Considering the fashion mogul and entrepreneur Samia Khan is today, you might be surprised to know that the founder of fashion platform Mélange actually started her career in corporate hospitality. In fact, while she was in India, where she grew up, Samia worked in that sector for about 10 years in a senior sales and marketing role.
With her Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing, she worked in three different countries including Taj Group Hotels in India and at Radisson and Intercontinental Hotel Groups in the Middle East before deciding to move with her family to Singapore.
“We moved to Singapore in December 2009 when my older son was 16 months old. My husband was working with Las Vegas Sands in Macau and was moved here to be part of the pre-opening team at Marina Bay Sands.” Samia said. She added that she really wanted to work part-time as well but could not figure out what would fulfil her.
Unsure about what she should do, Samia decided to toy with the idea of pursuing her first love: fashion.
“Growing up, fashion was always my first love and true calling,” she said. “At that point, I spotted a gap in the fashion market in Singapore for the incredible Indian designers I knew from back home in India. It was around this point that I decided to start my entrepreneurial journey in fashion and to attempt to connect the women in Singapore with the vibrancy of South Asian designs.”
Armed with a whole lot of passion and grit, Samia started Mélange, an online store that focuses on Indian designers, in 2011. But with no connections or mentors in the fashion industry, Samia was faced with an uphill battle.
“It was so challenging in the early days because brands would not take me seriously unless I bought stock from them,” she said.
Additionally, brands were hesitant to work with an overseas partner since, at that point, she was only doing pop-ups. However, Samia kept going and eventually caught her first big break when the well-known Indian brand Pankaj and Nidhi decided to work with Mélange.
The success of Mélange’s first fashion show kicked things off for Samia and she suddenly found it easier to get other brands on board and in line with her vision.
“I still remember the day when one of my partner brands called me saying that Tarun Tahiliani wanted to connect with me and that he would like to do a show with me in Singapore. This was the moment I was waiting for. I have been a big fan of Tahiliani’s clothes for the longest time and this seemed like a dream come true,” Samia gushed. Tarun is a notable Indian couture designer who has made a name for himself as one of India’s first international fashion designers.
However, despite her success with working with him and other notable designers, Samia has always ensured that she sticks to her company’s core values of quality, originality, creativity and social responsibility.
“We are a small, boutique business and there is a lot of effort that goes into the curation of the collections we sell online and offline. I have never believed in being a marketplace so a lot of thought and research goes into bringing brands on board,” she said.
Social responsibility is also very important to Mélange and Samia, who is a firm believer in giving back. In fact, in 2019, the entrepreneur held a Gala of Light event which was a Diwali ball that aimed to raise money for two local charities, Compassion Fund and Beyond Social Services. They ended up raising close to $600,000.
When the pandemic hit, Samia could no longer hold the ball so she personally designed masks and sold them on Mélange. The money raised went to supporting the Compassion Fund.
After five years of hard work and with the success of a number of fashion shows and notable names behind her, Mélange was soon able to move from being an offline pop-up space to an online store in 2020.
“My biggest accomplishment has been launching the online store in 2020 under very difficult circumstances and with very limited knowledge of e-commerce and online retail. I guess necessity spurs innovation,” she admitted.