Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”. But contrary to this since birth, we are trained and prepared to create a course that will take us to our known future. We fail to realize our true passion and purpose . Then starts the eternal battle to either keep walking on the known and comfortable path or take a leap into an unknown future.
Swati Wadhwa had a difficult choice to make at a very young age. She was already working with a top global fashion brand and was very close to achieving her known future. But deep down she knew that more than the comfortable life she wanted to create a passionate life. She quit her comfortable job and to build Swarang Designs, a luxury handmade accessories brand for the confident, independent, strong, and mindful women consumers.
meet the founder
Swati Wadhwa, born and brought up in Delhi, belongs to a family of entrepreneurs. Post her schooling, she completed a Fashion Business management course from Pearl Academy including a term at the London College of Fashion. She was involved in her father’s business of industrial printing for six months followed by a year-long stint with the Benetton’s women’s wear design team. By the end of 2015 she decided to step into her own entrepreneurial journey and after 6 months of rigorous research, market study and ideation on the concept she finally launched her brand Swarang Designs in July 2016.
“My education taught me the backend of the Fashion industry fit for a job in an export house or a buying house. I am not a designer by qualification. I prefer the word “curator”. I am just an intermediary between my artist and the product. It’s their art, their skills which make my products unique.
Swarang – is an extension of my name and my love for colors
It is actually funny how the name “Swarang” came. I was on call with my friend who is now settled in Denmark and we were discussing different options for the company name. Suddenly my friend’s husband who was also there with her suggested that since my name was Swati and since I was so allured by colors, that it should form part of the brand name. The entire collection resonate and promote Indian handicrafts; it was only natural that I have the Sanskrit word for colors – “Rang” in my brand name. Swarang was born, which literally translates to colors of Swati – or “your own colors”
stepping into an unknown future
When I left my job at Benetton I did not inform my parents about it initially. I was not sure what I wanted to do next. I started working from a co-working space in CP and would also go and meet bags manufacturers and vendors. Unfortunately, most of them wanted an order (minimum 100 samples) even before making the samples. I was rejected by 4 – 5 manufacturer and I had to reject many manufacturers since they did not match my expected quality standards. In Feb’16, the owner of a leather shop from whom I source material introduced me to my Masterjee. He agreed to make my samples on his old machine, similar to what our grandmothers used. After seeing the samples I hired him immediately. Until July 17 he used to work from home as I did not have adequate funds to buy a machine and set up a workshop.
The second important component of the brand was the artisans. Initially I faced challenges finding the right artist since it is difficult to find an artist for an art form that is very rare today. Additionally, if I wanted to create a luxury brand name, the artwork has to be unique, customized in such a way that no two pieces are the same and each piece an expression of the individuality of the customer. Luckily I found an artist who is originally from the Madhubani district. Till date she and her daughters are the only artists who paint on my bags and every bag I ever made has been painted in my presence. This involves a great deal of travel by me to visit the artist at their house where the painting happens, however given my high expectation of quality from the product. This is a worthwhile exercise since it is another high to see your product being born in front of you.
We launched the collection through Bitgiving a crowdfunding platform just before Diwali in 2016. We managed to reach only 60% of our overall target fund – however I made do with the funding we received and went ahead with the production.
a piece of art
The art and crafts of India form the DNA of my brand. I pick one craft and overlay it on my products – one collection at a time. However, India has so much to offer in terms of crafts that one lifetime is less to cover them all. As a matter of fact, I am still adding new designs to my first collection which is to do with Madhubani art launched in July 2016.
I launch a new product every month. I have expanded the product line slowly and experimented with shoes and few stationery items like bookmarks, cardholders etc. Unlike the way things happen in the industry where a designer comes up with a collection at once, I prefer exploring the craft and adding products slowly. I want to call them chapters as these collections can never go out of style with the craft element on it. The idea is to keep selling these pieces in each chapter season after season.
outsourced my weakness
I am a technologically challenged kid but thanks to my website developer and social media team who keep pitching ideas to me, I am able to breath and focus on my strengths. I am still learning a lot about the backend of a website, how a consumer behaves when she is on our website, what posts work for us, what time a post should go on social media, the value of content creation etc
invested my savings to realize my dream
Initially, I used my savings to pay for the co-working space, raw material and my Masterji’s salary. After that, I asked my father to lend me a portion of the money he saved for my wedding to invest in a setup and raw materials. Now it’s been six months or so that the company is self-sufficient in funds and hopefully in next few months, I will be returning my dad’s money.
7 days work mode on
I work every single day. Weekdays I am in the office for two hours between 11 to 1 pm overlooking production, sampling, quality check, couriers, paperwork if any. In the second half, I step out for meetings and sourcing depending on what all is required in office to places like Sadar Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, Nehru Place etc. Sometimes I stop by at exhibitions or museums for inspiration and also looking out for artisans to work with. Towards the end of the day, over a relaxing cup of coffee, I respond to pending emails and phone calls.
I spend my Sundays working with my artist and her two daughters at their home. I look forward to having authentic Bihari food whenever I go to her place.
taking each day as it comes
It’s been a roller coaster ride. There have been good days and bad days. Even today I get overwhelmed and excited when a customer appreciates and praises the product and craftsmanship. I still remember when the brand got featured for the first time on Vagabomb – a lifestyle platform; I had tears in my eyes. That feeling hasn’t diminished a bit and that is what keeps me going.
co-work with my dad now
I have taken up a small space inside my father’s factory where my masterji and two operators work from. My workspace is always a mess; I like tearing out sheets from magazines and pinning it on a softboard. There is a lot of paper around me with drawing, notes scribbled, costings, leather consumptions etc.
creating footprints all over
My vision is to put India on the global map and revive its glory for the handicrafts through Swarang Designs. My dream is to one day have a counter at prestigious selling spaces like Harrods, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman etc. In 2018, I will take the next step and participate in international trade shows.
To the next Wantrepreneur
Don’t stop. Hustle !
Be persistent about the thing you are passionate about. Lean on to your friends and family from time to time. You never know what that discussion on a coffee table might lead to. Networking is important. It’s not about what the other person can do for you, it’s about what you can do for the other person without him/her asking. They will always remember you for that.
Purchasing Swarang Designs
- “Jaya He” Art museum managed by GVK group at the International Terminal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, Mumbai
- Creo Store, Mumbai
- 11:11 Artisans Centre, Rishikesh