Meet The Supplier - Pavan Henna Revolutionising the Beauty Industry

 

It’s nearly December and Pavan has just finished her shift in the iconic Selfridges, Oxford Street, which has been home to Pavan Henna Bar for the past five years. This is just one of the henna bars owned by the thirty-four year old global entrepreneur who is taking the beauty industry by storm.

As her day comes to a close, I met Pavan in Selfridges, on the fourth floor at the Elan Café to discuss beauty, business and brides. Despite having been working alongside her team all day, talking to her customers she looks fresh in her silk blush pink jacket with a touch of eastern embroidery and is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. She leans forward in her chair, “I want to revolutionise the way we think of henna.’’  She sweeps back her hair and continues passionately,

Number one, it’s not just a mehendiwali. It’s an artist, with talent and credentials. Secondly, it’s not just your mehndi done at home; it’s an actual experience. Go to a lush department store and have your hands adorned with mehndi, like a princess. That’s what I want people to think, that I revolutionised it.

We see Pavan in action, designing her beautiful creations on an excited customer. Alongside, are her very own collection of henna cones and bindis.

I, like many other Asian women, see Pavan as successful, not only for what she has achieved, but at such a young age. The fact that she broke the world record for the fastest henna artist not once, but twice! Pavan has her henna bars in numerous luxury department stores across three continents. She used to come to Selfridges with her husband, and visualise her Henna Bar amongst all the top names. Which now, of course, it has been for the past five years, sat alongside big brand names such as Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Estee Lauder, just to name a few. As an Asian woman, this is true inspiration for me to see how successful henna has become in the western beauty industry, being displayed alongside all these big brands. To a lot of women, Pavan is the epitome of success. Soon-to-be- brides know about her and would dream of having her graceful and unique designs for their wedding mehndi. She has provided a perfect platform for the application of bridal henna in luxurious department stores such as Harvey Nicolas, Selfridges and abroad. I found it quite remarkable how for Pavan, she feels she has a long way to go. She shrugs modestly,

It’s fair to say without arrogance, yes I am successful, at getting what I want. For me being successful is a point in your life where you made it and done what you wanted, it’s time to chill out. I feel like I’m not there yet and have a lot more to do. I’m very hard on myself though, but it’s humbling to hear that people think I’m successful. I have still got such a long way to go. This is just scratching the surface.

I was rather shocked that Pavan doesn’t quite class herself as successful, at least not in the way the rest of us mortals do. If this is only the beginning of her journey, it will be intriguing to see what she has planned for the future, and how and when she will achieve what she defines as true ‘success’.

Talking about her love for the beauty industry Pavan explains how it’s so open and dynamic.

The industry is not closed-minded anymore. Before, it used to be that you would only see Caucasian faces on the adverts; foundations that’s only for the lighter skin-tones; but now its not like that. All brands have different varieties of foundation colours.

Listening to Pavan I found this to be so true, as I could never really find the foundation that matched my skin colour. Over time there has been a definite progress in variety or products available within the beauty industry. Through recent years, big mainstream brands are realising the impact and importance of our traditional cultural events as they attempt to broaden their target market to cater to the Asian community. They have decided to invest in us and our culture. “This makes me so so happy,” adds Pavan. She takes a deep breath, and I can sense the importance of this for Asians as a whole.

Pavan reveals her passion for henna initiated her practice at home before taking a course in henna design in London. From there, she started doing events and bridal henna and as time went by, she improved substantially, which led her to make her own paste as well as challenging herself in the art. She told her peers and businesses within the industry about breaking the world record and they responded with “we will see how long it lasts.” She recalls how she then just kept going from one achievement after another. Then all of a sudden people started to pay attention. By this time, she didn’t care anymore because she was so focused and didn’t care who was watching. Pavan states “You don’t need anyone’s approval”. I think this is something all Asian women should be thinking in any chosen career field. I loved hearing this advice as I feel this hits home to a lot of people pursuing their dreams. I openly said to Pavan this is something I know I have to work on.

For us, being Asian females in this industry it’s hard to go for your dreams without getting the stigma of should she be having a baby now, or getting married now, or being a good Indian woman. But I’m blessed I have a super supportive husband and lovely family that make a difference. You have to be the stronger one and everyone else will follow.

Her response was very powerful and inspiring. Henna artistry fascinates me, as I believe it’s such a traditional art, which is incorporated into every brides’ look and the design is such a crucial part. I wanted to know just how Pavan creates her designs.

I literally go with what I feel like. I look at the embroidery on the bridal outfit and take inspiration from there. Also asking the bride what she wants, the kind of coverage she wants is important. What we are seeing more and more often is brides want less, or delicate, small designs. Also if they want the full coverage we do that as we have the advantage of speed.

Finding that spark of inspiration is crucial to any profession especially the arts. So where does Pavan find her biggest inspiration right now? “A lot of different people and not one particular person.” Even her personal trainers inspire her to focus on her training and well being mentally. Pavan also has inspiration and support from her husband because he’s so involved in his work and they motivate each other. ‘‘Even random people I meet at events can inspire me’’ Pavan says. I can see that she has a positive, open attitude and uses a variety of diverse sources to feed her creativity.

Pavan Henna is continuing to rise to the top with her career and surpassing all expectations, not just within the Asian community but also throughout Britain and abroad. With clients such as Alesha Dixon and Perrie Edwards (pictured below), she has experience, expertise and brilliant advice for our brides.

What tips would you give a bride looking to book a henna artist for her wedding?

