Meet Seema Malhotra, who as a child knew she wanted to become a designer. From sketching garments in her teenage bedroom, Seema went on to thrive in Fashion and Design (BA) at the University of Salford. At 18, she won a coveted space at Central St Martins.
However, after graduation, she was reminded that her family had other aspirations. An arranged marriage to Sandeep Malhotra awaited; an arrangement for which Seema now feels incredibly blessed.
Fortunately, the young newlywed’s ambitions to become a dress designer were supported by her husband Sandeep who was a qualified surveyor and worked weekends on his parents’ fashion business. What began as door-to-door sales soon became a burgeoning business and with the support of Sandeep, and with Seema’s creativity and flair for design, that business is now known as Forever Unique.
A self-proclaimed workaholic who has poured her heart and soul into the Forever Unique brand since launching in 2008, Seema is also a devoted and glamorous mother of two with staunch family values. Her favourite time is family nights at the luxurious family home in Hale Barns with her sons, Neil, 21, who is following in his parent’s footsteps by studying Fashion Marketing and Business and Aaron, 18, who is studying for his A-Levels
Seema has recently become a household name. Last year, she took a leap of faith to join the glitzy cast of reality TV show, the Real Housewives of Cheshire. She has been praised for reinvigorating the show with glamour, style and resolve.
Hey Seema, can you give us some background information on your career prior to where you are today?
I’ve always been a lover of fashion from a young age. My parents were distributors of Men’s knitwear so I was always surrounded by clothing. I went on to study fashion at Salford University and I was offered a scholarship at Central St Martins to continue my fashion degree. My parents, however, were not happy for me to move to London so I honoured their wishes. At this point, I met my partner, now husband, who was helping his parents fashion empire and it was here together we pursued a career in the fashion Industry.
When did you launch Forever Unique?
I launched Forever Unique back in 2008 with my husband, Sandeep. I can’t believe we’ll be celebrating the brand’s 10th anniversary this year!
Can you take us through the journey of Forever Unique?
Sandeep and I always reminisce about how we began and we’re really proud of how far we’ve come. We were glorified market traders always buying and selling, working hard and sourcing all over the world looking at different collections.
I supported Sandeep through his journey never forgetting him inviting me to my first buying trip to London in a battered old white van! I soon got the fashion bug and we both quickly realised that the fashion industry was missing glamorous fashion for the everyday woman. We began brainstorming and bouncing off ideas together and it was here that we started our fashion business. After working with Sandeep as an agent for French and Italian fashion brands, we began to open doors to a number of niche boutiques and online businesses such as ASOS.
I went on to design a capsule collection of 10 dresses and traveled the world for inspiration for producing my collection. It was at this point that Forever Unique was born. Within one week, my designs had sold out and we continued to expand the collection to over 200 pieces, as it stands today.
What originally sparked your interest in fashion?
Since I was a child, I was surrounded by clothes because of my older cousin, who studied Fashion Design. I would watch in awe as my cousin sketched and transformed pieces of fabric into ready-to-wear dresses. It was at this moment that I knew I wanted to follow my cousin’s footsteps and become a Fashion Designer and entrepreneur. Living in Cheshire all my life, being surrounded by women who love to dress and have that stand out desirability also aided my interest; the glamorous supermodels of the late 1980s, including Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford gave me the spark to set out to reinvent the glamorous woman of today.
Best trend or season you have enjoyed the most?
The Gianni Versace collection with the supermodels of the 90s and the reinvention by Donatella in spring 2018 was pure genius. It was this year that marked the 20th anniversary of the brutal murder of her brother which lead Donatella to pay tribute to Gianni’s inspirations and creations. I love the key bold prints and pieces that ooze sex appeal as Gianni understood the beauty of a real woman.
Any fashion predictions for 2018?
Forever Unique SS18 you will see 2 key looks.
SS18 Spring pastels! Whether its ice cream hues in pinks/soft blues/lemons, be prepared to see an array of fashion’s prettiest shades this season. Dusty tones and muted hues may be understated but can still make a strong statement.
AW 18 Golden treasure trend sees a blend of textures from sparkles to lurex, rich in texture and very luxurious, two-tone sequins and velvets create a plush vibe. Perfect for the party season.
What is your approach towards the fashion industry?
Fashion is constantly evolving so we always need to stay ahead of the game. Never be complacent and keep on pushing the boundaries.
How do you handle pressure?
I work at my best under pressure.I think it’s really healthy to have a bit of pressure and competition while you work. I absolutely love what I do and really get a buzz out of achieving goals-both big and small.
How do you handle criticism?
To be honest, I really learn from criticism within the fashion industry. I am constantly evolving with Forever Unique and I think without criticism, we might not be in the position that we are in today. In terms of the show, I take any criticism with a pinch of salt. I’ve learnt to be really thick-skinned and I’ve just got to be myself and stay real.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Think positively, stay humble, work hard, hate no one , be strong and with this attitude anything is possible .
Best advice you can give us entrepreneurs who aspire to make dreams happen like you do?
To work hard and believe in yourself. I am a firm believer in hard graft and I think you can do anything you put your heart into. I would say, take the risks in life, learn from your mistakes and enjoy the ride.
How do you get career satisfaction?
My career satisfaction is watching my business grow with the Forever Unique family. I absolutely love positive feedback from customers, celebrities and influencers and seeing how they each style up their pieces. I get career satisfaction when I think about the 10 years we’ve been working and learning-it gives me such happiness.
Best aspect of what you do?
There are so many aspects I love in my job. The travel has to be one of my favourites, getting to see so many different countries and learning about different cultures and getting inspiration for my collections.
How do you personally wind down?
I love to exercise, and dancing is a real passion of mine. I go to a ‘Diva Fever’ class every week and it gives me the chance to have fun and get my Beyonce on! I also really enjoy yoga and meditation with my husband-it’s a great way to clear the mind.
How do you balance your personal life and work life with so much going on?
It’s my support system around me, both at work and at home. I’ve worked my whole life and without my family and dedicated team at Forever Unique, I wouldn’t have been able balance everything at once. They have always been loyal, encouraging and committed to making the Forever Unique brand a success. We’re like one big family and it’s something I really do appreciate.
Do you feel being cast in RHWOC has benefitted your brand awareness and raised profile?
Definitely.The show has been great for brand exposure and awareness. We’ve had brand launches, catwalk shows and I’ve attended events in some of my dresses which is always great. The girls also love the brand which is an added bonus.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Our goals for the next few months are to complete my SS19 collection, working hard to make it the best collection to date. I am also striving to create some quality time with my family. It’s all about work-life balance.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
It means expressing yourself no matter who you are, your background, ethnicity, age, race, gender. To be happy in your own skin, to not be afraid, to take risks and to love yourself.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2018?
2018 is going to be a massive year for us as it’s our 10th anniversary as a brand. Expect global expansion and many more surprises!
Twitter: @SeemaUnique | Instagram: @seemaforeverunique