Handcrafted in Riviera del Brenta in Italy by one of the oldest and finest family-owned ateliers, London-based shoe designer Priyanca Dhami was inspired by the many facets of her life. Her first collection draws inspiration from the golden dunes, the mishmash of spirited colors and the architecture of the palaces in Rajasthan. “I wanted to create a fusion of my childhood in Rajasthan with my lifestyle in London – and the finesse of Italian craftsmanship to my designs.” she says.
Priyanca Dhami is a self-taught designer and entrepreneur with a background in finance. The London-based shoe designer found inspiration in the many memories of her childhood to bring to life her brand, Dhami London. The luxury footwear brand, DHAMI London launched their first collection in the Middle East as their first port of call, due to a warm familiarity with the local market.
Priyanca suffered from Polio as a child causing a disability and a simultaneous desire and drive to create shoes for women like herself to make them feel empowered and beautiful. Limited in the shoes that she could wear herself, she went on to create her own and AboutHer.com wanted to catch up with the inspiring designer to find out more about her brand, journey and the challenges that came along the way…
Priyanca, tell us a little about your background...
My background is in finance and banking. I was born In Jaipur in Rajasthan and later moved to London where I graduated with a master’s degree from Brunel University. Now, I am a self-taught designer.
You suffered from polio as a child, and following that experience, how did it shape the way you approached shopping for shoes?
When I was not able to wear particular shoes, I saw others and had a desire to wear them too. That drove me to make beautiful pairs of shoes so that others could wear them and feel beautiful and empowered.
What was it about shoes from other brands that weren't quite working for you?
I couldn’t find the fusion and eastern vibrancy that also paid tribute to my heritage. I wanted to see that ethnic elegance in a pair of shoes and that is why I designed my own collection, which is full of vivid colors and impactful designs.
Tell us about what determined you to go and launch your own brand of shoes?
My polio kicked me to do it. Having suffered from polio at an early age, I decided to embrace my disability by realizing my dream to create footwear. Because of the polio, I was limited in the shoes that I could wear. I created DHAMI London for women to make them feel beautiful, elegant and empowered– something I had always admired in other women.
Your collection features vibrant colors and sparking details, what was the inspiration behind this collection?
My Inspiration is my childhood in Rajasthan; the murals and vivid colors of India are so beautiful and true to my heritage. Eastern fusion and architecture has always been my driving force towards creating my designs.
Polio is also a cause you hold dear, as you donate a % of your sales to an associated charity, what can you tell us about that?
We chose UNICEF as one of the organizations we donate to, and those donations come from a percentage of our sales to help those living with polio, especially women and how society makes them feel inferior about themselves and the way they look just because they have a physical disability. We want to do as much as we can to help them out.
What sets DHAMI London aside from your luxury competitors?
DHAMI London stands out for its aesthetics, the design and uniqueness of the shoes, and the story behind the brand. The design is like no other, and the eastern vibrancy is something I have always wanted to create and incorporate into my collection.
Who have been the women that have inspired you in your journey?
There are quite a few who really made me feel empowered and strong, namely Winnie Harlow, Priyanka Chopra, Amal Clooney, Emma Watson - they are all superwomen who I’ve seen help others and are a great inspiration to all the women out there.
What made you want to launch DHAMI London in the Middle East - what is it about this market that resonates with your brand?
The Middle East was my first port of call as I felt that the local culture resonated with the gold and the aesthetics of the shoes, and my collection overall. The target audience is here, if you look at my designs, you will see the eastern familiarity to them. One of the other reasons this market is important is that Rajasthan and the Middle East have a lot in common when it comes to architecture and vibrancy, so it felt like the right place to be and currently Dhami London is available at the Tryano Abu Dhabi and the Salam Stores, in Doha.
As an entrepreneur, in an industry that can be competitive and cutthroat, what have been your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them?
The fashion industry has been so welcoming, everyone is supportive and given me the best advice and thankfully, no cutthroat people were involved. Competition is everywhere and I am walking with them and not fighting it. I am so grateful to have been given good guidance.
Some of the challenges I faced were things such as sketching as I am a self-taught designer – getting the perfect sketches done were quite a challenge to me. Secondly, finding the best manufacturers. It was difficult because they usually only work with high-end brands but once I opened up about my story – they agreed and helped me out and of course, the biggest challenge has been to sell the shoes. Being a self-taught designer, it’s always going to be a challenge for me to sell my shoes, but I take all the challenges as a positive way to go about things.
Lastly, what words of empowerment can you share with our readers who also aspire to be successful entrepreneurs?
Do not give up, dream big and work hard towards your dreams. Take your disadvantages to your advantages. Take your weaknesses as your strengths.