Before launching Mercury Dasha, a future-inspired, urban fashion and design brand, Rita Sheth worked as a corporate lawyer for over ten years after graduating from Oxford University. During this time she found her passion for fashion and design and studied Fashion Design at the British Academy of Fashion Design.
Fashion to her has always been about more than the superficial. It is an artistic medium to comment on larger societal themes we see every day. Her brand, Mercury Dasha, uses fashion and design to express opinions about timely topics. Her current collection showcases the incredible opportunities, and feelings of entrapment, that advances in science and technology bring.
We sat down with Rita to find out more about her and Mercury Dasha.
Tell us a little about the brand and concept behind Mercury Dasha
The brand concept was inspired by many things - from space to science and technology to ancient mythology and spirituality. I imagined a future in which many different things will combine to form a new paradigm. One of the key ideas that I play with is the idea of this unknown and exciting future in which we are stepping into. For me, right now, it really feels like we are stepping into the future we used to see in movies when we were younger - but it’s deeper than that - because this future has both a dark side, that provokes anxiety, but also there is incredible hope and the prospect of many exciting things we have only thus far been able to imagine in fiction.
What inspired the name, Mercury Dasha?
There is a lot behind the name! Mercury Dasha is a concept in Vedic astrology that represents a specific planetary phase in someone's life-cycle, which is ruled by the planet Mercury. When I started the business I had just entered into that astrological phase. [Personally], it represents a new phase. I have always had an interest in astrology and found it interesting that there were so many parallels between the meaning of that and my broader concept. For example, that phase in Vedic astrology represents a focus on communication, commerce, and travel, and I am very inspired by all things to do with connectivity and technology. Mercury is also a planet and a chemical element and so it also speaks to the brand’s interest in the future of space, science, and tech. Mercury was also a mythological figure in Roman history, so it’s really fascinating for me to consider all of these influences coming together in this possible future - this combination of the old - like the revived interest in ancient mythology and wisdom - with the new and high-tech.
How is your brand DNA influenced by your Asian heritage?
Well, the name itself and concept emerged from my interest in exploring some of the beliefs of Vedic culture and religion. The idea of space travel and flying objects is also in some of these ancient stories - so it kind of all fits together in unexpected ways! But I think in a larger sense I am fascinated by cities and the development of new urbanscapes, especially in countries with rich cultures like India, where the old is still alive amongst the new, modern urban culture. I am a Londoner but my Asian heritage is very much a part of my design ethos from the liberal use of statement print to not [be] afraid of bold colours - I think that all comes from an Asian love of fabric and textiles and print stories.
What is the inspiration behind the collection?
This collection was all about playing with the idea of the codes that are an intrinsic part of our lives - from our DNA - our biological code - to computer codes - which govern our lives in a different way but in a way which is just as embedded. It also plays with this idea of feeling trapped by technology and the ‘Matrix’, so again it references eastern mysticism because that is about escaping the trappings of the material world.
What challenges have you faced as an Asian woman in a creative industry?
I think my challenges personally mostly arise out of other people's judgments and perceptions of my choices. Because I still think within our community there is this tendency to favour traditional professions and, as I was a lawyer for many years, it has been hard to convince people close to me that people can succeed in this industry and other creative industries and they are not just ‘hobbies’ but can be viable careers. I think we need to change our thinking about why people are pursuing certain paths and start to understand value beyond just monetary reward. The creative industries are not easy and sometimes they take up all your time and energy and it's hard to reconcile that with the traditional Asian view that a woman's main priority should be to get married and have children. As a creative and business owner, sometimes you get so engrossed with your projects and goals that you are not focused on that and some people don't understand that non-traditional path. But, hopefully, that is changing, and I think a large part of that is speaking about these issues and transforming this old conditioning.
What positive changes have you seen for the Asian community in fashion?
I have been in fashion for a number of years now and, when I first started in 2014, it felt like it was just me as a Brit-Asian woman fashion entrepreneur - I really didn’t see many brown faces in front line fashion! The people that were making large contributions in fashion were doing it behind the scenes. Now there are so many Asian faces in fashion, not just the unsung heroes that were working in the factories, and were the silent powerhouses behind textiles, manufacturing, and wholesale, for example, but also in the front line as brand owners, influencers, models, art directors, photographers, stylists, and fashion journalists. It is amazing to see that we are now in all the key parts of the fashion ecosystem. I think as a community we have been hiding our light and working diligently in the fashion industries for a long time in the UK - and it was not really known at large - now we are making ourselves heard in this space and that is great to see because we have so much to contribute to fashion because Asian culture has a rich history with all things fashion and textile!
Who do you look up to and do you have any dream collabs in mind?
I remember being inspired by Ruby Hammer MBE the television make-up artist of Ruby and Millie because that was the first relatable Asian face in beauty and fashion I saw at a young age. She is beautiful and also well-spoken and that kind of went against these other Asian stereotypes I used to see in shows like Eastenders! In terms of dream collabs, I would say I really love the fact that I am doing this with you because I love what you're doing for the community, and also would love to generally collab with more Asian influencers, models, and stylists. As a fashion lover and brown girl, I would love to one day have someone like MIA wear something I designed. I have always loved her music and entire vibe.
Do you have any advice for Asian women wanting to go into fashion?
I would say be prepared to work really hard because it's a really hard industry. The people that succeed are the grafters. I would also say have a creative point of view and clear vision and a reason for making clothes. Study your craft, be prepared for the long haul, and don't be afraid to collaborate - because fashion is a collaborative space.
What else are you working on?
I have a personal growth platform for women, The Many Sides. I host a blog and podcast through this, in which I share my personal experiences and life lessons and teach on self-care and personal power.
Rita is the designer and owner of the future-inspired, print-based, urban brand, Mercury Dasha. She also writes and teaches on personal power, spirituality, self-esteem, and self-care for women through her platform, The Many Sides. She has also recently started a podcast, Straight To The Heart, a series of short listens on Youtube. Rita is a native Londoner, a proud Asian Brit, a lawyer by profession, and a graduate of Oxford University.