Watch the full conversation between Jessel Taank and our Deputy Editor, Ana Colón, on The Fashionista Network.
Jessel Taank comes from a lineage of fashion creatives.
Before the UK-born fashion publicist and "RHONY" got her start in the industry, her uncles moved to New York in pursuit of careers in photography. And even as a little girl, Taank loved exploring her own style, taking on "two identities, in a way," she told Ana Colón during a live chat on The Fashionista Network. (Watch it here!)
"I was obviously an Indian girl growing up in England, and the dress part of that for me was really dressing up in Indian clothing," Taank said. "That would almost be like this escape from reality. Indian fashion is so beautiful, so intricate and different from our everyday clothing. I was drawn into the whole fashion world in that way."
Her mother also had "such a flair and such a unique way of dressing," she remembered, and her grandfather was a tailor — so it came as no surprise when Taank ended up in fashion.
As someone who loved expressing herself through writing, her decision to become a fashion publicist was "the perfect storm" where she could both "implement strategy and utilize creativity to work hand-in-hand with designers to make their visions come to life," she explained.
Her first internship at Karl Otto wasn't nearly as glamorous as she expected it to be, but she used the opportunity to educate herself on every designer who walked into the room and on how to talk about the clothes. From there, she continued climbing the ranks and making her mark in the fashion world.
"Being in the fashion industry, it's just such a bubble," Taank said. "There's nothing like it. You kind of are in a weird, alternate universe in a way."
Now, Taank runs her own PR agency. (One of her events was seen on the most recent season of "The Real Housewives of New York".) But as glamorous and otherworldly as the industry may seem, it doesn't come without its obstacles.
"It's such a hard industry to tap into, and so people would do anything to be a part of it," she said. "It's very exclusive. Just recently, we're starting to see it being a little bit more open and inclusive, from sizing to multicultural [brands]. But fashion, from when I started, was a very, very hard [industry to get into]. It was like a castle with barriers."
Despite this, Taank has continued hustling, most recently preparing to launch Oushq, a retail destination platforming Indian and Southeast Asian designers. The idea came to her in 2014, in preparation for her wedding, as she found herself having to travel to India to acquire all the outfits she needed.
"I was thinking, 'How do I disrupt a process that has literally been the same way for decades?'" Taank shared. "And also, [when you think about] how you have European designers and there's an array of talent, we have the same amount of talent in India and in the Middle East, and no one really knows. You're opening this gateway to an entire library of designers that's really so exciting to see."
With Oushq, Taank aims to spotlight some of the talent found across the subcontinent. As a publicist, she offers the extra expertise of being able to market them, create social buzz, do VIP celebrity placements and overall help grow their businesses. And it's not just going to be fashion, she teased.
"That's what it's starting as, but it's going to be bigger," Taank said. "There's beauty, there's culture, there's travel, there's food [and so much more]. Fast forward three years, will I be the Gwyneth Paltrow of India? Hopefully. That's what I really want to build here."
Since beginning her fashion career to now running her own business, Taank said the best piece of advice she's gotten is to "follow your gut and not be afraid to think outside the box."
"The more unique you are, the more you're taking risks, the more that you're doing something that stands out and is different, the better it's going be for you," she said. "Really, it starts from just trusting your gut and thinking differently.
This conversation was hosted on The Fashionista Network powered by interactive media platform Fireside, where viewers get the chance to participate and speak directly with industry figures. Learn more about The Fashionista Network here.