Since graduating from BA Textile Design at Central Saint Martins College of Arts in 2005, Adeela Salehjee has had an impressive career in design, working for Dior Couture, Calvin Klein and Vivienne Westwood and most recently Burberry. In those eight years she gained experience designing and developing collections, directing and managing large creative teams, fashion sourcing, building and nurturing client and production relationships, as well as working on marketing and PR activities. However she always knew that she wanted to go it alone, and so recently took the plunge and launched her own knitwear brand. We spoke to Adeela to find out more about her journey from student to Founder & Creative Director of her very own brand.
What’s your fondest memory from your time at CSM?
I always wanted to have a career in the creative field and CSM was always on my radar. Being a student there was so creatively enriching, the atmosphere, freedom and resources available was like being a child in a sweet shop. What was amazing is that each day was so different and we’d learn something new every day. In my case whether it was a day in the knit studio, print room, dye room or weave studio there was always a vast amount of knowledge and skill to be acquired. Unconsciously I was always able to absorb something new which keeps a creative mind stimulated.
What was the best thing CSM taught you?
How to work independently. We were taught the basics and given the independence to take what we wanted. The method of showing rather than telling someone how something should be done. The faculty and resources were always available but it was up to us to take our projects in our own direction. It’s a place that encourages creative minds to think and research further instead of hindering creativity by placing everyone in the same box.
What was the most important thing you did after graduation?
During my BA, I spent part of the summer doing internships which made getting a job after graduation relatively easier, than if I’d had no experience.
What gave you the confidence to start up on your own?
At the back of my mind I had always wanted to start my own label. The confidence came slowly to me, after all there are so many aspects of a business that require some basic experience. I wasn’t a jack-of-all-trades, but working in various functions in the fashion industry such as marketing, PR, and a decade in design development, helped me to build a foundation to work upon.
What tips would you give current students hoping to start their own business?
Get as much experience as possible and keep an open mind to all opportunities that come your way. Keep in touch with alumni, they would have experienced something different to you, and you can learn a lot from them. Have a mentor that you can touch base with now and again. Starting your own business does not mean you are in competition with anyone – collaborate with complementary brands or other startups; it helps to know that you are not alone and people in similar situations are open to sharing information.
What do you love most about your job?
I learn something new every day, and I get to meet incredibly talented people who are doing such exciting things. I probably work longer hours than when I was in full-time employment, but I love having the flexible hours instead of a 9-5.
What has been your greatest achievement?
The greatest has yet to come!
But achievement for me is doing what i love and so work doesn’t feel like work.
And what’s next for you?
So much! I am waiting for the next A/W collection due at the end of this month, and next month we are participating at a trade show to expose the brands to boutiques and department stores. Fingers crossed I am also looking forward to being in some wholesale accounts by the end of this year.