Rachel J Amirtharaj, Founder, La Fantaisie

In recent decades, the fashion industry has been able to attract more attention to its sector and has become one of the driving engines in global development. India’s apparel market will be a whopping worth of $59.3 billion by 2022, making it the sixth-largest in the world. This industry consists of five distinct levels: haute couture, luxury wear, affordable luxury wear, mainstream clothing, and discount clothing.

During this pandemic, until the commencement of Unlock 1, all the shops, showrooms, label outlets, etc. were shut to contain the spread of the disease. With shops closed around the world, consumers were moving to digital media to shop for either kind of fashion wear. The brands that already had their shops online have benefitted significantly by grabbing the consumers’ trust and faith. “So, to say, the Indian Fashion Industry can stay afloat if it works on building a strong and robust online presence, as it is the key to a brand’s survival now and their success in the future,” quips Rachel J Amirtharaj, Founder, La Fantaisie.

Starting her first company at just the age of 22, Rachel understood the importance of money since she was a child. “I tried to save money and learned to monetize my skills. Along with my Government job in Delhi, I had a lot on my plate. My passion and dreams made me start my first venture, which motivated me a great deal to start my dream label, La Fantaisie”, says Rachel.

Bringing your Dream Wedding Dress to Life

Weddings are a particularly special time, and nothing can lessen its importance. Every bride has dreamt of wearing the perfect wedding dress while walking down the aisle. “La Fantaisie translates to ‘The Fantasy.’ I decided to label my brand with a french term as I feel Fashion and France go hand in hand. La Fantaisie is the salon where every bride’s fantasy meets reality and her happily ever after begins”, opines Rachel.

The idea of La Fantaise came to Rachel from her dream of wearing a beautiful wedding gown on her wedding day which she couldn’t find. “I had the idea, but I didn’t know what to do with it, and later when I was transferred to Delhi in 2012, I figured that it is the best place and time in my life to sow the seed of my long-awaited dream venture. So I started La Fantaisie in 2013 from scratch, with a passion for filling the dearth of Christian bridal apparel wear in the country of billions”, adds Rachel. Today, La Fantaisie has become a name synonymous with gowns that strike the right balance between luxury and affordability while showcasing the innovative craftsmanship to its customers.

Having always been a dreamer and rebel, Rachel is someone who bravely follows her heart. Before starting La Fantaisie, Rachel was a public servant with the Government of India, with a dream to start her own company that would fulfill the dreams of many other people. “I do what I think is best for my career, family, and friends, and the people of the world. I am a believer of God and I strongly believe that this world can become a much better place if we all do our little bit”, adds Rachel.

Considering herself to be a wild child, Rachel was always up to some mischief and passionately curious about everything around. She was a bright kid with a lot of ideas, which helped her learn the value of money at a very young age. “I wanted to be a conductor in my childhood days. When asked why, I said because he is the person who collects money from everyone, and he is the richest person I see every day. My dad asked what I would do with the money. I replied that I feel bad when people are not treated fairly because they have less money, so I will give it to them. My dad made me understand that there are many ways to bring change, and the most effective way is to change the mindset of the people who ill-treat others by having a voice of your own and not just money. When I become somebody, then my thoughts and opinions would be heard,” recalls Rachel.

This lesson stayed with her. Now that she has a voice, Rachel is doing her best to bring the change that she always wanted to see in the world. “I have been able to help women in the slum, assisted in the rehabilitation of juvenile drug addicts and convicts, and have stood tall with the pride community,” quips Rachel. Also, Rachel has completed her Masters in Management from IIM-Bangalore.

Scaling Extravagant Heights

Leadership has never been easy, starting from putting plans into actions to leading the change to admitting mistakes to listening to learning or being humble during success or even being confident during setbacks, it’s always a tough road. But Rachel’s approach has always been flexible, at the same time sticking to her principles. Starting with just 2 gowns, La Fantaisie now offers an overwhelming collection of over 200 wedding gowns, unmatched with world-class fine quality for any occasion. “I worked day in and out to design the most exclusive collection which could not be found anywhere in India to uplift the style and fulfill the dreams of many,” says Rachel.

Social Media has helped La Fantaisie showcase its products and services, aiding them to increase its customer base. It has encouraged others to experience the brand and its offerings in the same way. “La Fantaisie has been significantly impacted by digital support. I’m able to promote my brand, reach out to potential customers, establish associations with celebrities, which has enhanced my reach and brand image amidst the audience,” opines Rachel.

Rachel considers herself to be very lucky, as she got everything she wished for. “I never went looking for opportunities to style for movies, but I got the chance to style Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Shergil, Mahi Gill in the movie ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster.’ My all-time high would be my collaboration with Ror Rodriguez, International Fashion Designer, for styling Rajnikant and Amy Jackson for Robot 2.0. Along with this, I have also got to style many celebrities like the global diva Priyanka Chopra and Soha Ali Khan, to name a few”, says Rachel.

With an open-door policy for all the employees at La Fantaisie, Rachel aims to provide a quite simple work environment for all the workers. “I strongly feel that being available and approachable solves 90% of the feeling of being biased and opinionated. It helps create a joyful and positive field with a great team spirit,” opines Rachel.

Extending the Helping Hand

The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted humanity, and is further, menacing the world economy. It has taken its toll over us too. Many businesses and people are financially burdened by layoffs and other primary responsibilities, respectively, that the desire to buy new clothes feels like a distant dream.

La Fantaisie has been able to capture 20% of its pre-pandemic sales through its e-commerce portal. They are also encouraging customers to shop online through the website or virtual meetings, instead of stepping into shops. “We aren’t expecting the numbers to pick up anytime soon. Also, we understand the repercussions of COVID-19, and we aim to help our clients stay safe and healthy,” says Rachel.

With COVID-19 as the uninvited guest in our lives, any short-term goals seem impossible in terms of business. “Though to keep the business afloat and our employees’ jobs intact, we have ventured into manufacturing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Kits, but any short-term goal for our core business is out of sight,” says Rachel.

Started La Fantaisie by investing her savings into the venture, Rachel feels one must choose something they love, as they are going to spend the rest of their life around this idea. As long as one is genuinely passionate about it, they can be satisfied with their life. Advising all the budding entrepreneurs out there, Rachel concludes, “Follow the 1000-day rule- If you can survive for 1000 days, you are built to last”.

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