Vasumathi Soundararajan, Fashion Design ’10, chief underwearist of the new brand Ken Wroy, recounts her most salient lessons from her first year in business.
When doing market research, sales associates are the best teachers. They do like to talk. I learned all about the brands out there, and the best sellers for each age group, why some brands cost more, etc.
Some people buy expensive underwear, like $60 a pair.
Each buyer for a retail store starts with only 20 to 30 pieces. After all the effort of getting the buyer, that number seemed low. But it has pushed me to look for other ways to sell. Also, many of these stores sell on a consignment basis: A shop owner will give me space to display my product, and he pays me based on what I sold for the month. That can still be a great opportunity, though.
I used to wonder why brands spend so much on branding, and whether that was necessary. India isn’t so much into branding, so I didn’t expect that everything would boil down to a brand. Now I understand its importance. Certain demographics won’t even look at underwear if it’s not branded. They won’t even give it a chance.
Another thing I was not ready for was the emotional roller coaster of working for myself.
Underwear is such a small product, one would imagine that a factory could pull it off with no trouble. At every step, I learned not to take anything for granted.
In Tirupur, where my product was being dyed, many dyeing houses were shut down recently because there was no proper chemical treatment plant.
People are not used to women designing for men—it’s almost always the other way around. And they don’t expect an Indian woman behind the work. It’s a conversation starter, an opportunity for me to show that I’m passionate about it.