Veronique Machharam, Founder of Bohème

Veronique Machharam has been traveling the world for the last 20 years, including Barcelona where her love for fashion began.

What’s your story?
I have travelled the world since an early age, and have discovered amazing places within Asia, Europe and Africa. Post graduation, I left France and relocated in Barcelona where “La movida” was in full power which was the start of my love for fashion. Later, I lived in Dubai, Thailand, Singapore and Bali prior to moving to India 12 years ago, where I first launched my multi brand store featuring upcoming designers before starting my own line with the desire to reflect my own bohemian-chic lifestyle.

What excites you most about your industry?
The creative process is an ongoing journey. There is no barrier nor limit and I feel you can just expand your mind through the process. I can be inspired by geometric patterns , architectural monuments, people, historical designs. I deeply enjoy the full process from the inspiration, the drawing, the mold, selection of stones and of course going to the small factory unit of a family I met over 10 years ago in Jaipur. I also love meeting same minded people from the fashion industry through my travels and work , like cooperation in shops, or shoots. We all support and emulate each other. What makes me the most happy is to make my clients feel so confident and beautiful wearing my one-of-a-kind jewellery.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I moved to Dubai at age 22 and then Thailand, Singapore, Bali and India, and have travelled extensively in the region. I have now spent much more time of my life in Asia than Europe and feel deeply connected to Asia. It was not easy to move to India , but I feel home each time I go back, as well as Bangkok, Phuket, Bali. I now live in Singapore, married a Singaporian and having a child here makes me feel like home as well. I can say I feel half asian now 🙂

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It has to be Jaipur for me, as it is where I source the stone and where all my lines are hand-made. Jaipur, known as the “ Pink City”, has been known for centuries for its skilled artisans of stones cutting and jewellery making. I love the quieter atmosphere than Delhi, the food “ Thalis”, its mesmerizing architecture such as Amber fort, the City Palace and the small boutique cafes and restaurants. The people of Rajasthan especially from Jaipur, are the warmest.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never give up”. It’s not an easy journey to start a brand from scratch and be recognised and appreciated. My best supporters have been my husband and friends, they have really pushed me to carry on, persevere and develop.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by all the beautiful strong and empowered ladies surrounding me, managing personal and professional lives. I have 3 children, two grown-ups whom I raised as a single mum. To be more specific, I would say Diane von Furstenberg. She started her brand with one single model the “wrap dress”, went through ups and downs and still doing so strong on this market at age 72! At another level, my friend Simone Irani inspires me, coming from a law background to start living her passion years ago and now being “the resort” designer of Singapore. She now runs her 2 shops in Singapore and curates my jewellery that perfectly matches her lines.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I find incredible that even though you can trace legislation from the 7th century commanding the protection of forest habitats, in the 13th centuries in England and France laws trying to refrain different forms of pollution, scientists alerting against possible global warming over 120 years ago, the first Earth Day in 1970, it still feels everything has to be done. What blew me away it’s how Greta Thunberg’s campaign starting with a sign saying “school strike for climate” has finally created a worldwide wave of prostations that hopefully will change the future.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I tried visiting as many places as I could where I lived and tried to live as many experiences such as diving, road trip, desert camping etc. One regret is that I would have loved to just dedicate all my time to my passion at an earlier stage in life, but everything comes when it is supposed to.

How do you unwind?
I unwind every early morning by walking my dog around the Botanic Gardens area, when the day is still peaceful, and later while swimming. Those could be my kind of meditation, but actually i just think of every task i have to carry and i don’t really meditate! I love travelling and exploring new scenic places. My favorite times of the year is while visiting my family, my eldest daughter (27), lives in Vancouver , my youngest (24), in Sydney , my brother in Kenya, and my mum in France. A real globe trotter family.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would definitely be Bali. That’s the place where I also truly unwind. Snorkelling in Nusa Lembogan, chilling in our family villa Shanti in Nusa Dua , exploring the forests north of the island and now working in the new concept store “United Gallery Bali” hosting the best designers in the heart of Seminyak where I have set up my own “booth” and selling my lines. I feel grateful to be part of this group of creative minds. Bali is the place I first visited in Asia after moving to Dubai, where I stayed and married, and where I would love to relocate in a few years time. I would then be able to fully be part of the Shanti foundation, created by my father in law to help underprivileged children and teenagers access education and a career.

Everyone in business should read this book:
For my line of business, I would say “The fashion switch” by Johanne Yulan Jong, a true insider of the fashion world. She details how small independent labels, competing with multinational brands and digital savvy newcomers, have to face daily challenges to stay afloat.
The key rules would be branding, uniqueness, innovation, and close connection with your customers. My clients are my tribe and I truly enjoyed the book.

Shameless plug for your business:
“Dare to be different and enjoy the journey”. The Boheme collection is inspired by my journeys around the world. Each line shares its own story from the location it has been inspired by and allows you to personally experience and indulge in these travels. Each piece is gold-plated, hand-crafted in Jaipur and adorned with semi-precious stones. Each line is inspired, unique and bold but still easy to wear from day to night, from the office, the beach to the club. They are designed for the strong , independent women of any age who dare to be different.

How can people connect with you?
Through facebook and Instagram : bohemesg

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

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