Chigwell designer to the stars vows to grow business and stay ahead

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Presenters Riz Lateef and Sonali Shah join Raishma Islam and Justine Miliband Presenters Riz Lateef and Sonali Shah join Raishma Islam and Justine Miliband

A designer who has dressed royalty, TV stars and a pop icon has vowed to keep growing in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Raishma Islam, 41, from Chigwell, combines traditional Pakistani and Indian styles with western influences such as Armani, Valentino, and Ellie Saab.

Most recently she designed an outfit for Ed Miliband’s wife Justine, who wore it at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards on June 4.

Mrs Islam has dressed former Spice Girl Mel B for the group’s concert for Nelson Mandela in 2003.

The singer then hired her to design all her outfits for her ITV chat show the same year.

The designer also created pieces for Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as actress Meera Syal and BBC London News presenter Riz Lateef.

Despite a high profile client list, the businesswoman said she is aware of the importance of staying ahead of her rivals.

She said: “There are not many British Asian designers around at the moment so it’s nice to be unique.

“It means we get orders from all over the place. Last week, we had someone from Las Vegas making an order.

"But to stay differentiated is the difficult part.

“At the moment I’m a small fish as far as business and I need to be a shark so I don’t get overtaken by someone copying me.”

The entrepreneur started making textiles in primary school, where at the age of 10 she produced a piece that was exhibited in the school.

She said: “I’ve had a passion for textiles since I was young.

"I enjoyed going shopping with my mum and choosing fabrics and then watching her make things at home.

“I like the more glamorous designs and when I was young I used to watch Dynasty and Dallas because of the outfits.”

She got her first paid job in 1996 with Elizabeth Emanuel, who co-designed Princess Diana's wedding dress.

She cut her teeth producing bespoke bridal wear and opened her first shop two years later, offering designs fusing eastern and western styles.

Between 10 and 30 pieces of each design are manufactured in India and Pakistan by a workforce of around 20.

She said: “Because I’ve previously done the one-off, made-to-measure garments, it’s exciting to know more people can afford and wear my designs.”

She sells her creations through her website, Raishma.co.uk, which she launched in July last year.

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