Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Charmi Mandavia for a special episode of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.
Charmi Mandavia is the name behind Charmi Creations. She graduated from London College of Fashion in 2001 and with her unique collection of personally tailored wedding attire and one to one service has been winning the hearts of brides and grooms in the UK and abroad ever since. Her unique flair for combining traditional designs and embroidery with quality fabrics, chic cuts and innovative styling is aimed at offering a truly refreshing choice for the discerning bride and groom.
Your charming creations have adorned brides on days to remember, but also famous wax works at Madame Tussauds. How does it feel to see Charmi Creations play such a large part in the life stories of so many?
I feel very lucky to be doing a job that I am very passionate about. To make wedding outfits for brides and grooms comes with a lot of responsibility and trust that people invest in you. My job enables me to play a very important role in terms of bringing an abundance of happiness to people and contributing to the most important day of their lives.
Madame Tussauds has added a different dimension to my life. I am honoured to be working with them continuously on several projects: from Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor to Katrina Kaif. I have had the privilege to work on several celebrities and my work has been displayed in various different countries. It was, and still continues to be, a very humbling experience, to be a part of something so prestigious. My parents are very proud.
Your passion for running is well known. How did you come to running later in life and what has it meant to you?
I have been in the family business since I was 18, and I got married and had children very early on in my life. I guess I grew up much earlier than my peers. I was very happy with my life, my work, family and social life, I didn't need anything else.
However, one day at the age of 37, I went for a school reunion in Mumbai and I was asked about what I did to live. I naturally began to speak about my work, but they stopped me. They said everyone works, the question is what do you do to live? What is your passion for yourself?
That question changed my life. I came back to London and decided to run. Of course, I couldn't run, so I walked and jogged, but I did it for one whole month, every day. Three months later, I ran my first half marathon and since then I have run six full marathons, for various charities focusing on cancer, climbed five mountains and I am also a keen cyclist.
Running gives me focus, discipline and clarity. It has changed me as a person, made me more compassionate and self-aware. It has drastically increased my confidence and self-esteem too. My family have also now taken a keen interest in fitness.
What has been the lesson you have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown?
I would say that the pandemic has made me slow myself down a little bit, and made me more self-aware. I have learnt the art of processing things, rather than jumping from one thing to another. I value moments, human interactions and time spent with my family.
I have also learnt that the richest people are the ones that have their families around them. We can have all the wealth in this world but without relationships and loved ones it doesn't hold much value.
I have also learnt that being super busy and overworked is overrated; we need to stop glamorising it. Everyone needs a good balanced life that involves work, relationships, family, friends, fitness and personal goals.
Which one person has had the greatest influence in your life, and why?
My mum has had the greatest influence in my life, even though I only spent the first 16 years with her. I have learnt so much from her.
Being raised in Mumbai, both my parents were entrepreneurs. They were different from the rest of the stereotypical Indian parents. When I was in school, being just an above average child was good enough for my mum. She valued the importance of average, much ahead of her times. The one thing that she taught me was to try my hardest and to always try a variety of things.
She taught me to not be afraid of being average, but be afraid of being stagnant. She would say, when you find what you like, you will get tunnel visioned and be the best in that field. So, I came to study fashion at the age of 16 which was again unheard of, 27 years ago. My mum gave me plenty of confidence and love and she always believed in me. She always said, we can achieve anything we want to, and it's always your choice, never ever blame the circumstances or the situation you are in. Always take ownership. I never understood that when I was younger. She never moans about any of her problems, instead she always is striving to look for solutions. Even today at the age of 65, she is a working woman, full of positivity and hope.
My mother is a woman of vision and ambition, and has taught me the importance of being independent in every way and taking responsibility for my actions and decisions. I continuously tried different things as I wasn't afraid of failure. I found passion in so many things, and when I did, I excelled at them. Teaching me to be independent yet adaptable is the biggest gift my mum gave me.
“No problem in this world is a big problem, it's the importance that we give it; focus on the solution”: those are her words, and they will always stay with me.
is the Chair and Co-Founder of . In this exclusive multi-media “” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.
*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.