaghae: Was there anything else you wanted to be? Was this always the end goal?
Kaye: To be honest, working in the fashion industry was one of the biggest accidents to happen to me. Working in corporate banking for 14 years dealing with group security and fraud, I would implement policies from the government into the retail banking sector. That was my job. However, when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, the bank that I was working for was swallowed by the government. Soon after, my Company had to restructure. It was never my intention to leave corporate banking, I wanted to stay there until I retired.
Osaghae: Tell me about some of the early challenges you faced as a woman of colour starting in the fashion industry, how this has affected your career, decisions and work, and how were you able to overcome them?
Kaye: I did a Master’s in Marketing. When I went into corporate banking, I didn’t use any of the skills I learnt from MA Marketing. However, when I started this business, every skill from an academic point of view I put into place, in terms of product, pricing, place, promotion. Those four elements, the four Ps, I implemented. We learnt how to adjust to different cultural backgrounds. For example, if I’m dealing with clients in the UAE, I know that Sunday is the beginning of their week and I have to respect that.
There were so many challenges – the main one was self-confidence. As a single mum, the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve had to inject into the House of iKons during the last 5 years are unbelievable.
"Once you have the confidence to do it,
you have overcome the biggest obstacle ever."
It’s everyday smashing through a brick wall. Tomorrow it’s smashing through another brick wall. It is constant. It doesn’t stop. You just have to keep going. Believe in yourself, do good to others and let your work speak for itself. Not the colour of your skin, not your religious beliefs, not your sexuality, but your work.
The other challenges I had were the nay-sayers and the haters. I love mine. I’ve recruited quite a few more over the years. I’ve converted them into fans, I’m really disappointed. So, need a few more. I do get a lot of haters, as I am a woman of colour. I’m doing something mainstream and celebrating fashion, talent and creativity from around the world. Certain fashion houses will not take on certain creatives from certain backgrounds.
Fashion is for everyone. Creativity is within everyone.
Osaghae: How much has House of iKons been inspired by your own personal experiences as a minority?
Kaye: A lot. You must treat people the way you want to be treated. That is so important. Don’t look at religion, skin, body type. Our blood is the same colour. We all look different, but we’re all beautiful. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, so with House of iKons, we’re really pushing out the message of inclusivity and diversity for all.
Osaghae: Who are some of your style inspirations?
Kaye: I love the quirkiness of Rihanna. If I want to wear something and be outrageous then I channel my inner Rihanna.
Another woman I admire from the celebrity world is Jennifer Lopez. She is a very successful businesswoman, I love her style, she’s a mother just like myself, She dresses according to her body shape, and we’re in a similar age bracket.
She knows when to let her hair down and is proud of who she is. She’s unstoppable. She started with nothing, she’s had so many obstacles, still pursued her passions, has successfully brought up two children and now she’s looking into producing and directing. She’s got a clothing brand, a sports brand, a perfume brand, sings and acts. Whether in business or style, she could wear the simplest of things and carries it off amazingly.
Osaghae: How is your time spent when you are not working?
Kaye: Well, after these last few months, I’m hoping to binge on a Netflix series. I’ve got the boxsets of Entourage, so I’ll be watching that again. I’m very simple. I read a lot. When I’m not running around at the House of iKons, I’m in normal trainers, tracksuit bottoms, a bomber jacket, a baseball cap with very thick black glasses. You wouldn’t recognise me.
Osaghae: Savita, where do you see yourself in, let’s say 3 years from now?
Kaye: I would like to get into producing and directing. I love directing. I love to be behind the scenes. I’ve previously produced music videos and would love to direct to show people’s raw emotion. Also, I would love to get into directing short films and more documentaries. I would love to go down that route.
With the House of iKons, I don't want it to just be a fashion show within London Fashion Week. I want to diversify into films, TV and Music.
Osaghae: Which one person would you like to thank for where you are today?
Kaye: My late father who passed in 2000. Coming from a traditional Indian family, my dad did not bring me up as a daughter, but as a son and would always say to me, “There’s no difference between boys and girls.” They could be educated the same and do the same job. He always said he felt for my generation the most as we have to constantly wear two hats. You cannot enforce your beliefs, your culture into this country. Yes, we came into this country to give you a better future, but don’t forget your roots. He taught me to respect all faiths as if you were born into that faith. Wherever you hear the name of God, your head should bow whether it be at a church, temple or a mosque because they’re all on the same path to get to the same thing.
My father told me two simple things: Firstly, to respect people from different backgrounds and try to understand their religious beliefs as peoples beliefs influence the way they are, and secondly, always remain humble and grounded, because at the end of the day you’ve got someone else to answer to. Every time we start a show, I always thank my Dad.
Osaghae: Do you have any advice for those wanting to take the plunge into their own entrepreneurial adventure?
Kaye: There are so many barriers – the main barrier is self-confidence. Once you have the confidence to do it, you have overcome the biggest obstacle ever. The other obstacle: the nay-sayers and the haters. However, if this is something you want to pursue, then what others say is irrelevant.
"Persistence, thick skin, humility and gratitude are the ingredients to success in whatever you do."
Osaghae: At the Davi Magazine, we love to ask our guests, if you had an opportunity to speak with your younger self to save yourself from experiencing heartache and pain later on in life, what would you tell yourself?
Kaye: I would tell myself to be a lot more confident and to believe in myself. However, everything happens for a reason.
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