Jessel Taank Shares What To Expect From Her Fashion Platform ŌUSHQ

by Freya Drohan

Jessel Taank might be a newcomer in the Bravo universe, but she’s long earned her stripes in the fashion world. The London-born publicist-turned-breakout star of the rebooted Real Housewives of New York franchise has been quietly dreaming up ŌUSHQ, her passion-filled platform for the discovery of Indian and Southeast Asian designers, since way before she won over fans as much for her class as her closet. The e-commerce destination launches this week, bringing cherry-picked ready to wear and accessories from the region to the American marketplace with fine-tuned sizing, faster shipping, and a seamless shopping experience. In other words: it’s otherworldly couture, right at your fingertips. We called her up to get the low-down on the venture, her experience filming the addictive reality show, what’s ahead, and, of course, the Indian eateries that come with her food-obsessed husband Pavit’s seal of approval. 

Ok let’s kick this off! How do you pronounce the name?
It’s ‘Ooooshk.’ I wanted a name that sort of spans Western and Eastern. What the word means is ‘endless’ or ‘timeless’ and it’s actually Arabic. Finding a name for your business is never easy, there’s so much pressure to get it right. For me, it made sense, because when I think of fashion or a piece of clothing, I always link it to a memory, so I wanted a name that sparked an emotion in people. The fact that it means ‘endless’ and ‘timeless’ is important too, because I think that’s what fashion should be.

Jessel Taank (Courtesy)

How did you land on it?
It was such a process. I have been looking for the right name for four or five years. I have always been thinking of what this business is and how I want to present it—and I went through several iterations. The first iteration was The Attire, which was more of a rental idea for Indian fashion. Essentially, that would just make me a laundromat so I moved away from it! When I saw ŌUSHQ, I think I was on Pinterest looking at Arabic words. It kind of reminded me of Skims. It felt cool and Gen Z, but also Millennial, and I could already envision the logo. And it felt luxe.

It reminds me of Oomph! It doesn’t mean anything, but means a lot…
Exactly. It’s kind of a play on Ishq, the [Arabic/Muslim/Indian] word for ‘love.’ So it has a presence in the Middle East, India, and in the Western world, where we can make it what we want.

So you mentioned you’ve been thinking of this business for years. How did you come to where you are now?
I remember one time at about 2AM, I just woke up with this idea. When I was shopping for my wedding circa 2014, so almost 10 years ago, the process was so difficult. There’s no marketplace like a Net-a-Porter or Moda Operandi that you can go to for Indian designers. There’s two ways to do it: there are little pockets geographically in cities that have one or two stores, or you physically go to India and you make appointments with all the designers. That means spending two weeks there, doing your shopping, and coming back. And even then, when I went to India, I didn’t love the stuff because there’s a pressure of needing to get it done in such a short time. I was frustrated during that process. The idea for ŌUSHQ came as a rental platform because I had this crazy couture that I wore for my wedding and it takes up so much space in my closet. What I learned, though, was that logistically that would be very hard. For me, the most important thing was making [the business] fashion-forward. I started to think, there really isn’t a marketplace for Indian designers where we can help guide them through that process of entering the US market and be a one-stop-shop; a beautiful curated platform of established or up-and-coming designers and a gorgeous display of what is coming out of the fashion world in those regions.

Will it be a site or an app?
Right now, it’s a site. It looks like a traditional e-commerce platform where you have all your designers and you can shop the different looks. Eventually, we’d love to develop an app. It’s baby steps! I also want to see what’s resonating, what are people gravitating towards, what’s the price point that feels attractive. And because we are first to market—I mean, there are some sites, but they are more geared towards bridal. This is really about introducing Indian designers to people like you.

Talk us through the experience from when we log on to the site.
My ideal business will be to house all inventory here in the US. But because I’m in the very early stages and still navigating what is attractive to the consumer, right now, you’ll place the order, and it’ll get made. However, traditionally everything coming out of India has been customized. We are doing ŌUSHQ sizing. It is standardized sizing, which has been developed by several tailors here in New York, but it’s really universal and everything will be made according to those sizes. Then if you want it tailored or tweaked, we’ll also offer that service.

Will there be accessories, jewelry, and footwear too?
We will eventually have a big accessories range. There’s one or two to launch. I wanted to start with ready to wear and build on what that looks like, but I think accessories will be a huge business. Even beauty! Beauty brands coming out of India, [we want to] give those businesses and brands a place to live in the US too.

What has the process been like on-boarding brands? How are you identifying who is right for the US market?
I love to wear Indian designers, so I have an organic relationship with a few of them, but it’s also been a really exciting experience of discovering new designers. I spoke to someone this morning who I saw in an editorial spread and had never heard of him. I DM’d him to say I thought his work was incredible, and now we’re talking. It’s not easy for these designers to market themselves in the US. Instagram is one thing, but otherwise, they only have their own website. So when you come to ŌUSHQ, you’ll know that these designers are doing something really special and unique and you can only really find them on ŌUSHQ.

How has the show helped? Has it sped up the process to launch?
Obviously the visibility of being on a national television show put dynamite under my arse! [Laughs.] I have a platform and a community who follow me, and hopefully they’ll follow and support everything I’m doing. But this is bigger to me than being on the show. I’ve been thinking about this for so long. It’s easy for people on a show to launch a product, and just sell it. But what I’m really doing is building a community and a marketplace for a whole movement that hopefully will change the way people shop and change the landscape of Indian fashion in the Western region. So to me, it’s bigger than anything that could come out of the show. I hope it’s my legacy stamp, in a way.

