Q&A WITH SR:D PANELLIST NAVAZ BATLIWALLA

At SR:D we are overwhelmed to have the support of industry experts who together, bring their unrivalled knowledge and experience direct to our exhibitors. Joining us on board this year we have fashion designer April Chrichton, owner of Anoushka, Anoushka Ducas, head of menswear at Harvey Nichols, Darren Skey,  fashion business advisor, David Watts and Sarah Curran, Managing Director at Very Exclusive. With less than two weeks until our spectacular display, fashion editor Navaz Batliwalla AKA Disneyrollergirl, and SR:D panellist was kind enough to share her experience and road to success.

Tell us about your road to fashion, how did your journey begin?

My journey began as a kid growing up in the 80s with au pairs who were obsessed with pop stars and fashion. I used to draw figures constantly and eventually enrolled in a fashion promotion and illustration course. But when I left college I couldn’t get any illustration work so I took a side step into the fashion cupboard at a couple of magazines, which led to an assistant job with Caroline Baker. Caroline was a real fashion visionary, having worked as a stylist with the likes of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. I spent about three years learning on the job from her.

 

 

Illustrations by David Downton.
Illustrations by David Downton.

Which opportunity allowed you to gain the most industry experience?

Working with Caroline was wonderful but I was essentially always just ‘the cupboard girl’. I bit the bullet after a few years and went freelance just as online media was in its infancy. I was given an opportunity to write, almost by a fluke. The fashion editor of a new site called Handbag.com wanted a fashion expert to do a sort of fashion agony aunt column. She contacted Selfridges to ask if they had a personal shopper who might like to do it. My friend who was working in the press office suggested me instead. I didn’t consider myself a writer at all but I did it and loved it. It gave me a great insight into the world of digital as we know it now. Alongside that I was freelance styling. When you’re a freelancer you do everything, from booking locations to model castings to writing the captions. You have to push yourself in order to progress and grow. You have to make your own opportunities and that really is the best way to get experience.

After eight years of running your blog, Disneyrollergirl, how do you motivate yourself to keep on posting?

Once you’re up and running you get into a routine and you just have to keep the beast alive! But I’m naturally curious and always learning and wanting to know more. The blog started as a way to collect my musings and that’s still essentially how I use it. So the motivation is just finding stories, then articulating them into something worth sharing. Like other media though, I also think you have to evolve. Thinking of ways to keep things fresh is a great motivator.

 

Oasis commissioned Navaz to produce artwork for window displays and look-books.

Personal style and individuality found in fashion blogs have a huge impact on trends, how much do you think blogs influence the catwalk?

Blogs have become a valued part of the online media machine. Designers research blogs as much as other media and culture for their mood boards and of course, there are now other inspiration tools such as Instagram and Pinterest that use blog imagery. Naturally these images end up on designers’  mood boards and infiltrate the catwalk trends. Even the designers who say they don’t look at blogs are influenced by them. If you’re looking at Google Images, you’re probably going to land on a blog!

 

DisneyRollerGirl Observations and opinions on fashion lifestyle trends and popular culture from a fashion insider
Navaz’s Blog, Disneyrollergirl.

Many larger fashion labels are now blogging to expand their brand. What advice would you give to smaller brands to best use blogs in order to promote their work?

Blogging and especially micro-blogging (such as Instagram) lets you give your brand a personality and really build a community with your customers. I think that’s fantastic. There are so many ways to be creative with it, it’s basically ‘editorialising’ your brand so build on your USPs and create regular content that your followers (and potential customers) will come to expect from you and that they can also take part in. I think this is a great opportunity to turn casual customers into brand advocates.

 

Illustrations by Tanya Ling.

Describe your personal style, do you have a style icon who inspires the way you dress?

My style is mood and comfort orientated. I love menswear for its practicality and utilitarian basics that I don’t have to think too much about. But I also like beautiful accessories such as watches and vintage jewellery. I spend far too much time fantasy shopping on 1stdibs for vintage Cartier and Hermes!

If you could be in anyone’s shoes in the fashion-sphere, whose shoes would they be? 

I’m still a frustrated illustrator at heart so maybe someone like David Downton or Tanya Ling who spend their days with paper and paint instead of mouse and keyboard!

 

10 Ella-emma-miranda-Moore-Disneyrollergirl
Mesh Body, Bebaroque. Styling, Navaz.

What makes a new fashion brand stand out for you, and inspires you to write about them?

It’s usually a gut reaction to something. The ones that grab my attention have something surprising or unexpected about them. Or they do something simple very very well. I’m very fussy about quality so even a brand new brand should be beautifully executed, with proper finishing, well considered look books, it’s the whole package. Imagery is really important because if I like the product but not the images then I can’t feature it on my site. I’m very tough to please!

As a fashion editor, do you have any tips for an emerging brand when trying to build relationships with the media?

Have a very clear sense of who you are and what you stand for. Editors have short attention spans and unfortunately the reality is that quite often they are just trying to clear their inbox. So try to target emails carefully, include one image, include your social handles in your email signature. This is quicker for an editor to get a sense of your brand than navigating your website. Consider sending something beautiful in the post. Editors rarely get post anymore, so a handwritten note and a beautiful set of postcards could be the thing that grabs an editor’s attention, and could even end up on Instagram. Above all, really curate your social media presence as it’s the most powerful advert for what you do.

Remember, remember, SR:D Fashion and Accessories showcase comes to SWG3 in Glasgow West End on bonfire night. Rub shoulders with the fashion glitterati and buy your tickets now at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scotland-redesigned-fashion-accessories-runway-tickets-19142524807