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EXPATRIATES IN MAURITIUS
» 13 Jun 2009
DHARNA HASSIJA

With her parents and older brother,Dharna moved to Tanzania during her second year of life but moved back to India years later to study Political Science with Economics at Delhi University. Working and Studying For the next five years she worked for British Airways in Tanzania before leaving for the UK for work. It was there that her childhood passion for clothes and fashion resurfaced and at the age of twenty five she went back to university to study Fashion Design for Women's Wear” at the London College of Fashion. India beckoned once more and Dharna headed back to Delhi to study jewellery manufacture and design. She wasted no time putting her new skills to practice and in March 2004 held her first exhibition at the Sea Cliff Hotel in Dar es Salaam, which kindly hosted the event and provided waiters to serve drinks –all free of charge.

With a meagre twenty four hours of advertising by word-of-mouth and leaflets, Dharna managed to sell sixty five percent of her stock in just one show and this success encouraged her to continue her efforts.Coming to Mauritius Dharna had been in touch with a Mauritian named Roddy Ramsamy, on the internet for quite while, but they actually met for the first time in India when he flew out to visit her and her father who was in hospital for treatment. It was this act of kindness which decided Dharna to marry him and the wedding took place in December 2004.

Moving to Mauritius, Dharna attempted to continue her fledgling jewellery business but was now faced by a new challenge “People did not know how to wear the jewellery I was offering them, what to wear it with, when to wear it or where to wear it.” With the support of her husband and family she was determined to break the ice. Another problem was that Mauritians preferred gold rather than silver. But she still continued to use silver as it is less expensive than gold and helps her to keep costs down. For the same reason she uses semi precious stones and “AAA” quality zircons and her goal is to achieve the look of Cartier but at a reasonable price.

Having noticed a gap in the clothes market in Mauritius, Dharna put her jewellery manufacturing on hold and began designing dresses to cater to that niche market. In October 2008 she opened a women's fashion shop, “Dharna Hassija”, in Floreal Square selling clothes of her own design and accessories to go with them. Her dresses range from casual to formal, glamour to evening wear, and are designed to be more “fluid” – having more movement – than others on the market.They are made from light materials such as silk, satin, georgette and chiffon and, like her jewellery, each item is guaranteed to be unique. A new range of designs will be coming out in June.

Advising clients on what suits them and what does not, is an important part of Dharna's work. She prefers to sell a less expensive dress which looks good on a person rather than a more expensive one which looks terrible.The last thing she wants is for customers, “... to be wearing a dress, and telling their friends that I recommended something which doesn't suit them at all.” Dharna's advice is taken to heart by many of her customers and they even bring other clothes, bought elsewhere, to ask about how to wear them or what to wear them with. It is here that Dharna's jewellery comes into its own for, along with other accessories, it can be used to form the perfect ensemble for fashionable women.As she explained to me,“For every person it's entirely different.A dress will fit differently, colours will look different and people have their own personal tastes to take into consideration.”


Hobbies By her own admission, Dharna is too lazy for sports, but she does like a good book or listening to soft music with a bit of soul. She often buys books on a wide range of artistic subjects to act as inspiration for her own design work. Interior decorating, painting, even origami all serve to stimulate her imagination and while she may not read those books, she will look at the pictures again and again.

Big Ambitions In the near future Dharna plans to extend the shop at Floreal and open two others and also looks forward to expanding into the Indian market in a couple of years. For the long term she is happy to settle down in Mauritius and fervently hopes that the country will become a shopper's paradise and that, eventually, her name will become synonymous with high design and fashion.

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