It’s been over a year, and we’re still living amidst a pandemic. Things have been tough for every business right now, but if there’s anything the lockdown has taught us, it’s to be patient and channelise the creative energy in the time we have. For designers who wanted to start their businesses, it has been challenging, but even during these uncertain times, they have managed to crack the code, and launch their brands successfully and maintain steady growth. If you too are on the verge of starting your own label but don’t know how to go about it, take cues from how these pandemic-born labels have set new rules of business for themselves right from strategising to marketing and more.
1. Mistry By Ronak Kapoor
Accessory label Mistry launched in December 2020, and its crescent-shaped bags have already caught the eye of all fashion enthusiasts. What put them in the limelight was the brand’s support towards a social cause. When they decided to donate a portion of their proceeds to Covid Relief organisation Hemkunt Foundation, not only did they raise substantial funds, but they also saw a huge growth in their social media following.
“Partnering up with the NGO was a starting point. The only thing I had in mind was to take care of people who worked for me and help people as much as possible. Everything falls into place when you have a purpose. The idea was to generate enough revenue that kept my workshop afloat, and all of the other proceeds were given to NGOs and other people that were in need, like guards in our neighbourhood and feed people who live on the streets,” shares Ronak.
Key Takeaway: Build a brand with purpose.
2. Staple By Gona Khanijo And Vidha Chadha
Staple is a lockdown label that started in December 2020 and what worked for Gona and Vidha was the amount of time they utilised to establish their brand vision during the lockdown. “As much as it was risky to start a brand during a pandemic, we got the opportunity to build the brand from the ground up. We spent every day creating our brand mood, which has helped us create it right and that honestly has worked as a great strategy for us. From our Instagram and website to our packaging, everything was to be in one mood/vibe. Creating the right kind of clothes is just a part of making a brand. If people can see your brand and say the things that you thought while building it up, that is when your work is done, or at least half done,” they share.
Another strategy that has helped them was to focus on building a community. “We try to use products from other small businesses and promote them on our social media and try cross-selling each other’s products. Going forward as a community and giving back is really important. We have a COVID relief fundraiser going on our page right now, and we would always love to somehow make things better for people out there who really really need it,” they add.
Key Takeaway: Focus on building a community.
3. Alamelu By KH Radharaman
The early days of lockdown in March-April 2020 gave KH Radharam the mind-space to take Alamelu from an idea and give it a tactile form. “The basic thought behind Alamelu was to create a brand with origins in India but with truly international sensibilities. The textiles were obviously always going to be a strength given our expertise in this area but creating easy silhouettes meant to transcend seasonality was a key driver to enhancing the universal appeal of our brand. This, in turn, has given rise to a virtuous cycle with a better appreciation for quality, design and garments that balance function and occasion. Given this, right from the design and details in our first collection, to availability via landmark retail partners and creating a ‘launch moment’ without an event, our strategy was based on counterintuitiveness,” he says. “In the absence of real-time interaction with potential patrons, we have made the most of technology while simultaneously placing the collection in key stores as well as their e-commerce platforms to reach a global audience,” adds Radharaman.
Key Takeaway: Think of the functionality of your brand in the current scenario.
4. TheRealB By Binal Patel
With the vision to bring luxe fashion to women in a way that is easily accessible and fashionably forward but at controlled prices, TheRealB wanted women to feel effortlessly beautiful and confident in its creations. “Our approach to cope and stay afloat was to start small and avoid mass production. We embraced a simple direct-to-consumer e-commerce model initially, keeping our presence solely online, which helped us control our brand identity and kept online wholesale for the future. We banked on the idea that people wanted to invest in high-quality, pret-a-porter clothing that people can purchase right away while sitting inside their homes while still giving them the bespoke quality of haute couture,” says Bina.
Key Takeaway: Start small and avoid mass production.
5. STEM By Mahima Sethi
Established in October 2020, STEM adopted an ethical approach to the leather accessory supply chain while also uplifting longstanding traditions of Indian crafts. But how did a leather bag label grow during this time? Here’s what Mahima shares, “We were forced to include dealing with uncertainty in our core strategy even before we actually started selling. The idea was to account for delays, lack of workforce and sourcing options much ahead of time. That helped us when the pandemic struck in its full form. Also, we partnered with several platforms that resonated with our idea of minimum consumption, ethical consumerism, and an all-digital mindset.”
As a label that works on a made-to-order basis, forecasting gets tougher, which led to the team adapting differently. So for its production, the team kept some artisans and liaisons on standby and broke production lines into must-haves and deferred. “In terms of marketing, we never have and never will adopt the ‘bombard with ads’ kind of brand. Through the pandemic, we focused on our message to the customers and digital engagement within the community instead of the sell-all approach. Some might say this is counterintuitive because as a small business, we have to make money but to be honest, we have had a better experience turning micro-moments of conversations into sales than a pushy strategy,” adds Mahima.
Key Takeaway: Plan ahead of time and focus on building brand loyalty.