#3: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag (London, UK)

Posted on by Phuong Mai

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After visiting Chicago, our special Valletta bag has made it’s way across the big pond over to London—home of our favorite tea parlors and lemon curd, tales of Sherlock and other books among Charing Cross, and of course posh shopping.

We caught up with Asma Bandey, account manager by day and pashmina pro by night. She is self-taught in the craft of custom, hand-made embroidery, and aims to have her own embroidery atelier to supply bespoke embroidery and embellishment to fashion designers, interior designers and costume designers. She currently sells a limited number of hand-woven, hand-embroidered shawls from Kashmir—check out her impressive work here!

Asma took our Valletta for a spin in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street, an iconic London hidden shopping street with two things she loves: great food and the best yoga studio in London. image


** Tell us a little about yourself—where you grew up and the path that took you to where you are now. **

I grew up in Saudi Arabia which, at the time, was not exactly a hot bed of creativity and fashion entrepreneurial spirit; however my Kashmiri background meant that I’ve always been in love with quality craftsmanship and in particular embroidery. Moving to London for college—and subsequently never leaving—has been a journey of discovery. I’ve always known I have a creative side, I just never knew where to channel it. Over twelve years later, I’ve been collaborating with craftsmen in Srinagar, Kashmir to combine my sales and relationship management skills with their unique knowledge of hand-made embroidery passed down the generations.

Tell us about your current role at BrightEdge. How’d you get started? What do you love most about it? I’m currently a Strategic Account Manager in the Global team at BrightEdge London, responsible for managing a portfolio of Marketing professionals who have bought our industry leading software to help drive their growth and success through Organic Search. Having spent several years in the Digital Marketing field, I was introduced to BrightEdge through my network last year when the company, HQ’d in the Bay area, was on the hunt for someone to help drive their European expansion. It’s been an awesome experience so far, learning lots more about SEO, working with some amazing brands and most importantly enhancing my negotiation and business development abilities. All of this contributes to my personal and professional success overall.  

In addition to BrightEdge, you have an incredible eponymous line of beautiful cashmere shawls. What was the inspiration behind this? It all started pretty ad-hoc really – I would buy a Pashmina shawl for my personal collection, someone would see it and fall in love instantly with the one of a kind quality and insist that I buy them one too. That person told her friend/sister/mother/colleague who would ask for one too and eventually someone said: “Hey why don’t you design a collection of them and give this a serious go?” So I did! The biggest challenge of course, is re-educating the market on what a real Pashmina is versus everything else out there (spoiler alert: it’s a hand woven shawl made from the wool of a specific goat indigenous to the Himalayan mountains.) There are a lot of alternatives out there, which call themselves Pashmina, but the word – and the shawl – really originated in Srinagar so I’m trying to reignite a value and appreciation for the real thing. image

** Wow! So then how do you balance managing a corporate job with your own venture?** There really is no good answer for this—the reality is that it’s really tough and is a daily challenge. I think the main thing that keeps me going is meeting new people and clients who love the things which I do. It makes it worth it when I see the look on someone’s face when they run their fingers across the insane softness of their new shawl and hear the excitement in their voice when they tell anyone who’ll listen about their incredibly unique new wardrobe staple. Don’t get me wrong – I love a Topshop or Zara haul as much as the next girl! But knowing that I own something which someone spent 8 – 10 months creating with their hands and that absolutely no one, but me, on this earth owns. That’s a passion I keep looking to find in others and those are the people I want to share my pashminas with. So I keep working and searching for them!

**Any advice for women interested in turning a hobby into something more? ** Just give it a go. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Finally: How do you carry on beautifully?  I read a great line somewhere: “We weren’t born to pay bills and then die.” It’s a bit melodramatic, but it resonated with how I felt and so now I try to remind myself that there’s more to life than being conventionally responsible. Sometimes the responsible thing to do is the thing that just makes you happy. image

image

After visiting Chicago, our special Valletta bag has made it’s way across the big pond over to London—home of our favorite tea parlors and lemon curd, tales of Sherlock and other books among Charing Cross, and of course posh shopping.

We caught up with Asma Bandey, account manager by day and pashmina pro by night. She is self-taught in the craft of custom, hand-made embroidery, and aims to have her own embroidery atelier to supply bespoke embroidery and embellishment to fashion designers, interior designers and costume designers. She currently sells a limited number of hand-woven, hand-embroidered shawls from Kashmir—check out her impressive work here!

Asma took our Valletta for a spin in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street, an iconic London hidden shopping street with two things she loves: great food and the best yoga studio in London. image


** Tell us a little about yourself—where you grew up and the path that took you to where you are now. **

I grew up in Saudi Arabia which, at the time, was not exactly a hot bed of creativity and fashion entrepreneurial spirit; however my Kashmiri background meant that I’ve always been in love with quality craftsmanship and in particular embroidery. Moving to London for college—and subsequently never leaving—has been a journey of discovery. I’ve always known I have a creative side, I just never knew where to channel it. Over twelve years later, I’ve been collaborating with craftsmen in Srinagar, Kashmir to combine my sales and relationship management skills with their unique knowledge of hand-made embroidery passed down the generations.

Tell us about your current role at BrightEdge. How’d you get started? What do you love most about it? I’m currently a Strategic Account Manager in the Global team at BrightEdge London, responsible for managing a portfolio of Marketing professionals who have bought our industry leading software to help drive their growth and success through Organic Search. Having spent several years in the Digital Marketing field, I was introduced to BrightEdge through my network last year when the company, HQ’d in the Bay area, was on the hunt for someone to help drive their European expansion. It’s been an awesome experience so far, learning lots more about SEO, working with some amazing brands and most importantly enhancing my negotiation and business development abilities. All of this contributes to my personal and professional success overall.  

In addition to BrightEdge, you have an incredible eponymous line of beautiful cashmere shawls. What was the inspiration behind this? It all started pretty ad-hoc really – I would buy a Pashmina shawl for my personal collection, someone would see it and fall in love instantly with the one of a kind quality and insist that I buy them one too. That person told her friend/sister/mother/colleague who would ask for one too and eventually someone said: “Hey why don’t you design a collection of them and give this a serious go?” So I did! The biggest challenge of course, is re-educating the market on what a real Pashmina is versus everything else out there (spoiler alert: it’s a hand woven shawl made from the wool of a specific goat indigenous to the Himalayan mountains.) There are a lot of alternatives out there, which call themselves Pashmina, but the word – and the shawl – really originated in Srinagar so I’m trying to reignite a value and appreciation for the real thing. image

** Wow! So then how do you balance managing a corporate job with your own venture?** There really is no good answer for this—the reality is that it’s really tough and is a daily challenge. I think the main thing that keeps me going is meeting new people and clients who love the things which I do. It makes it worth it when I see the look on someone’s face when they run their fingers across the insane softness of their new shawl and hear the excitement in their voice when they tell anyone who’ll listen about their incredibly unique new wardrobe staple. Don’t get me wrong – I love a Topshop or Zara haul as much as the next girl! But knowing that I own something which someone spent 8 – 10 months creating with their hands and that absolutely no one, but me, on this earth owns. That’s a passion I keep looking to find in others and those are the people I want to share my pashminas with. So I keep working and searching for them!

**Any advice for women interested in turning a hobby into something more? ** Just give it a go. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Finally: How do you carry on beautifully?  I read a great line somewhere: “We weren’t born to pay bills and then die.” It’s a bit melodramatic, but it resonated with how I felt and so now I try to remind myself that there’s more to life than being conventionally responsible. Sometimes the responsible thing to do is the thing that just makes you happy. image