Meet Misha Kaura, a young 27 years old founder and Chief Design Officer at Darlinghurst Enterprises. Misha is a fashion designer of luxury apparel, whose designs have been picked up by top retailers around the world, a philanthropist, a law student, a documentary filmmaker, an author, and an artist.
Who is Misha Kaura? Define yourself.
I am an emerging couturier and a current law student! I consider myself an adventurous, compassionate, and disciplined young woman.
I was reading that your grandmother was a socialite, an activist who advocated for Indian freedom alongside Nehru, and a highly-skilled embroiderer who taught you starting at age 3, so tell us more about your childhood, how were you as a kid?
Yes, my late grandmother, Jiji, was the Queen Bee of Delhi society. My Mum, Monika Chopra Kaura, is from the infamous Chopra family, and she took me to India regularly to learn more about my family tree and the amazing things my family has achieved. I had a wonderful childhood; I was quite bookish and daydreamy, always reading linguistics books, sculpting glass, and painting. My parents nurtured my artistic talent from a young age and built a gazebo just for me to paint on the lake near my house. They have always been incredibly supportive of me and I love my family to the moon and back.
"Knowing the law means I’ll never have to rely on other people for my counsel and I’ll be able to delegate and manage more effectively"
Your educational background includes studies in law, fashion design, accessory design, and political philosophy. Post-college, you chose to work in finance, and you were educated in Paris, London, and New York. So did you study different careers or take some courses? How was the experience of living abroad?
I have a large number of degrees, including but not limited to a Ph.D. and extensive design training, and I’m currently finishing law school at the number 1 school in the world. I don’t see it as studying different careers; I’ve always planned to be an entrepreneur. I obtained a broad liberal arts education in college, then went to design school at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral level, and then topped off my training with a dual degree program in law. I think that it’s important for future haute couture designers to know international law since business is easy to learn, but legal know-how is crucial to learn and to get certified in.
I don’t feel comfortable outsourcing or delegating legal management to others when my business gets to the point where licensing becomes a reality. Knowing the law means I’ll never have to rely on other people for my counsel and I’ll be able to delegate and manage more effectively.
How did you jump from finance to fashion industry- starting your own brand?
I worked in Paris as an haute couture apprentice and then enrolled in a number of comprehensive design school training programs. Even though I learned all the core sewing skills as an apprentice and embroidery skills as a child, I felt and still feel that it is crucial to go through formal design schooling and to gain a number of credentials just for the sake of it.
As a fashion designer, what inspires you?
I am most inspired by nature and the outdoors.
Can you explain what makes your brand unique?
My designs are distinguished by sequins, tambour embroidery, and metallic fabrics. The Misha Kaura brand DNA is singular and is clearly on textured embroidered garments cut in modest, timeless silhouettes that appreciate in value over time. My vision is so singular and my business model is so innovative that my designs have been picked up by top retailers around the world. I’m the only designer making dresses that appreciate in value over time; prices of my designs go up seasonally.
You are 27 years old and you are represented by art galleries in both New York City and Charlotte, you have authored 5 fashion books, you are the star of "Misha Kaura: The Label," an independent reality television show, you have a podcast "Passion for Fashion," and are a film director of independent documentaries "Saving Retail," "A New Couturier," "The Making of a Couture Gown," and "The Future of Fashion." Some of your documentary film projects are screening at major film festivals worldwide, including Sundance and Cannes. How do you do all of that?
I am intensely creative and I engage in projects that make a difference. I’ve always been involved in film, starting from when I won History Day in high school for my documentary on Gerald Ford, all the way to when I created a number of animated documentary shorts on public health topics. My mission is to use my voice and platform for the greater good, which I define as engaging in creative projects while still designing collections and completing my legal education.
"I consider my parents my main mentors, all the success you see in me is because they have nurtured my creativity and supported me unconditionally. I’ve blessed with amazing parents and an amazing support network"
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
Beyond maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, I spend about 70% of my time focused on designing and creating products for my business and 30% of my time studying for law school.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
No, but I always trust my intuition.
What do you love most about your job? What is the most difficult part?
I love that I get to make women look as good as they feel. I think a difficult part is that I sometimes have to make hard decisions between two beautiful fabric choices. I am a bit indecisive by nature, so it can be hard to pick between, say, silk and silk chiffon since I love fabric and I love draping fabric. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to say no to new fabric swatches, because I fall in love so easily!
Where does your explorer spirit and energy come from? Do you have a mentor or a role model?
I think a lot of my spirit and energy is due to exceptional parenting from my parents, Monika Chopra Kaura and Sitaram Kaura, MD. All the success you see in me is because they have nurtured my creativity and supported me unconditionally. I consider my parents my main mentors, but I also have an entire Board of Directors filled with mentors as well as a large number of informal mentors. I’m blessed with amazing parents and an amazing support network.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I highly recommend people take up daily walking meditation sessions. Scheduling daily morning and evening walking meditation sessions have helped me gain a lot of the clarity needed for effective and efficient decision making. Tuning out outside distractions and focusing on breathing and walking helps me be the best entrepreneur I can be.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Surrounding myself with brilliant people. I’m really lucky to have a great team that rounds out my weak points and accentuates my strong points. I’ve learned how to delegate over the years and that alone has proven to be the most efficient and effective way of developing myself as a leader and finding a balance between work and school.
