India takes immense pride in its vast pool of talent, especially when the topic of locally designed and produced fashion takes the centre stage. A fashion label is not just a name or a trove of fancy garments to shop from, it is much beyond that. The label proudly reflects the identity of its founder, designer, the creative and the strategic teams; and all the hardworking artisans behind it. And, the need to recognise the value they add to the country is even more essential today.
Two emerging fashion designers, Sugandha Kedia of Label Dusala Kashmir and Chandrima Agnihotri of Label Chandrima take us through the journey of their young brands, completely made in India. LuxeBook goes vocal for local!
Sugandha Kedia, the 32-year-old Founder of Dusala Kashmir revisits her childhood days and recalls a weaver visiting her house. That’s when she found her passion for Pashmina shawls.
“I used to get fascinated with the kind of work the weavers would do on the shawls; all the intricate details, the time spent on each piece and the beauty of the handcraft,” shares Kedia. She adds, “Growing up, as I became a buyer of designer clothing at fashion weeks and met people from the same industry, I soon realised that it’s the right time to start my own brand.”
For the past three years, Raipur-based Kedia travelled to Kashmir to research about Pashmina, the various fabrics and the hand weaving techniques. The first weaver she started the brand with is the same Kashmiri weaver who used to sell Pashmina shawls to her maternal home. Six months into the business, her team now has 45-50 weavers.
Kedia, who was a journalist before becoming an entrepreneur, says, “My plan was to launch Dusala in July 2019, keeping in mind the right season for Pashmina. But, the lockdown in Kashmir hampered it. With only 25-30 pieces in my hand, and the rest with the weavers in Kashmir, it was not viable to launch it then.”
Currently, we supply our products including the finest handwoven shawls, stoles and scarves for both, men and women, to multi-designer stores such as Aashni & Co, Pernia’s Pop-Up shop, Aza Fashion and Jaypore.
Internationally, they are present in a store in Canada and will soon branch out to Middle-Eastern markets of Dubai and Saudi Arabia as well. “I want to expand Dusala to every possible platform and market,” Kedia adds.
While many of their handmade creations are put up on Instagram or on their website, there is a range of really luxurious, expensive shawls that are reserved for in-person viewing, either through exhibitions or stores. Kedia believes that it is likely that buyers may get bored of the products eventually and the charm of the handcraft may get lost, once it is up online.
Local, handmade and rare techniques are the essence of the country, and a campaign like vocal for local has a lot of weight and scope, opines Kedia. “I feel the #vocalforlocal initiative has seen a lot of hype lately, but, I feel that there is still a lot that the celebrities and prominent personalities from the industry can do to promote local brands.”
However, the team was very excited when Shilpa Shetty, Dia Mirza and Karisma Kapoor spoke about the Kashmiri shawl brand on their personal Instagram handles. Actor Rahul Bose in the recent Netflix movie Bulbbul was also seen sporting Dusala shawls.
In just a period of two to three months, the handwoven Pashmina brand is riding high on the amazing response it received from the clients. “Even during the lockdown, we continued to receive queries. My stylist friends from the fashion business have also given me some constructive feedback, which I always appreciate.” She adds, “I do feel that the sales could’ve been better, but the entire industry is going through a crunch, so, I should not be complaining.”
The pandemic has impacted the brand in many ways. Kedia’s goal this year was to debut her brand through Fashion Weeks. She was in talks with SVA and designer Payal Singhal for a collaboration and had even spoken to FDCI’s Sunil Sethi about her plans. “I even had a show lined up in London and Paris, for which the advances were already paid. But unfortunately, it’s not happening soon.”
Dusala’s upcoming wedding-inspired campaign is all about ‘Made in India’. She believes that a gorgeous piece of Pashmina is a must in many Indian weddings, where people like to gift each other the luxury of handmade. “I want the young buyers and other people who love wearing scarves and shawls from Gucci and Prada, to also embrace Indian handwoven Pashmina.”
She sums up by saying that her sole reason to start a Pashmina brand, is that it has tremendous value of being a handcrafted luxury item, which appeals to not just the consumers in India, but also the buyers all across the world.
The brainchild of Chandrima Agnihotri, label Chandrima’s launch in late 2019 kicked off with a rather bright start, thanks to the coveted GenNext recognition that she won at the Lakmé Fashion Week SS 2020, in February. Right when the brand was about to begin its stock production for the interested buyers it attracted with its triumph, the country went into lockdown.
Label Chandrima is all about celebrating the diversity of Indian cultures and various craft forms. The ready-to-wear brand deals in womenswear, and every piece is a fusion of Indian handloom and craft with an international spin on the overall style.
The 29-year-old Agnihotri says, “On my last trip to Kutch, I came across the Jat community, who are known for a particular style of embroidery that consists of counting the yarns and cross-stitching the threads to create beautiful geometric and floral patterns.” She was instantly hooked to the concept and soon started to explore the techniques and patterns for her eponymous label’s Spring-Summer’20 collection.
Agnihotri works with weavers from Bhuj, Gujarat and showcases embroideries, techniques and artisanal cuts and styles that resonate with India’s craftsmanship. “We use organic kala cotton and a distinct pattern of woven fabric sourced directly from the weavers of Bhujodi village in Bhuj,” informs the designer.
Speaking about the #vocalforlocal movement in the country, the Delhi-based designer thinks young Indian brands of today that offer finest of handcrafted products and yet struggle to sustain their business in a pandemic-like situation need the support.
“However, we believe this campaign hasn’t yet impacted the entire Indian luxury market. It certainly will take some time for our consumers to get accustomed to this term and its meaning in its true sense, since we have always been influenced by international brands when it comes to luxury.”
Agnihotri is confident that the push for purchasing locally will soon become tremendously significant, in providing numerous jobs and businesses to people who have been severely affected by the pandemic.
Agnihotri, who has worked alongside renowned names in the industry such as Rohit Bal and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, is also all set to launch her website soon.
To stay in demand, she thinks that the key is to use the right tools to market the product in a way that its true story of the craft and the handmade process is communicated. “It is also vital to encourage the idea of local, homegrown brands that offer the best in luxury, in order to support our own economy by supporting every person employed and involved in the process of manufacturing,” Agnihotri concludes.