Fashion Strategist & Operations Consultant – Payal Kshatriya Cerri


Payal Kshatriya Cerri




‘Sarayu’ – Luxury Fashion Consulting

Sarayu works across the luxury fashion sector (fashion, accessories and jewellery). With a 360 approach in Management, Strategic and Operational Consulting, our services ranges from Design, Product Development and Production, Omni Channel Distribution, Marketing and Merchandising

Time with the company:

9 months


What is your morning routine?

Although, I am not a morning person, since I moved to Dubai early 2019, the sunlight flowing into the living room is a natural wake up for the senses.

My morning routine now is very different from when I was working for luxury brands in Paris, which was sometimes a panic wake-up, down your coffee and rush for the shower -one that I had so well integrated in my lifestyle. Today, it is more “Rise and shine. Another beautiful day and much to be done”

I then catch up on the news with my breakfast. I love Flipboard – you can gather all your favourite news on it. Some social media (mainly Instagram and LinkedIn). And off we go! I always try to start my day with enthusiasm!

How did you become involved with the fashion industry?

My inspirations to work in fashion at a young age was my sister who worked in fashion and my father an architect by education. My mum and dad installed the love of quality and well-made things very early on and this has always stayed with me.

I worked in India in the fashion industry for 7 years, mainly in Retail / Operations and Product Merchandising, before heading to Paris to do my MBA in International Luxury Brand Management in 2003. I also went back to the Sorbonne to learn French.

Post MBA, I took 3 steps back in my career and slowly rebooted my work life as an intern at the age of 28 with Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino Couture in Paris.

My big break came when I applied for a role in Women’s Ready to Wear at Givenchy. It was a 6month maternity leave placement and I stayed for 5 years, working my way up to Production and Supply Manager!

It was definitely one of the most enriching periods of my life. I joined 6 months after Riccardo Tisci. I was able to be part of and witness the revival of the brand, needless to say the house was buzzing with a new energy.

Slowly, hard work and perseverance helped me move on – over the next 7 years I progressed to being on the board of Bonpoint as Product Development and Production Director, and more recently to Chanel as Ready To Wear Wovens’ Director, (member of various Strategic and Operational think-tanks.

How did you start your consultancy?

I launched my venture, ‘SARAYU’, a luxury fashion consultancy in October 2019, in Dubai, to fill a much-needed void for ‘Visionary Creative Entrepreneurs’. It was not something I had planned to do! Or to even to want to start my own business at this point in my life. But looking back, I would not have it any other way. I believe that things happen when the time is right for you. The dots only connect by moving forward.

By leveraging my solid fashion sector specific expertise, I also assist investors and brands to ensure a marriage founded in common objectives along with a long-term vision. In addition to acting as an advisory on the board, I can also provide operational support to monitor the implementation of the business plan.

What is your typical day like?

My day is never the same! Mornings, I often have meetings. Afternoon till dinner, I am on my computer working on my client projects. I advise investors and brands on the right investments and partnerships. I was also working on my website – – that we very proudly launched on June 8th.

In the pre-covid era, there was a lot of global travel and meetings. Especially whilst working with luxury fashion houses.

I lend my voice as a speaker in the fashion and academic eco-system. I mentor to emerging talent and students, and more recently a debutant academic myself!

Just as Covid-19 hit us, I was offered a fantastic opportunity to design and conduct an intensive, 3-week Master Class on Luxury Brand Development for ‘Esmod’, Dubai. Our students were on different continents which was an amazing truly global first experience in teaching.

What’s the best part of your job?

20 years of immersion in the luxury fashion business, has been sheer hard work and long hours. But the energy of a fashion studio, working with creatives and bringing their ideas to life is what I love most! The key to any successful brand is the synergy between the creatives and operational management. It’s often like walking on eggshells but nothing worth achieving is achieved easily, right?!

I am also at my brightest in manufacturing units, surrounded by artisans – whether there are embroiderers, feather makers, or tailors – the magic of transforming a raw material into something beautifully crafted is one that we must all endeavour to preserve.

I have travelled the world, literally, thanks to my work in luxury fashion. Working with different cultures around the globe also remains one of my favourite things about fashion.

In this new chapter of my professional life, having the independence to choose who I want to work with and be the master of my day is a very new and amazing feeling, one that I am becoming accustomed to! Mentoring also gives me tremendous satisfaction – to see someone grow is priceless.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Definitely working alone! After a 20-year stimulus of working with some of the most brilliant professionals in the industry, I miss the buzz of an office environment. That said, as a Consultant, I get to be part of very different projects and meet some brilliant creative entrepreneurs, exchange ideas and different ways of working, understand the start-up eco system, whilst drinking matcha lattes with Gen-Z in an organic café!

At times it’s frustrating when I have worked very hard on pitching for a new project that I am passionate about and it falls through. Sometimes, clients just go silent on you. Professionalism demands that you give feedback, even if it means announcing that the project won’t see the light of the day.

Also, when I was part of luxury fashion houses, even if one does contribute, I felt I was unable to make enough of an impact on many of the issues surrounding sustainability – the planet, its people and resources. I am actively correcting that through my work today.

What’s your most memorable work moment?

There are so many! Being one of the 3 women to represent Givenchy in the first photo edition in 2009 of EllesVMH is definitely one! My first Chanel runway, September 2017 at the Grand Palais just blew me away! I had the privilege of being seated in the audience after working on countless shows. Chanel is above and beyond in the world of precision, detail and excellence.

More recently, I was a panelist for the closing event at FFWD, Dubai – my first public speaking experience. An engaging topic – “Sustainability- the Future of Fashion” , it was received way beyond my expectations . Surely a defining moment in this new venture for me

What advice would you give to anyone interested in the same profession?

Work hard. Follow your own passion-not someone else’s or because it’s cool. Be humble. Keep asking questions and Learn. If you knew the number of rejections letters I used to get – I just never gave up. Persevere. Persevere. Persevere.

My advice to myself? “ Life is series of marathons, not a 100m sprint “
The only record I need to beat is of my own last marathon. Building resilience and rebounding from setbacks is very important to me.

Last but not the least, as a friend and fashion mentor, Farah Liz Pallaro says, its “life-work”, not “work-life” balance. If you have a life, you will have work. It’s important not to lose sight of who you are and where you want to go and align your mental and physical health with your being.

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A few words about the article author

Dwayne Ferguson is Head of Digital at Outside The Box Recruitment.

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