"Surrounding myself with brilliant people. I’m really lucky to have a great team that rounds out my weak points and accentuates my strong points. I’ve learned how to delegate over the years and that alone has proven to be the most efficient and effective way of developing myself as a leader"
You are a very busy woman and still, you find time for doing good, you founded Dermetel, a nonprofit organization, and you have two headband collaboration edits to help the non-profits Sakhi and the Anti-Defamation League. What drives you? What´s your motivation?
I’m driven by doing the greatest amount of good in the world. I feel that it’s so important to stand up for causes that I believe in and to engage critically on issues that are important in the world. Sakhi helps South Asian women who are victims of abuse in arranged marriage set-ups and arranged marriages. As a South Asian woman who rejected an arranged marriage offer only to be stalked for years after, helping those in a similar position is a key driver for me. As well, I believe strongly in the cause of the Anti-Defamation League. So many people are defamed and libeled on the internet for reasons ranging from their religion to their rejection of an arranged marriage offer. I think it’s important to use my skill and my voice to inspire others to be the change that they want to see in the world.
What are your plans for the next year?
Starting the #KauraCoutureTour, which is a traveling museum exhibition of my past couture collections. We have plans to go to several cities in Europe, India, and the US, which is really exciting. I feel like in this modern age, couture has to be accessible to the general public, and I hope that by sharing my work with the general public, other designers will be inspired to follow suit.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
I think it can be so easy to fall for the safe path in life, the path that 97% of the world is taking, instead of to believe in the power of personal dreams. But having faith and taking risks has led to all the most amazing and exciting things in my life. It’s so important to live life to the fullest so that when you look back and reflect on your path, you can say that you made a sustainable difference in the world.
"I’m driven by doing the greatest amount of good in the world. I feel that it’s so important to stand up for causes that I believe in and to engage critically in issues that are important in the world"
Greatest accomplishment thus far?
Having the confidence to be myself, for myself.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love reading, exercising, painting, and sculpting.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves, if they believe they can have it all, you are single with no kids so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
Well, it’s easier for me to be an achiever right now and to work 100-hour weeks because I do not have a husband or children. I will be getting married in the near future, with children to follow, and I’m pretty sure my work hours will have to be reduced to accommodate how much time it’s going to take to maintain a marriage and a family. It’s the reason I’ve put off that stage of life despite numerous offers. To be honest, I think it’s only possible to have two out of three at any one time, and the only people who have all three have hired help to run their household and to assist with their children. The reason we don’t have more women in top leadership positions is because only a small minority can afford the luxury of behind-the-scenes people helping households run efficiently. If more women had access to reliable and affordable childcare, then we’d have a better society overall. This is the main reason I’ve built in free childcare into every single office and factory I have.
"The reason we don’t have more women in top leadership positions is that only a small minority can afford the luxury of all the behind-the-scenes people helping households run efficiently. If more women had access to reliable and affordable childcare, then we’d have a better society overall"
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experienced the glass ceiling? If yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I’m fortunate to have not experienced any kind of glass ceiling and it’s because of the amazing women who’ve come before me. My Mum, Monika Chopra Kaura, was one of the first female bankers at JP Morgan in New York City, and she was a rising star before marrying my Dad. It’s because of women like my Mum, women who work no matter how successful their husbands are, that women in my generation have so many opportunities. I love my Mum and I am so grateful for the women who’ve come before me who broke all the glass ceilings and helped make the world a more equitable and just place.
What tips can you give to young girls who want to work in fashion?
I highly recommend young girls get a strong liberal arts education prior to entering fashion, whether as a designer, a buyer, a marketer, or a PR executive. It can be tempting to study a vocational degree first and then to engage in self-study, but I think it’s more important to round out one’s knowledge of the world through the liberal arts and to use college as a time to explore different career paths and options. I’m so grateful that I studied philosophy long before I studied design because it gave me a framework and a set of critical thinking skills that have served me well ever since.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you really are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Misha and what´s not?
I’m lucky that my personality and my professional images are one and the same. I have not let my management team or my Hollywood agent brand me in a way that is incongruent with who I am. I am an artist, first and foremost, and my mediums of choice are sculpting, painting, and designing garments and accessories. I’m also extremely bookish, and that core part of my identity—academic achiever with perfect standardised test scores—is still a part of my public image. I feel fortunate that I don’t have to dumb myself down to appeal to the lowest common denominator since that seems to the general approach taken in a lot of other reality TV shows. I get to be myself on my show and in my documentary films and it’s an exciting thing, which I think is the reason why we’ve secured really fantastic distribution deals with leading streaming sites and broadcast networks.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
I most admire my Mum, Monika Chopra Kaura, because she’s the hardest working and most compassionate person I know.
Something else do you want to add or share with us?
Name: Misha Kaura
Company: Darlinghurst Enterprises
Designation: Founder, Chief Design Officer, and Executive Chairwoman