Always do your research on henna artists before you book them. Look at their work. Go for a trial with them so you can see how quick they are. Are they confident whilst applying the henna? Is their hand shaky? Can they copy a design or is it something they are going to do free hand? It depends how important mehndi is to you. For me it’s obviously very important, and for the brides, the most important thing is the colour so you would want to test that. Get a patch test done. That’s why we have the henna bars and professional artists so people have a place to come and sit and have that trial with the artist that they want in a nice comfortable environment and then go home.

 

What are your thoughts about brides having henna applied at home?

Not everyone wants the same experience of having henna applied at home. Some people want a new experience other than having henna applied on sangeet night or quietly in the morning of the wedding. Brides have said it’s convenient to come to a henna bar as they can get their nails and hair done all at once. It’s a matter of convenience and people love it being offered to them. There is always the option of sending our artists to brides. At our henna bar it takes 20 minutes to dry so you can relax and sit back in store. Brides can book themselves in a slot to have their bridal henna applied at our bar and make a day out of it.

 

What sets you apart from other henna artists?

There are amazing artists out there. But I have such knowledge now and obviously a huge amount of practical experience. My artistic skills are unique and I’m not in competition with anyone. There are lots of other henna artists but also lots of make up artists and loads of everyone.

I always want to make sure I am available for the brides and I always do at least one shift a week at the henna bar because I want to know what’s going on. I want to see and touch my clients. It’s important for me to help my girls on the shop floor as well.

How have you advanced the henna industry?

We have brought henna to the mainstream and now the beauty industry realise how important and how much our culture and community spend on beauty. They are becoming so inclusive of what we celebrate and what is important to us. Looking back when I started five years ago we never did collaborations for Eid and Diwali. What we did we did on our own and did well. Now, Clinique; Estee lauder; Bobby Brown; they all want to do something with us for Eid and Diwali. That shows you how far we have come. And how popular henna has become. I genuinely believe we have had a crucial role to play in making it so available. It’s funny because my dad used to say who would have henna applied everyday? Will people come in and have it done everyday?  I said ‘let’s try it and see’, we did and it worked. The thing is, especially with beauty, you don’t know what people want until you offer it to them. Once henna was offered, there was a demand, brilliant! Hit the ground running.

Pavan has made henna a luxury, accessible trend for the modern woman to express their creativity. They can appreciate the the art, not just at weddings but for any occasion.

What advice would you give others pursuing a career in henna?

Always be persistent and don’t think too much about the immediate financial gains because it doesn’t work like that when you’re running your own business. Always stick it out because the profit will come. If you love it enough keep your head down and don’t worry about what anyone says around you and just keep going.

Even when I used to do bridal henna, which I love, I thought why is it I still want something more? What is it? Every time I thought about giving up because it wasn’t going the direction I wanted, I would say to my husband what is it that keeps pulling me. What is it? It was the henna bars, it was this and honestly it gives me such a buzz to run them and open them up within department stores. We have launched in Milan and New York and it’s really good!

What do you enjoy most about henna?

I have always been a little bit artistic, and love to do designs. I find the application of henna therapeutic, just like others use colouring books to relax them. I am not a relaxed person, but when I’m applying henna to a client, I forget about everything. It’s almost like meditation because you are literally focussed on that one thing. It really calms my mind. It’s the only time I really get to relax. Because when I’m dealing with the business side, it’s so different from being the artist.

Pavan never breaks away from henna as her passion is so intense. Even on holiday, she is still producing her creations.

Any relationship advice for newly engaged couples?

My husband literally planned the wedding. He was so good. I didn’t. I just got the outfit. In my experience, there is always going to be one of you that cares just a bit more than the other. I’m not talking about the relationship or marriage, but cares about the actual day more. For me, I just wanted to be married and did not place much importance on the wedding day. But my husband did. He likes to be in front of camera whereas I prefer to be behind the camera. In that respect I’m very shy when meeting people and being on camera. He’s confident and a complete showman and wanted it with all the bells and whistles. I didn’t mind and I went with it. I think if one of you wants to enjoy it more, just do it and if one of you wants to take the back seat let them. Both are excited but one will want to do more than the other. So let it be that way. Accept them for doing that and vice versa.

What legacy do you want to leave?

I want people to say Pavan revolutionised henna. That’s what I want them to say. I love the fact that people come to your home to do henna. However, my revolution was all about location. When people come to your home you don’t know who’s coming, with what quality of henna they are coming with or how long they are going to be sitting at your house for.

I want it so people can go to stores like Harvey Nichols or Selfridges to get their henna done and go home knowing that the products are good, that it’s going to last on their skin, and not mess up their house whilst doing it. I want to have a place where brides can come and have their henna done if they don’t want it done at home. I don’t want to wipe out the tradition of having henna done at home because some people really like that.

For people who want to make it more a hen night or a henna event with champagne in a beautiful lounge at a really lush department store, I want to give it to them. We are doing it already and people book it all the time. I want to revolutionise the way henna is thought of. Number one, it’s not just a mehendiwali, it’s an artist, with talent and credentials. Secondly, not just your mehndi done at home, it’s an actual experience, go to a lush department store and have your hands adorned with mehendi, like a princess. That’s what I want people to think that I revolutionised it.

Pavan’s bridal henna has no limits. They’re incredibly creative and personalised to suit each and every bride’s style.

As the interview came to an end I could sense there will be lot more to come from Pavan in 2019, and I would love to see what unfolds for this talented lady who currently holds the world record, has won the heart and soul of Selfridges and has already earned the Queen’s award MBE.