Before the show, you were more behind the scenes as a publicist, and building brands. In what way has this brought together everything you’ve done in your career so far?
I mean, it definitely helps! I know how to do things that someone else who’d build this business wouldn’t necessarily have the experience of doing. I knew immediately what I needed in terms of marketing, branding, PR, putting the right teams together, and what the vision looks like. For me, it all came naturally, but that being said, being behind the scenes is so different to being in front of the operations. But I have to trust the people I’m bringing into the process. I just solidified a relationship with an amazing creative director! She is very well known in India and she is a huge celebrity and fashion photographer based there. She works with a number of designers, has shot for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Condé Nast Traveler. She is phenomenal! And I think having her be a pillar, from a creative standpoint, in India and being aware of the cultural zeitgeist there and helping us figure out how we translate it here, is so important. Her name is Sasha Jairam. I’m super excited to have her onboard!

What other people have been instrumental for advice along the way?
Jenna Lyons was so helpful. She’s built so many businesses. Early on, she gave me really good advice and I still float things by her because she has such a great, entrepreneurial, savvy way of thinking. Even people like Ubah [Hassan], she is always helping me curate the vision. From an Indian industry standpoint, all the designers I work with have been so supportive. They obviously trust the process, but also have strong opinions on what’s translating and what’s successful in India and how we could replicate it. Someone who has been amazing is Priyanka Chopra’s manager, her name is Anjula Acharia. She’s managed Priyanka for years now and she’s been very, very helpful.


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Do you plan on doing pop-ups or events? How will you keep the brand visible?
Absolutely. I think that physicality, especially when you’re an e-commerce or DTC platform, is so important. I’d love to do a pop-up celebrating designers at some point next year, maybe in the spring. One of the things I’m working on right now is collaborations. So, creating pieces that designers are doing exclusively for ŌUSHQ. I’m speaking to a very well-known jewelry designer at the moment who’s based in New York. If people know they’re coming to the site and getting something that no one has, it drives that exclusivity. I think, the reason why I hope this is going to be successful, is that it’s made for the girl who wants to be different. Coming into a room, wearing a designer or a conversation piece you can’t find anywhere else!

Did you work with a stylist for the show, actually? Or was it all you?
It was all me! I was really thrown into the deep end. It’s so fast and furious. You’re just filming and you’re like, ‘Oh shit. I’ve nothing to wear.’ I built a really great relationship with Sally LaPointe. She’s a really great fit; her stuff is so easy in that it goes from day to night easily and it feels different but cool. I love her stuff, and I ended up being a walking talking mannequin for her! I do think I’d work with a stylist in the future though….

Have you had those conversations yet? 
I think soon!

You’d do it again? 
I think I would. I feel like I’m deep in it now so it would be a disappointment to not do it, but it also has to make sense. There’s a lot that comes into play.

What were some things that surprised you, was it as you thought it would be? 
I mean, I was so naive going into it. [Laughs.] I thought we would be like Sex and the City, having fun, going to parties, everyone is loving each other, and ‘Kum ba yah.’ Obviously that’s not the show… yeah, it definitely threw me for a loop. I think the most surprising thing, and everyone did warn me that I needed to have thick skin, but I didn’t know what that truly meant ’til the show started to air and you get this wave of opinion and comments. It was beyond overwhelming.

Were you being recognized in the streets and having people say things to you in person? Like, remember I said to you I saw Pavit in Trader Joe’s…that must be so weird that strangers recognize you both doing normal things!
I get tagged in Pavit at the grocery store selfies every day. I swear to God, either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s! Someone like him is very recognizable because he’s so tall. I try to go more incognito, but he loves it—he’s such a natural. [Laughs.] But I don’t think I’ve walked out of my home once without being recognized yet. But people are so nice, they just say hi or sometimes want to take a photo and they ask about the kids.

So would you say it’s changed your life in a great way?
Definitely, it’s been positive. At first, when the show started to air, I was given the villain edit and that was so difficult. The amount of, I guess, hate, that’s out there for someone people don’t even know…it was really overwhelming. But I ended up being sort of a fan favorite.

You had a great arc! 
I guess that’s what it’s called in TV world! Overall, it’s been so positive, and it’s opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me, and there’s no other show or network that really cultivates this community. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. BravoCon was insane….it was mental! I’m very lucky to have been given the opportunity.

Oh, something I want to ask you before we finish up is where do you recommend for great Indian food in New York?
Umm, gosh! You know what’s funny is that coming from London, Chicken Tikka Masala is like the national dish [laughs].

They seriously don’t do it as well here!
Not at all! But I would say, my top three are Tamarind, in Tribeca.

….very up and coming!
Ha! Don’t even go there! Sona in Flatiron, which is owned by my dear friend Maneesh [Goyal]. And then, lastly, this one is a bit off the beaten path, but Pavit introduced me to this tiny little place in Midtown. It’s called Hyderabadi Zaiqa [on West 52nd Street.] It is a compete hole in the wall, but it’s unbelievable.

Pavit knows!
He has done so much research on everything. He introduced me to this place, and now it just reminds me of home. It’s so good.

Amazing. What do you have planned for the new year?
I feel like 100% of my attention is going to be on making ŌUSHQ successful. You really have to be on the pulse! But I’m creating my own narrative and path, I have a lot of confidence in the success of it. There’s a huge white space in the market…a little fun fact for you, India is predicted to be the number two economy in the world by 2025. We’re definitely on the cusp of India being huge. For me, I’ve always expressed my culture through fashion. I show that I’m Indian through what I wear, as well as, obviously, how I look. It’s so exciting what is happening—everything is becoming so elevated. Our model in the campaign is called Shonali Singh, she is the next hottest thing! The fact that she’s the face of ŌUSHQ is such a big deal for me, it also gives me credibility in India.

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