Dhillan Bhardwaj has achieved the sort of success most people his age only dream about. Indeed, from humble beginnings he turned himself into a teenage millionaire – and a reality TV personality in his native Britain. But the now-21-year-old, star of the Channel 4 show Rich Kids Go Shopping, was overwhelmed when his heroine Rihanna got in touch.
Bhardwaj grew up in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, living an ordinary life. His family weren’t poor, but they weren’t rich either. “I was at secondary school and I couldn’t afford the things that my friends had,” he told website Snap.pa in 2016. “I remember taking my final exams and going to school in non-uniform.” Uniform is required at most British schools, but parents and students can’t always afford it.
Bhardwaj described himself to Snap.pa as having “come from nothing.” But that didn’t stop him wanting cool clothes – he just had to make them himself. With little else but YouTube videos to go on, he started to create tie-dye T-shirts to wear to school. His friends were impressed, and the young man wondered whether a career in fashion might be on the cards.
However, his family wanted Bhardwaj to have a more stable career. “No one in the family, especially a boy, was to go to college or to study something other than car mechanics or business,” Bhardwaj told Snap.pa. But he was determined to pursue his dreams. He quit college and began making more tie-dye shirts, using his family’s garage as his base of operations. He called his brand Ratchet Clothing.
By 2013 he had created an online shop for Ratchet Clothing, plus several social media accounts to advertise his work. And suddenly things took off. “I never intended to make a career out of it,” he told newspaper the Nottingham Post in 2018. “My friends encouraged me to start a Facebook page for my designs. I didn’t really sell many at first, but it kind of all grew from there.”
It certainly did. Bhardwaj’s designs were like nothing else on the market, and suddenly Ratchet Clothing was bringing in big money. In its first three years of operation the company generated a million pounds in sales, and Bhardwaj was able to open up a shop in his hometown. And in 2014 he received his first celebrity customer.
One of Miley Cyrus’ entourage of dancers went to his shop to select clothes for the star, and invited Bhardwaj to a Miley concert for his 18th birthday. When he got there, he was invited backstage to present Cyrus with some Ratchet clothes personally. “It was such a pleasure and such a massive accomplishment,” he told Snap.pa.
From there, things snowballed. Plenty of celebrities, from Drake to Zara Larsson to Taylor Swift, started to wear Ratchet clothes. And Bhardwaj began to appear on reality TV. In 2017 he starred in both Rich Kids Go Shopping and Coach Trip. But that wasn’t even the most exciting thing that happened to him that year.
Bhardwaj had always been a big fan of the singer Rihanna. He had mentioned his love of her in his Snap.pa interview. “She’s the only person that I look up to in the fashion industry. She’s a bad b***h, she doesn’t give a s**t about anything,” he said. “That’s what I want to be like. I want to make clothes that she would wear.”
Then his dream came true. In July 2017, Bhardwaj posted a message on social media. “Thank you to everyone who’s supported me. Totally honored to have been asked to create a bespoke item for my idol Rihanna,” he wrote. It turned out she had seen his designs and was interested in them, Bhardwaj told newspaper the Derby Telegraph.
“A friend of mine used to live in Barbados (where Rihanna is from) and is good friends with her uncle,” he informed the publication. “He then approached me saying Rihanna wants a bespoke item. I couldn’t believe it.” His T-shirt design for the megastar was going to have to be something special.
“When I was asked I felt so overwhelmed,” he said. And indeed, anybody would be. “To have the family of such a big star like Rihanna ask for a bespoke item is such an honor. I was told she would wear it if it was a bespoke item and not anything made before. I didn’t care what she wanted, I’d make anything for her.”
So Bhardwaj came up with a sexy, grungy orange and black T-shirt featuring Rihanna front and center. The response from his fans was overwhelmingly positive. “So happy for you Dhillan this is so huge and you deserve it!” one person wrote. Others asked if the design would be available to the public.
Rihanna definitely knows ingenuity when she sees it. As a businesswoman herself, she’s keen to support small businesses and help them grow. In 2014, she almost singlehandedly revived the fortunes of the small Cumbrian village Flimby when she started wearing the New Balance trainers manufactured there.
And she’s received plenty of praise for her creation and promotion of fashion products. In December 2014, Rihanna became the creative director of Puma, and the next year the star’s first trainer with the brand instantly sold out. Her cosmetic company Fenty Beauty was equally a success. In 2017, Time magazine named it one of the 25 best inventions of the year.
In 2018, Bhardwaj spoke to website UNILAD about his life and his admiration of Rihanna. “I love her work ethic, her ability to do what she wants with her life and how she gives zero f***s about what anyone has to say. And I think that’s a very important message.”
The designer told UNILAD about his myriad future plans. “I’m currently in the middle of releasing my Spring/Summer ’18 collection, writing a book, working with more than 70 different clothing brands to help them start up a company, printing and supplying for them – on top of running my own business too!”
But no matter how famous or busy Bhardwaj gets, he always makes time for those who’ve helped him hit the heights. He told UNILAD, “I’ve gained a large-ish social media following, and loads of people message me with their personal problems. I meet my brand’s fans, we go out, I’ve stayed round their houses, we party, we drink, we eat. We are literally a big family!”
It seems the sky is the limit for Bhardwaj and Ratchet Clothing. “Guys, I feel like I’m on my peak level at work. I have so many amazing ideas at the moment, so many changes but I’m really feeling myself with my career,” he tweeted in April, 2018. It’s self-confidence the likes of which Rihanna herself would be proud.