Over the past three decades, fashion designer Neeta Lulla has been working for some of the finest Indian films and the biggest stars in Indian cinema. Having been trained under the-then gurus of fashion and getting an in-depth knowledge of the fashion vertical and hands-on experience, she earned the opportunity to explore diverse job profiles within the fashion domain. She is now ready for her second innings in her career and plans to give back what she has learnt over the years to fashion students via her venture, The Whistling Woods – Neeta Lulla School of Fashion.
Interestingly, talks to create a school began around a decade ago between Bollywood showman Subhash Ghai and Neeta when they recognised a clear need for a good fashion school in the country. “Unfortunately, due to time commitments it did not materialise then. Around two years ago, talks for the school resumed and finally materialised into The Whistling Woods – Neeta Lulla School of Fashion,” says Neeta.
The Whistling Woods International has already established itself as one of the leading film and media institutes in the country. “The Whistling Woods – Neeta Lulla School of Fashion is the first of its kind fashion school created by the industry, for the industry. With this venture, we aim to provide relevant practical training and in-depth industry knowledge to fashion aspirants across the country,” says Siddharth Lulla, Neeta’s son, who manages the fashion school and her other businesses.
Over the last several years, Siddharth had worked towards scaling the business (Neeta Lulla brand) at a retail and distribution level. “Given our strong brand identity, we are now focussing on two segments of the brand – a couture segment that already exists and is our brand identity, and a new diffusion segment which will be more scalable,” adds Siddharth.
Recently, the mother-son duo established the Neeta Lulla online store which has increased its international clientele. Over the last couple of years, Siddharth established his own brand Nautankii. It’s a mass premium brand, retailing at prices ranging from Rs.6,000 to Rs.8,000 and distributed to consumers across the country through a network of organised stores largely in tier II towns.
The fashion school received an overwhelming response for its flagship two-year diploma in fashion design programme. “As the school of fashion is still a young venture, we would be assisting the students for internship placement after the completion of the course,” adds Siddharth.
Given that the school is a unique combination of film and fashion, the opportunity that the students would get in terms of internship would not only include design houses, retailers, fashion brands etc. but they will also have access to a wide range of production houses of films and television.
Significant emphasis has been placed on master classes by industry professionals and exposure to leading fashion shows across the country.
For any venture to be successful it is important that at an early stage itself the business plan and strategy is in line with the vision of the founding mentors. “I am involved hands-on in setting up the operations and processes for the school, ensuring that we are properly staffed on the academics front with qualified and competent teachers to nurture and guide our students,” adds Siddharth.
Neeta Lulla School of Fashion claims to be the sole fashion institute in the country which is under the patronage and tutelage of an established fashion designer. “Our advisory board and faculty include stalwarts and leading professionals from the industry. We provide our students with a first-hand insight into the fashion industry through a myriad of fashion shows and design workshops,” adds Siddharth. The school-designed programme focuses on teaching students what is relevant in the fashion industry today and cutting off the irrelevant.
Mantra of a successful entrepreneur
Siddharth believes that to be a successful entrepreneur one must be very passionate about ones venture. “Passion and belief in what you have set out to do go a long way in sustaining ones efforts and making a venture successful. Entrepreneurs must possess a high tolerance for ambiguity,” adds Siddharth.
An entrepreneur may not always be able to anticipate the outcome of the decisions he makes but he must have the ability to accept the unknown or the ambiguous. An entrepreneur must always have a vision of what he desires from his venture. Having a vision will help define a path to success.
Lastly, to be successful, an entrepreneur must employ a good team to help take his venture forward. An efficient, well motivated team is the backbone in building a successful venture.
How to stay creative?
“Business and strategy building is a creative process. A fresh, clear mind and enjoying what you do are essential to stay creative. Personally, I like to travel to keep my mind fresh and clear. Books on business and management help in understanding new business strategies and business plans that people employ. I also believe that having a balanced lifestyle helps to keep one’s mind fresh, focused and alert, says Siddharth.