Palak Shah is an up and coming athleisure designer in Mumbai India who has combined her love of design with her background in psychology to create a mental health-conscious clothing brand. As someone who has personally worked with her,
I can definitively say she is definitely a woman to be watched. Known by her family and friends to be an incredibly driven individual who is hands-on in every aspect of her business, she has been seen to spend hours in factories making sure each product meets her standards and even hand packages the majority of her orders. In recent months she not only married the love of her life but has worked hard to become a favorite amongst Bollywood celebrities such as Kriti Sanon and Erika Packard. A few weeks ago, in the midst of her busy schedule, Palak Sat down with Bol to talk about Exhale and all things conscious fashion.
Alyssa Advano: Hey Palak, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! Let's just get right in and start off simple so our viewers can get to know you a little better; what is your background in?
Palak Shah: Well, I studied Psychology in International Baccalaureate at Jamnabai Narsee School, and I have an Apparel Manufacture and Design Diploma from SNDT University and an AAS degree in Fashion Design from Parsons. However, I've always been around creativity and design as my mother is a Fashion Designer, too – so design has always been in my blood.
Alyssa Advano: That's awesome that you have that family guidance around I know that it's incredibly important to have a good support system especially when trying to find your place in the world. But, what inspired you to actually want to start to Exhale Label after school?
Palak Shah: I started Exhale Label to combine my two strengths - the ability to connect with people and the education in design that I had acquired from internships. I really wanted to start a conversation about mental health in India, so I became the first person in the country that created clothing related to human emotion. I took my wish of creating this niche product and created clothes that empower them to take care of their mental health.
Alyssa Advano: That's incredible that you're so in tune with your client's emotions and their mental concerns. What do you think is the biggest concern with mental health and South Asians today?
Palak Shah: My business, in particular, is based in India, and here mental health has always been shoved to the backseat due to the beliefs in our society. People would feel all kinds of things, whether that be anxiety, depression, etc. but it was important never to show their feelings in public as it's considered being vulnerable- and being vulnerable is never considered to be a good thing. Society cares more about how one is being perceived than what a person is actually going through; for example, a divorce is now after so many years not a taboo subject, but people still are quick to criticize instead of thinking about what you must have gone through. But times are finally changing and thanks to the new generation, going to therapy is getting more normal, speaking about your mental health problems is slightly more casual - so we are moving forward.
Alyssa Advano: It feels like you really connect with your clients and try to understand their struggles - why do you think it's so important to share those struggles and stories you’re your following?
Palak Shah: In my experience, sharing stories has been a great way for people to get a lot of their emotions out, which in turn helps to normalize mental health problems. The fact is, everyone goes through something or the other. So to put your story out there not just empowers the storyteller but also reassures readers that they are not alone!
That's why I created #exhalewarriors- a platform for individuals to tell their stories. And it's so heartwarming when they come back with such positive feedback. They have people messaging them with affirmative, positive messages, and some have even had people apologizing for their past behavior. In a strange way telling their stories ended up giving a lot of my warriors the closure they always wanted. Personally, I have always been an open book, and I always encourage others to do the same. Ultimately, #exhalewarriors is my way of getting people to open up.
Alyssa Advano: With you showcasing so many stories of individuals, it must sometimes get difficult as you are talking about very personal subjects, have you ever gotten a negative response to exhale label?
Palak Shah: I feel truly blessed to say this, but to date, nobody has ever criticized the work I do or given me any negative feedback.
Alyssa Advano: That's amazing! Moving on to what we all know and love -the clothing, what do you keep in mind when designing?
Palak Shah: At the end of the day, Exhale is a business, so I have to keep in mind who my target market is and what they are looking for. Along with the needs of my target audience, I also try to track the latest trends internationally. I always try to keep fashion moving forward to have the next best thing ready for my clients.
We are a fast-growing brand for a startup but still an ethical one. We do taglines to denote emotion, so we try to keep the storylines aligned with our subject of inspiration as well as try to keep in mind what emotions and taglines would be relatable to a diverse audience.
Alyssa Advano: Speaking of a diverse audience, just to wrap things up, why do you think there is this perspective that most brands still aren't as inclusive in India?
Palak Shah: I think that a few years ago it that yes that used to be the case but the number of brands that have come up in the past two years has absolutely changed how clothes are looked at. India is a progressive country, and the change is happening NOW. People are starting to understand the importance of inclusivity. Everything from magazine covers, social media, fashion brands, and even cinema have had a major shift in their thought process and working towards making India more inclusive.
Make sure to check out Palak and Exhale Label on Instagram and their website to shop the latest collections!
Instagram | @exhalelabel
Shop | https://www.exhalelabel.com/