Continuing our monthly focus on the incredible MAISON 10 community, celebrating the diverse talents, colorful personalities, and beautiful souls that make this so much more than a store – please meet Rashmi Gill.
Growing up in England, the daughter of immigrants, Rashmi did what any “good little Indian girl” would do, and trained as a lawyer. But a yearning to explore her creative side led to a successful side hustle in photography. When she moved to New York six years ago, she launched her photography business full time (her work recently appeared in Vogue). She lives in the city with her husband and two young children, and is chair of the board of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, one of MAISON 10’s adopted charities. This is her story.
My parents, being first generation immigrants from India and Kenya, worked super hard …
So they wanted to make sure I had a good “profession” – one that would enable me to be financially independent. At that time, a “profession” meant being a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or engineer. And I think, since I’d watched so much LA Law, I became a lawyer. But on the flip side, I'd always had this yearning to be creative. Long story short, I started a photography business on the side, realized it was really picking up, and eventually gave up the law. Then when I came to New York, I knew I wasn’t going to do the New York bar, so I started Rashmi Gill Photography and haven’t looked back.
I do a lot of photos from Madison Square Park …
And am sometimes seen as their official photographer. I’m currently doing a time-lapse photo project with them for the Maya Lin Ghost Forest, taking photos of the installation over the seasons to show the dead trees among those that are growing and becoming green. The juxtaposition between the devastation created by climate change, versus those trees that still have life and are blooming is quite impactful and yet beautiful at the same time.
The day I discovered MAISON 10
Like most people, I walked by and was just drawn in. I could smell this beautiful incense, I got attracted by everything in the window, and the door being open and welcoming. I walked straight in and who did I meet? The incredible, lovely, beautiful, smiley Tom. We instantly connected based on our origins – me from England and Tom from Scotland – so we got chatting. I started attending a lot of the Friday Night Live events and my daughter, who at the time was two, was completely besotted with Henri, and would grab on to his leg while he was doing his introductions. It was incredible. Since then they’ve become very, very dear friends and we love them to bits.
Everything I’ve bought there is amazing. But the most recent thing is the Thomson Ferrier buddha candle. I see it every day, I light it, it relaxes me, and it’s beautiful – it looks like a piece of art. I loved it so much I bought one for a friend as well.
The book that has influenced me the most
The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri – it’s about a couple who move from South-East Asia to New York, and what it’s like to emigrate from the country of origin to a different culture, a different society. I was the first generation born from an immigrant family in England and we had various conflicts in terms of western society and eastern society, our religions, our cultures, racism. My dad gave me the best advice as I grew up. He said: “You’re a British-born female, but your’e an Indian Punjabi Sikh woman as well, and you should take the best from each culture, each background, and make it your own.” That’s basically what I lived by as I grew up, and still do.
'My husband often says I could make friends in a morgue.'
The quality I most admire in people
Sincerity. Authenticity. I find it really easy to get on with people, but when I find someone who is true to themselves, it’s just a magical thing. I am who I am and don’t pretend to be anything else, and it’s amazing when you meet people who are the same. You can have such natural, interesting conversations. And you can sit there and say nothing at all and still feel extremely comfortable.
What inspires me
Wow! So much. I get inspired every single day. I walk out of the apartment and I’m constantly looking around, looking up and down. Nowadays people are just looking ahead at where they’re going, or looking down at their phone. I’m looking all over the place, interacting with my little one, looking at people as they go about their business - and those things inspire me every day.
The other thing that inspires me is people who have a story, who have a strength that has come from a perceived weakness – it’s such a positive way of looking at things.
That, I think, is my positivity. I’m always looking at the best of a situation. The glass is always half-full, never half-empty. I always look at the up side of any situation.
Another one of my superpowers is that I’m a very social person. My husband often says I could make friends in a morgue. I can chat to anybody, anywhere, anyhow. Some people might not see that as a good thing but, for me, it’s been incredible because it’s created a sense of community since we’ve moved here, and we’ve been able to meet some fascinating, beautiful, loving people as a result.
What I’m afraid of
Although I’m improving on this, I’m afraid of failure. It’s something I’ve worked really hard on over many years and, as much as I’m less afraid of it, I think it’s still there somewhere in the back of my mind. But the good thing is I’m aware of it and I’m doing something about it.
The most influential women in my life
My grandma, who was called Maya and who I’ve named my daughter after, wasn’t educated, but she wanted to make sure that my mother – who was one of three – was able to get an education, get the best grades, and be able to get a job where she could stand on her own two feet no matter what. That, at the time, was quite a modern attitude when most women were being married off and didn’t have an education.
And my mum, who has one of the biggest hearts I know. She’s generous and warm – I think I get my social side from her because she also makes friends wherever she goes, including here in New York when she visits. She gives the best advice and I love her to bits.
If I could give young Rashmi one piece of advice …
It would be don’t let any opportunity pass you by. Take it and grab it with all your might and go with it with every cell in your body. I remember letting too many opportunities go by because I felt I wasn’t good enough. Looking back, I should have taken every single one of those opportunities.