Cover Photo: Samia Khan

From growing a massive Indian design-centric fashion platform to juggling two kids and a pup, here’s how entrepreneur and fashion mogul Samia Khan does it all

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.

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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.

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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.

True enough, Samia’s hard work has certainly paid off because today, she has over 50 designers working with Mélange and they are continuing to grow with Samia saying the brand has plans to scale up their e-commerce business and grow it within the South East Asia region.

While she is clearly making massive waves in the fashion industry, Samia is also doing an amazing job being a wife and mother to her two young boys and dog. Below, Samia shares how she does it all in her own words.  

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What is a typical morning like for you? 

Samia Khan (SK): I’ve never really been an early riser, however, my kids and now our latest addition to our family—a bernedoodle—ensure that I am out of bed at 6.30 am every day. I am grateful to them now as there’s nothing like an early start to the day.

After packing the kids off to school, I start my mornings with a little Ayurveda, a teaspoon of ghee with warm water as well as a shot of turmeric followed by some deep breathing exercises.

After checking out the latest headlines from around the world, I’m off for my morning workout. It’s a must to get the happy hormones going and show my body some love. The gym is truly my happy place.

What do you usually have for breakfast?

SK: I usually have eggs in some form or gluten-free muesli with a single shot of decaf coffee.

What does a standard workday look like for you?

SK: I get down to work around 9.30 am each day. I’ve always worked from home as it allows me to focus on the kids when they are at home. I have taken one of my rooms and converted that into my office so that my team can come in and work from there particularly when we are brainstorming and planning.

My typical day involves a few follow-ups first thing in the morning, researching the latest in the fashion and retail world, a lot of ideation with my team, a little bit of admin as well as meetings with partners both here and overseas. I end my day around 6 pm so that I can step out for a walk with our pet before dinner.

Free time: overrated or underrated? Why?

SK: Totally overrated. But don’t get me wrong. I think everyone needs some free time to unwind and do nothing. However, I would much rather be doing something all the time.

I do take time off but I will always find something to do that helps me relax and unwind. I find that if I have a lot of free time, I tend to do much less with it. It’s easy to get sucked into procrastinating and it’s somewhat of a motivation killer. I guess the trick is in finding a good balance.

How do you deal with your shortcomings?

SK: I use a combination of self-discovery and seeking help. I take time to reflect on my weaknesses and to do a “stop” and “start” assessment. This has proven to be a great intervention sometimes to overcome my shortcomings.

Seeking help from my family and close friends has also helped in growing my confidence. I know I have trusted people I can call on for help which I think is so important for anyone, both professionally and personally.

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What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

SK: “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears.” I live by this every day of my life.

What is an idea/thought that you heard recently, that you thought was interesting?

SK: The concept of repurposing fashion and buying preloved South Asian fashion. I think that’s certainly an interesting idea.
 
How do you unplug?

SK: Date nights with my husband, girls nights with my friends, lots of exercise, outdoor activities with my kids and my dog, self-care and Netflix before I sleep. There are so many ways to unplug. It’s about having the right mindset. 

What is one item that has changed your life for the better?

SK: In my growing up years, no one taught me the value of exercising regularly. Ever since I discovered it, I have seen an immense change in me both physically and mentally. My only regret is not discovering it when I was younger. 

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

SK: My husband and I love watching things on Netflix. We do a bit of that before we sleep.

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