Experiences of growing up in Pakistan converge with a background in finance to make Aysha Saeed a successful, ethical entrepreneur. Here, she shares her story with Eluxe Magazine
By Chere Di Boscio
Aysha Saeed is the CEO and Creative Director of AYSHA NY, an ethical, sustainable luxury women’s fashion lifestyle brand. Before launching her own brand, Aysha started out on a very different professional path. Namely, the world of finance in NYC. While she did well in that sector, she realized she was missing something in her life. Something that brought her joy: all things fashion.
Aysha then moved to Milan to gain experience in the fashion industry. Throughout her five years there, Aysha had the great privilege to work as design and production consultant for luxury brands like Dior and Dolce & Gabbana, among others.
Once she had gained enough experience, she returned to NYC to launch her own brand manufactured 100% in NYC. Today, AYSHA NY adorns a niché group of driven women who want to elevate their wardrobe to express both their achievements and individuality.
Meet Aysha Saeed, The Ethical Embroiderer
You worked with the likes of Dior and D&G as a design and production consultant. What did that involve?
Aysha Saeed: I would sit in creative meetings and listen to their inspiration for the season. Then I went out and created intricate embroidery designs, got various samples made, and presented them to the creative team. Once a design was selected, I worked with pattern makers to make sure the embroidery was placed properly and strategically on each garment. Many of the embroidery styles I worked on were worn in runway shows. That was very exciting!
What sparked your interest in hand embroidery?
Aysha Saeed: Growing up in Pakistan, women always wore hand embroidered garments, especially for special occasions. Hand embroidery is a skill set that gets passed from generation to generation. It’s a true art form. Owning hand embroidered garments is very special. When I decided to get into the world of fashion, I looked into myself and my heritage to see what I could offer the fashion world that would be true to who I am. That is how I decided to become a hand embroidery ‘expert’ and showcased my abilities to the high-end European fashion houses.
Tell us a bit about your own brand. Why did you decide to have it locally made?
Aysha Saeed: Since 2016, AYSHA NY has adorned a niché group of driven women who want to elevate their wardrobe to express both their achievements and individuality.
Being in New York City was always a dream for me, like so many other people around the world. This city has provided me so many opportunities and has allowed me to live out my dream of building a fashion brand. I started out with partially producing our collections in NYC and the rest was outsourced from overseas.
However, during COVID, NYC was hit so hard and so many small family owned businesses were closing left and right. It was devastating to watch and live through this dark time. I personally made a pledge in wanting to play an active role in rebuilding the NYC Garment Center. At the height of COVID, I had a choice to move out of Manhattan and re-start our brand outside of NYC as a less expensive option, but I chose to stay.
In addition to staying in the Garment District, I doubled-downed on our values and committed to manufacturing 100% of our garments in NYC. I moved our design studio next door to a family operated factory and gave them business so they can continue to keep their lights on. I also made similar commitments to other suppliers around us. Our widely popular capsule collection, Dressing for the Now, was our COVID pivot; a biz loungewear collection that employed 12 different NYC businesses to produce.
I am honored to give back to this glorious city that is going through tough times. I want AYSHA NY to be part of New York City’s comeback story. In fact, I was just tapped by the Mayor De Blasio’s office to be part of the Small Business Mentors NYC program to mentor existing storefront business owners seeking to pivot and grow their businesses, especially those who are underrepresented business owners. I feel so honored to be able to give back to other businesses in need.
You use deadstock to make some of your styles. What challenges did you face using this material?
Aysha Saeed: Boy, it is not easy to work with deadstock. What you see is what you get. Predicting inventory can be tricky, and if you sell out of a style that used deadstock and want to buy more such fabric, chances are you won’t be able to find it. Also, deadstock is often purchased at retail prices, which means it is quite expensive.
Regardless of these challenges, I feel it’s worth using because it’s better for our planet and customers appreciate that.
We love your Blousette jackets! They’re awesome because they’re a 2-in-1 style – they can be worn as a jacket, or a blouse. Do you have any plans to make other 2-in-1 designs?
Aysha Saeed: I always try to design each style so it has multiple uses. Our Chiffon Pant is made with an elegant, evening fabric, but the pant style is casual with a comfortable, elastic waistband. So these pants can be worn as part of a cocktail attire or as a semi-casual look with a T-shirt and flats or sneakers.
What other plans do you have to make your brand further sustainable?
Aysha Saeed: On a personal level, giving back to communities we do business with is very important. Prior to COVID, we partnered with a local NYC charity, Her Justice. They provide free legal services to women who cannot afford such services. We offered a portion of our #1 selling style, the AY Blazer, to be contributed to Her Justice. We plan to continue to collaborate with local charities to give back.
Most recently, we donated 10% of all Blousette sales to Bedari, a nonprofit that helps young girls have access to education in Pakistan. It is really amazing how businesses can support and bring change to their local communities through their give-back programs…AYSHA NY definitely wants to be a part of that active change.
Image below: Aysha Saeed
Since the pandemic, what changes have you seen in the American sustainable fashion scene?
Aysha Saeed: What happens in one corner of the world can affect our entire planet. Lately it seems consumers are more conscious of their actions and want to learn more about the products they purchase. They are more interested in learning about the supply chain, making fashion brands rethink their stance on sustainable practices. Since fashion is the #2 contributor to the earth’s pollution, we all need to really rethink how our garments are produced.
Consumers also want to buy styles that last, so there is less waste. At AYSHA NY, we want to make our garments last for years and never go out of style.