Money & Me: It’s in the bag for UAE-based fashion head

Former banker turned fashion boss is a savvy saver who has never faced a cashflow crisis in her personal finances, but admits she would raid her savings account for a new bag.

Pallavi Bhatia is the business head of Label 24, a London-owned retail chain she joined last year specialising in top fashion designers from India, Pakistan and the UAE. Born in Mumbai, the Indian pursued a career in banking before switching careers in 2007 to a hobby she was passionate about – fashion. Ms Bhatia, 38, has lived in the UAE for 11 years.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I grew up in a business family. There was a lot of focus on careers, and right from childhood I was taught how to spend and save wisely. As a family we always discussed what we would do, what career path to go on. I’ve also always believed that if you follow your passion and dream, money always follows.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I had a summer job in telemarketing, selling space in the yellow pages. I think I got about 7,000 rupees (Dh382) a month.

Are you spender or saver?

I’ve always been taught the importance of spending wisely – it’s an important part of the job, buying smart. I was also taught the importance of saving ­money, putting a little extra aside each month.

What is your most cherished purchase?

A couple of years ago I bought my first Chanel bag, a classic calfskin, in London at Harrod’s. It’s priceless.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?

It may be hard to believe, but by God’s grace that has never happened. My husband and I share expenses and spend and save wisely to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Where do you save your money?

My money is in bonds – UAE National Bonds – and I buy a lot of gold. The rest is in the bank earning interest.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I do not have a single credit card. For me it is either cash or debit card. We’ll use a credit card when my husband – a private banker – and I want to make a joint purchase, something for the house, travel, things like that.

What has been your best investment?

My BMW X5. It has always been my dream car and I spend most of my time travelling by car.

What do you most regret spending money on?

I don’t really believe in regrets. Whatever you spend money on reflects your priorities at the time. Since I’ve been in fashion that philosophy has even helped me plan my wardrobe. I don’t think I regret anything – not so far.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

From day one, even doing that summer job, you have to keep some money aside every month. Even if you are earning Dh400 a month, keep some aside, get into the habit of saving that way. Also, be sure to do something that you love to do but remember that it may not work for you – have a plan B if your passion doesn’t work out as a career.

Do you have a plan for the future?

In my current role, we’re looking at a lot of expansion – more stores in the Arab market – and to promote young talents in the Middle East and Asia. There’s a lot in the pipeline. Plan B would be banking, but I think at this stage fashion is the future for me.

If you won Dh1m, what would you do with it?

I would like to give an amount to charity. There is no one specific charity that I support, but I do believe in giving back to the society, and that would be the best use of the money. Then I’d put some towards a beach-facing house; my dream house would be in the south of France. I go there every summer and it’s one of my favourite destinations.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Bags, jewellery, travel. But that’s what I do for work, so I hope I won’t have to.

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