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Neelam Ahooja on Going From Chartered Accountant to Sitting Front Row at Fashion Week

Purveyor of dark and simplistic ready-to-wear silhouettes, The Row epitomizes a degree of detail and tailoring often overlooked in fashion today. Strolling through the Upper East Side you’re likely to encounter a pedestrian wearing one of the brand’s sought-after designs. But the understated and minimalistic nature of The Row’s fashions makes them difficult to identify. The brand’s mastery of mystery is what drew Neelam Ahooja to The Row.

With over 122K followers on Instagram, Ahooja is a self-proclaimed The Row fanatic. “The Row embodies elements of timelessness in a manner that doesn’t render them as just another minimal brand,” she says. Her content harmoniously displays her alignment with the brand’s ethos without neglecting her own creativity. Despite the discreet black and white outfits that characterize Ahooja’s feed, her story is colourful and she eagerly invites you to indulge in a bit of vicarious living.

Before launching her online presence, Ahooja, a mother of two, worked as a chartered accountant. Today, she ruminates on memories of her old routine, of squeezing in time to explore her interest in fashion while juggling the demands of motherhood. Reflecting on her youth, Ahooja says creativity was always intertwined in her life—collecting magazines, sketching designs, watching Fashion File, and dressing up—and her style always mirrored her expressive and explorative energy. As her children grew up, free time unfolded and embracing fashion finally became a reality. Ahooja’s style pays homage to the alternativist of her past while staying true to her current, more minimalist fashion appetite (making The Row a perfect outfitter). “I’m a lefty with a penchant for anything left of centre or on the fringe,” she says. Whether she’s attending Fashion Week or being featured in Vogue countless times, Ahooja’s presence in the industry has led to a level of earned credibility—she can cite Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto, and Margiela as partnering influences.

To Ahooja, the simplicity and elegance of The Row are the captivating forces of the brand. The logo-free union of fabrics exudes a timelessness that inspires curiosity. “I don’t spend much time thinking before I dress in The Row because it calls me organically; it’s an extension of my personality,” she says. Ahooja describes The Row as “luxurious but not in an obvious way,” hinting at the quiet brand’s prestige and fashion knowledge. Asymmetry, layers, or a classic look with slight obscurity are garment features she is intrinsically drawn to. “The key is, nothing can be ostentatious. It has to pass the minimal test. That’s where shape, colour, and fabric each play their part.” Seen through Ahooja’s eyes, contrasting details do more than just echo duality—they unlock a sense of enticement and allure.

When asked about the challenges of having an online presence, Ahooja describes a relatable technology addiction that affects all generations. Practising balance and transparency is her way of feeling grounded: “I think having a circle of friends who aren’t part of the social media world has really helped me. My closest friends don’t even have Instagram.” This contrast is an example for her sense of authenticity.

“As your online presence grows, it becomes more difficult to remain true to yourself. You have to think before speaking because you have a larger platform and [must] recognize you’re influencing many people.” To reconcile with this obstacle, Ahooja sticks to a few rules: be authentic, be kind, and have fun.

Photos courtesy of Neelam Ahooja.