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If you dream of an Eat, Pray, Love type of life then you will love DesignerNatasha Shamdasani Mada
If you dream of an Eat, Pray, Love type of life then you will love Designer Natasha Shamdasani Madan! She left her top level job as Marketing Director of a multinational company in Hong Kong, went to art school in New York, and traveled the world. Thankfully she has landed in Charleston, bringing her Taashki label of high-end handbags and a mission she shares with her husband, Dr. Alok Madan, to contribute to mental healthcare in the community. As Natasha prepares for Thursday's Taashki Trunk show hosted by Monkee's on Daniel Island, I checked in with her to discuss her design philosophy and what's in store!
CM: How was the Taashki Handbag brand born?
NSM: The Taashki brand (before it was called that) was born at about 3 am in Mumbai Airport (India) after a near-death experience. In another life (or so it seems), I was a high-powered Marketing Director for a multinational travel company returning to Hong Kong after a business trip, when the plane’s windshield cracked and the pilot made an emergency landing in Mumbai. Shaken by the idea that the plane could have gone down, I decided that I had to follow my dream – design. I looked down at my red leather briefcase – the one item that showed my personality in the midst of a largely black, navy and grey corporate wardrobe – and decided it was going to be handbags. I drew the sketches that would become the first Taashki collection right there at the airport. I quit my job, moved to New York, interned with a bag and belt designer and then returned to Hong Kong to start my own company. For years, I designed and manufactured handbags for US and Australian indie labels, saving up enough to start my own leather handbag line. When I got married and moved to Charleston, I decided it was now or never and Taashki made its debut at Charleston Fashion Week 2010.
CM: What were your greatest influences for the fall collection?
NSM: I love to travel. My husband had never really traveled in Asia and I wanted him to see my side of the world. So, we explored the countries close to my heart – Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, India and Indonesia. When I moved to America, I couldn’t leave until my paperwork came through. Not going home to Asia was tough, so I thought I’d bring some of my favorite places to Charleston through my designs. So, in the fall collection, the signature shapes and elegant accents from the core collection continue, but now they come in vibrant Asian hues - the rich golds from Thailand’s temples, the orchid pinks and oranges of the Balinese sunset, the blue-black midnight sky from the Taal Volcano in the Philippines and the red silks of Indian saris.
CM: What is your design philosophy?
NSM: Taashki handbags entice a woman to look inside herself and remind her that what is within is almost more beautiful than the outside (that’s why the inside of our handbags are made with our unbelievably beautiful signature silk brocade lining). By bringing influences from distant lands, they encourage her to go on a journey – whether to exotic places or over the oceans of her own heart – and live her dream. When designing a handbag, I aim to merge practical function with interesting silhouettes and accents to tell a unique story and lend a classic timelessness to the pieces. I also believe in merging fashion and philanthropy. Our ‘looking inside’ slogan was born out of the idea to remind women to look inside themselves and also to remind us to constantly find the best we can inside Taashki too. That’s why I designed the InsideOut signature clutch – it has our beautiful brocade lining on the outside of the bag and a portion of proceeds from the sale of those clutches are donated to help provide pro bono mental healthcare to people who cannot afford it.
CM: What style of handbag do you typically see the Charleston style mavens gravitate to?
NSM: I’m thrilled that Charleston stylistas have been so ready to shake off conventional silhouettes and carry Taashki all over town! The two styles that I really see Charleston women gravitate towards are the Pre-1997 wristlet/clutch and the Dynasty expandable shoulder bag (pictures attached) – both were surprises. I’ve seen so many women around town carry traditional shapes and luxury brand names, I didn’t think either of those two styles would do well here. But they turned out to be bestsellers!
CM: Tell me about your personal handbag collection.
NSM: Before I became a handbag designer, I only carried three handbags – a red pebble grain leather tote I used as a briefcase, a black patent leather clutch and a bronze hobo. Although my personal collection is extensive now, there are still three bags I gravitate towards: the eggshell Jaded expandable tote, the pewter/grey Mini Empress clutch and the white/midnight Minor Dynasty clutch. The eggshell Jaded tote amazingly matches everything in my wardrobe and holds absolutely everything I need day-to-day – my laptop, my phone, a notebook, my wallet, keys, sunglasses, a shawl and sometimes even my yoga clothes! Both the Mini Empress and the Minor Dynasty clutches work with most things in my wardrobe and are large enough to hold everything I need for an evening out – wallet, keys, lipstick, phone and Taashki business cards!
CM: What are your style tips for choosing the perfect handbag?
NSM: I know a lot of designers and websites will tell you to find a handbag size that works with your body size and shape. I’m not going to do that. Case in point, I’m exactly five feet tall (or small!) and always carry the largest bags in my collection! I think it’s important to find a handbag that works with your lifestyle. If you’re like me and are always walking everywhere with a lot to carry, make sure the large bag you choose sits comfortably on your shoulder and can be carried in many ways. Instead of going for basic black, I always recommend going for a strong color that you adore – it makes any outfit look fabulous and fresh, and speaks to your personality – it’s almost a signature and you’d be surprised what color combinations work! And while the outside design is important, the inside construction is even more important. Look inside the bag and make sure it’s beautiful too – after all, you’ll look at the inside of your handbag multiple times in the day! Make sure it’s made well and has all the necessary pockets to hold what you need so you don’t have to go digging in your bag frantically when your phone is ringing or you’re standing outside your front door in the dark looking for keys! Finally, if you choose to buy from a company that has a social conscience, you’ll feel great every time you carry your bag because you’ll know you helped someone with a purchase you were going to make anyway.
CM: What can we expect to see at the Fall Collection Trunk Show?
NSM: I’m so excited about the Trunk Show at Monkee’s of Daniel Island this Thursday, because you’ll see the Taashki line against a backdrop of well-edited clothing collections that work so beautifully with our design style and philosophy. You’ll see classic Taashki silhouettes in some fabulous new colors – these brights are the perfect contrast to winter grey and black, and do a lot to lift your mood when it’s cold outside! I’m not a traditionalist and don’t believe in using standard colors each season. Instead, I like to surprise people with a bold color when they least expect it – that said, make sure you keep an eye out for the orchid/brown Post-1997 expandable shoulder bag and the bronze/buff Empress Shoulder Satchel!
CM: What's next on the horizon for Taashki?
NSM: Moving into our new downtown studio this Fall, which has amazing natural light and lots of space, I’m sure the creative juices will keep flowing and taking my designs in new, unchartered directions. I have design ideas inspired by different parts of the world for several seasons, but I’m thinking about branching out into other fabrics and offering women an alternative to leather. I’m also planning to start a custom-made handbag design service, for women who want something ultra special designed entirely for them. We’ll continue to support philanthropic efforts and work to encourage women to look inside themselves – I’m hoping the InsideOut signature clutches that give back to the community will be as well-received in other cities as it has been in Charleston, so we can keep on giving back!
Don't miss the Taashki Trunk Show hosted by Monkee's of Daniel Island, this Thursday, August 12th from noon to 7 pm.