Michael D’Souza of Mufti Boutique Interview: Entrepreneur Michael D’Souza left behind a high-powered career in marketing for giants Polo Ralph Lauren and Coca-Cola to launch dreamy home furnishings boutique, Mufti in Notting Hill. Here’s a look at Michael D’Souza’s inspirations, challenges and advice for would-be entrepreneurs…
Tell us a bit about Mufti?
Mufti is a rather quirky word, which was adopted by the English in the days when Britain was an empire. In the Oxford dictionary, it’s described as ‘ civilian dress especially worn by a person who normally wears a military uniform’. Mufti dress was an articulation of a casual elegance – a kind of relaxed austerity.
No longer confined to a form of dress, mufti has become an approach to everyday life. Today, Mufti evokes this relaxed, but sophisticated, lifestyle with a combination of original designs, exceptional craftsmanship and natural raw materials. We chose this as our logo because it represents our commitment to rebuilding the dying traditions of hand craftsmanship.
What inspired you to set up Mufti?
My inspiration came from my desire to create a brand, which would reflect the essence of smart casual elegance effortlessly. We wanted to design furniture and accessories with a strong, natural element which led us to work with the finest raw materials including silk, authentic hides and reclaimed wood.
You grew up on India, did this influence the path you took in life?
I believe my childhood has been a tremendous influence. Born in Goa, I was an ‘army brat’, which meant I spent much of my time crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country from metropolises to the most remote areas. It was during this part of my life that I first experienced the incredible local craftsmen and differences in indigenous talents and crafts each region had to offer first-hand. From hand-woven silks in the south and woven rugs and walnut carvings in Kashmir to block-printing in Rajasthan and mirror work in Gujarat, I found it fascinating.
How do you select the pieces for Mufti?
For the most part, we design our products in-house to suit our ethos. As so much of our furniture and furnishings are bespoke or made-to-measure, we create beautiful, timeless pieces to meet your individual needs. This way, you don’t have to compromise because you can benefit from furniture and furnishings, which will give you exactly what you are looking for and effortlessly complement beautiful antiques just as well as modern pieces.
You also run an interior design service, tell us a little about that?
We’ve always had such a passion for beautifying Britain’s homes and we set up this part of the business to meet our clients’ needs. So many people visited our split-level, Notting Hill showroom and marvel at the rooms we had styled to reflect those found in an elegant, stylish house and ask us to help them create the same feel in their own home. At first, we did this on an ad-hoc basis but, as demand grew, we decided to formalise the offering and offer a complete service from house dressing to designing a home from scratch.
As an entrepreneur, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced setting up Mufti?
When I set out to start the business, I endeavored to do this without any partners or financial help but instead grow the brand organically. In hindsight, I could have made my life a lot easier with this sort of support.
Any advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
Take care of your employees and your customers. Don’t sit on your laurels and don’t be afraid to make mistakes…improvise.
Special thank you to Michael for sharing an insight into his dream business, for more visit Mufti.