In our never ending research for good and valuable fashion, we had the chance to meet Aisha Saraf Kothari, the brilliant mind behind AISPI. Her background and her knowledge just fascinated us and we want to share with you the great job she does everyday. Grown up between India and US, Aisha is now based in Antwerp, Belgium, from where she decided to start a small, but valuable revolution in the fashion system.
AISPI is an online platform that brings together creatives and fashion lovers from all around the world. Aisha and her team work in order to create a bridge between emerging and niche designers, and their consumers. Starting from the idea that our experiences in different cities is not only based on what we see and what we eat, but also on the shopping we do, she wants to give us a easy and intuitive digital place where to discover high quality, hearted fashion.
Read the interview to know more about a challenging adventure and her, brave, founder.
First of all, I must say, when I first discover AISPI I was amazed by the choice of the name. I first found out about “I spy” game when I was in England – we don’t have it in Italy. I think the name of your company brings to the project a playful attire, isn’t it? Everything started from Your personal experience around the globe, in the different countries You lived in and from the amazement You felt discovering cultures..exactly like a child. Is it somehow related to the way You want us to look at fashion, with “fresh eyes”?
I love this question and the answer is YES, absolutely! I love to travel and every time I would make three lists – where to eat, what to do and where to shop. Thewhere to shop section was always the hardest to fill up. Also, I saw that fashion is seen as a form of consumerism and not so much as art. People love to talk about where they ate, what places they visited but never about the clothes they saw – this is considered the shopaholic banter. Which is so sad – to me, an outsider, who is not from the fashion industry – the creation of these clothes is pure art – the ability to express yourself through what you wear. Therefore, my aim is to make fashion a dinner table conversation by making it a part of your travel adventures.
You also gained a mature perspective on our actions as human beings and as societies: how do You translate this knowledge into Your work?
I have had the amazing opportunity to live, study and work in Delhi, Mumbai, London, Philadelphia, New York, Cannes, Alicante, Dubai and Belgium. This has given me an extremely global mindset – a world where boundaries and borders don’t exist. It also allowed me to learn about different people and societies. The takeaway that I translate into my work every day is that people are different, and everyone has a different perspective. In order to align them all towards the same goal, it is important to communicate and meet halfway. Our team is extremely diverse and we have people from Belgium, Spain, Germany, Paris, India, Dubai and more. They all bring a unique perspective that allows us to cater to a diverse audience.
Coming to fashion: this is the field we both love, but we’re also aware of the impact it has. In this sense, I think Your platform is brilliant and looking forward: one of the way to change direction is to go back to better and more conscious consumers’ behaviors: how?
I think encouraging people to express themselves through what they wear allows them to not get swayed by trends but to make purchases that they will cherish forever. It influences them to invest in timeless pieces that they love, not what is dictated by the hype of media.
Additionally, we also feel that sustainable clothing and ethical production is going to be the standard and the norm in the future. Therefore, if young designers haven’t already started, they should be looking towards that as soon as possible!
You present to consumers an accurate list of shops and boutiques where to find the best fashion all around Europe: how do You choose the stores and what are the characteristics they should posses to enter Your list?
There are three pillars that guide our curation
● Fashion forward: Fashion forward can mean many things, on trend, sustainable, timeless, classic. At AISPI fashion forward can mean all of the above as we are looking for finds that are hidden gems.
● Value for money: Given my business background, I always believe there is a fair price for everything. You are either paying for the brand, the style or the material. Therefore at AISPI we always justify the price range, you need to have a feel good factor about what you buy and not a guilt factor!
● Local and/or emerging: The end result at AISPI is that you find things that are hard to find. The fashion on AISPI is geared towards local brands, which can be big or small in their own way. While we steer away from mainstream brands, we do encourage multi brand stores. This is because we see the selection of each multi brand store reflects the curation of the city. Similarly we work with young emerging designers that are willing to personalize and customize clothes for our clients.
How do You do it? Many shops write to You asking informations I guess, but You may have also other way to discover places.
The curation is our secret sauce. It doesn’t happen overnight and involves four layers of processes: the research begins online via Instagram and other social handles, thereafter attending trade and fashion shows and PR events, taking recommendations from fashion influencers and pioneers and finally visiting and personally vetting the designer/ boutique.
We live in a full market, we have all the possibilities we wish, we also have access to many forms of information. Your platform is a trusted voice, that gives advices on trends and quality and so on: why is it important for consumers?
I am a 90’s baby – we were born in the era where google was just about making its mark. Fast forward 30 years, today there is an absolute overload of information. From sponsored posts to robots – no one knows what is authentic anymore. In this world of cluttered information overdose, we founded AISPI which is an independent curation of boutiques and designers. Designers and boutiques do NOT pay to be visible on our website. Through this we can really write about the ones we truly believe are unique and amazing.
Additionally, we have kept the platform simple and easy to use – free of clutter and to the point. Small tricks and details such as city highlights, city blogs, boutique finder, city list on instagram posts as well as dedicated city hashtags allow users to easily and immediately get access to boutiques and upcoming designers.
This is especially tue for tourists: when You’re in a foreign city for visiting, You have no clue about the best places for shopping. I think this is a starting point in Your project, isn’t it?
Our idea is that next time someone asks you about your dress or bag, it should end up in an hour long conversation about your trip to Prague or Paris or Milan .. The aim is to make fashion a conversation starter!
Therefore, through AISPI you can:
Find boutiques near you (using our location finder) as you sip on that coffee and take in the wonderful history of Europe.
Create your own boutique list using filters such as price, city and recommended by. Very much like the michelin guide for local restaurants.
Order curated finds from the most coveted niche designers of Europe by following our instagram.
Can You explain us a little about Your “talent” section? It sounds very interesting.
I am so glad you asked! This is indeed a very special section. So as I mentioned, we started AISPI with the aim to bridge gaps – to connect the hidden fashion world with the every day consumer. We soon realised that the reason why this fashion world is hidden is because they don’t have access to the right talent that can help them communicate their vision to the world via content. On the other hand, there are some amazing young talents – students, emerging photographers, graphic designers that are not getting the opportunity to freely express their creativity.
Therefore ,AISPI talent is a community of like minded creatives that are here to push their own limits and boundaries. We connect emerging talent with emerging designers to create a win win situation.
Do You have specific plans for the future? For instance, widen Your interests into home furniture, or beauty, or design?
The way I see it, AISPI is a mindset to be unique. In the future I see AISPI as a fashion experience similar to today’s Harrods, Printemps, Barneys in key cities of the world where in one physical place you can experience all the local fashion experiences of the country. An amalgamation of boutiques and local designers.
Digitally, I see AISPI as THE place to discover validated and curated upcoming designers globally, not just in Europe.
Additionally, for designers, a launchpad that allows you to reach your target audience in a short sprint without the bureaucracy.
slide the pictures to discover AISPI’s selection
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