A BANKER-turned-model is blazing a trail for south Asian fashion in the UK.
Neeru Bhandari, 26, of Bath Road, Hayes, is busy organising this year’s International Asian Fashion Awards (IAFA), a red-carpet event she co-founded, showcasing and celebrating the work of leading Asian designers.
Accolades are given to up-and-coming and established clothes makers and makeup artists, and collections are displayed during the evening’s catwalk shows with a dazzling array of saris, cholis, lenghas, bridal-wear and sparkling jewels.
Miss Bhandari, who was born in India and moved to London aged nine, says the aim of the awards – the self-proclaimed “Oscars of the Asian fashion world” – is to bring south Asian fashion into the mainstream.
“As a model, I felt that Asian designers don’t get the chance to work in the mainstream,” she said. “These awards give them a platform, and there is nothing like it in this country. We only work with the best of the best in the industry.
“We have had a lot of big names come on board, and the response has been great. It has progressed, and we are now at the stage where people are asking to be part of it. We eventually want to take it on the continent, Europe and beyond.”
Miss Bhandari met her IAFA business partner, Del Ghosal, when she was working in the events industry while on a career break in 2010. The pair brought their idea for the awards to life with their first show that year, and the lavish ceremony now attracts leading figures in Asian couture fashion.
They also head up Laviva events, a wedding and decor company.
“You can’t access the big Indian designers in the UK, and we saw that there was a gap in the market,” said Miss Bhandari.
“With my knowledge of fashion and his business mind, Del and I make a good team.”
Aside from the demands of co-ordinating the awards, Miss Bhandari juggles her day job in a bank with part-time modelling. She hopes her choices will inspire others Asians to pursue a career in fashion.
“I had always wanted to work in fashion, and people were always telling me that I should be a model, so I started.
“I want to broaden Asian people’s minds, and show them that a career in modelling is not bad. It has given me a lot of confidence and it can be a serious career path.”
* IAFA are on Saturday, November 3 at London Hilton in Park Lane. www.facebook.com/IAFAWARDS