Study your market carefully. Become a virtuoso expert at what you do and know how all the chess pieces in your industry fit together better than anyone else. Knowledge is both potential power and actual power.
Misha Kaura, fashion entrepreneur, is the 27-year old CEO of Darlinghurst Enterprises, a multibrand design holding company based in the US and Bermuda with offices in New York, Paris, and Hamilton. Current brands under management include Misha Kaura, her eponymous luxury fashion label and Darlinghurst Garment Factory, a luxury fashion manufacturing site for both internal and external brands. Of note, she has integrated a strong media component in every aspect of her business. She runs the podcast “Passion for Fashion with Misha Kaura” and is starring in both an independent reality television show called “Misha Kaura: The Label” and a number of independent documentary films focused on her business. Misha believes that the future of fashion is at the intersection of design, manufacturing, and media.
Prior to founding DE, Misha spent a semester in medical school before dropping out to pursue equity trading for three years and an haute couture apprenticeship for one year. After careful consideration, she decided to study both law and business to help her grow her business, and she is completing her studies part-time while running her business full-time. Misha will become a lawyer in California in 2020 as well as a dual solicitor and barrister in England and Wales in 2020. She intends to remain in the design field after finishing her education.
Based in France, but attending school in the US, Misha is fond of reading, fine dining, stargazing, embroidery, karate, ballet, and crossing dreams off of her bucket list. Some of her biggest dreams in life are to sew a dress in zero gravity, to open her very first retail store near the Champs-Élysées, to open garment factories all over the world, and to take her company public on the New York Stock Exchange.
Where did the idea for Darlinghurst Enterprises come from?
Well, I studied the fashion retail market for three years as an equity trader and I noticed that a lot of the star performing companies that I admire—Kors, Inditex, Prada, LVMH, Kering, Armani, etc.—are all conglomerates with holding company names. So I intentionally started it as a holding company, since my two businesses are just some of the many I’ll own and control when I get older. In the case of Inditex, they have many assets including vertically integrated factories, an entire real estate division, and fashion brands. LVMH has outsourced most of their manufacturing and has done well because of diversified brand portfolios. My best strengths are in design and supply chain management, so my thought is that it makes the most sense to start at the tip-top of the market with my fashion label Misha Kaura and simultaneously gain headway into the luxury manufacturing space. I think having a complex chain where there is both B2C and B2B means that we’ll continue maximising shareholder value.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a huge morning person and generally am up at 4 to start my workout on BeachBody-On-Demand, get ready, and eat my breakfast. I use the Pomodoro technique and account for every minute of my time on a spreadsheet so I can see where I’m doing well. I find it much easier to focus on one task at a time. I generally concentrate on my business in the mornings and afternoons and focus on my law school studies in the evenings. I work seven days a week for about 10 hours daily and then spend the rest of the time on my schoolwork.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m good at executing my ideas and delegating whenever needed. I’m fortunate to have a growing team of hires and freelancers helping me! I recommend all entrepreneurs delegate any areas where they need assistance.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m quite keen about sustainable fashion because I think that people are becoming more conscious consumers driven more by values instead of trends.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Well, I have multiple good habits working in tandem to make me productive. That said, deep concentration is probably the best and most useful habit for me. I laser focus on the task at hand and it helps tremendously.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Ignore everyone and go straight into business! I only spent a semester in medical school, but I spent my entire time in college doing extracurricular activities such as starting a nonprofit and volunteering in the hospital that I had no genuine interest in, on top of all my summers studying for the MCAT to get my 42/45 score, and a year on the interview trail. I had absolutely no social life in college and spent all of my time either in the library or running a small education company I started. I didn’t know that it was even possible to be a fashion and beauty entrepreneur prior to a dermatology residency!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think carbs are amazing and so helpful as motivational tools. Indulging in delicious food during my power lunches once or twice a week helps me stay on track and have something to look forward to. A lot of fashion businesswomen I know only drink green smoothies for their meals, and I’m definitely an anomaly in that I love carbs and regularly eat paleo crepes, paleo sandwiches, and even paleo cake! I think that if you otherwise eat healthy and are disciplined with your workouts, there’s no harm in living a little and enjoying some carbs once in a while. I’m still a svelte size 0.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend everyone keep updated with the industry newspapers, case studies, and academic research in their particular industry. I spend about 30% of my time studying and the remaining 70% of my time working, and I’m probably one of maybe eight fashion executives who has a 360-degree view of the industry. There’s no need to waste your money on a “management consultant” or “fashion consultant” when you can gain industry expertise studying research in academic journals. Grit and execution are useless if you’re not working and executing the right strategy for the current marketplace. Knowledge may only be potential power in the Napoleon Hill sense, but I think it is very important to be more knowledgeable about every possible aspect of the industry so you can execute the correct strategies faster, better, and more aggressively than competitors.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Adjusting my strategies based on my continual analysis of the marketplace has helped me grow my business exponentially. When I say continual analysis, I mean staying updated with what all of my competitors are doing, what the market forces are, how the socio-political climate affects client shopping habits, and more. I think it’s dangerous to have business plans that are set in stone; a business plan is an evolving document. The overall goal points need to be fixed in place, but the methods to get there must change based on where the market is going.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I tried the designer market in fashion for a little over a year before I decided to pivot into couture. I was always doing couture, but now my goal is to be in haute couture permanently and I have a lot of industry support to get there. I think that the mass market, even the luxe mass market, is really hard for new entrants without private equity backing. When I started, I wanted to be a Tory Burch type of mass brand, but I didn’t realise that she had hundreds of millions of equity funding getting her to where she is. Even then, she’s going to have a hard time staying relevant when she gets older; I suspect the brand will be OK for a few decades and then run into serious problems. The interesting thing about fashion is that only the great design house brands and the bargain brands survive after the death of the designer. There’s more money in prêt-à-porter but there’s only longevity in haute couture. All of the lifestyle businesses fizzle when the designer gets older and have to get into lower and lower priced areas until the brand fizzles. C.f. Diane von Furstenberg, Anne Klein, DKNY, and Liz Claiborne. Most fashion CEOs don’t get this obvious fact because fashion is a very sensor-dominated industry; I’m one of the only ENTJs in the field.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a huge market opportunity in subscription-based apparel for babies, toddlers, and children. I think Rent the Runway has an interesting model, but there really should be a company doing onesies on subscription because a lot of new Moms are so frazzled with breastfeeding that they don’t have time to shop properly.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought all of John Molloy’s books for just under $100 and I found them helpful to know how to structure every aspect of my life—aesthetic, relational, personal, and professional. Molloy is probably the smartest practical advice giver in modern business. The book “How to Work the Competition Into the Ground” is incredibly helpful; it taught me everything needed to have a super work ethic that’s made me unstoppable professionally and academically.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love Microsoft Excel. I use Excel for just about everything, planning my day, recording my time, overseeing our production schedule via a Monday.com integration, strategising, etc. I can’t live without Excel.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I highly recommend the book “Values Clarification” by Sidley B. Simon. I think it is very important to know your core values because it helps you lead your business in a values-first manner.
What is your favorite quote?
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” – Oscar Wilde
- Study your market carefully. Become a virtuoso expert at what you do and know how all the chess pieces in your industry fit together better than anyone else. Knowledge is both potential power and actual power.
- Business plans are evolving documents. Most multibillion-dollar companies have pivoted once or twice before hitting it big.
- Knowing core values and the broader vision of yourself and your business is key. The book “Values Clarification” offers helpful guidance.