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How to Start a Techwear Brand: Part 3, Support and Sampling.

The first two parts of this have contained a lot of ‘I’ so in this part let's talk about someone else. 

Introducing Kiran Sahrawat. 

I often describe my mum as “a true one in 7 billion”. She’s had an extremely colourful life filled with ups and downs and has taught me more stuff than anyone I’ve ever known. 

She holds a Ph.D. in accounting and finance, but we aren’t going to focus on that. Instead, we are going to talk about her time as an entrepreneur. Back in the '80s, she opened ‘Shimmers’, a couture boutique, the first of its kind in our hometown. 

I wasn’t alive to see it, but everyone I’ve talked to says that she was the queen of our city at the time.

She started the boutique as a side hustle, while teaching accounting and finance at the local university. Over time she outgrew the house where she was operating the business, as her staff expanded. She rented out a showroom and the business continued to grow. She was mainly dealing in occasional and bridal wear. 

At some point my dad convinced her to move into menswear too, which she did, unfortunately, she invested too heavily into the new venture which had a very small demand at the time. I’m sure there were other factors, twists, and turns along the way but when she speaks about it she points to the transition to menswear as the beginning of the end. In the early 90’s she shut the business down.

20 something years later her son approaches her and says "I'm going to make menswear"... imagine her dismay. 

After explaining the textiles and general direction I had in mind she simply said “you should do it”. 

Over the next few months, she gave me a crash course in fashion, explaining the garment creation process, different styles of cutting, finishing, and so on. During her time running ‘Shimmers’ she also guest lectured at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), as a result, she felt very comfortable teaching me. Even if this idea I had in my head never came to life, I was happy that I was getting to spend time with my mum who at the time was still undergoing treatment for her cancer. 

After she taught me all she could it was time to move into the next phase, the 'learn as you go’ phase. 

I have an idea, I know the approximate process to execute the idea, so let's start. 

Step 1, find some fabrics and someone to sample. I was working 2 jobs at the time with every second Saturday off. So I had 2 opportunities per month to make progress on Garuda. I spent these by going to local fabric shops and picking up cheap fabrics to sample with. I would also talk to the salespeople at the shops, and ask if they could recommend a good tailor who could sample and subsequently teach me the basics of cutting. My mum had hammered into my head that learning to sew is useful but being good at cutting is far more important. 

I visited several tailors that had been recommended to me. The problem was, the moment they saw my sketches they would say “this is too complicated for me sorry”… after a few weeks I finally found someone willing to give it a try and I left the measurements and sketches with them. 

A few weeks passed and finally, the first sample was ready. I went to collect it the following weekend, needless to say, I was excited. To my surprise the first sample was almost perfect, it fit well, the features were all as imagined and I had no complaints. I asked the tailor to produce a pattern and grading for the sample to which he responded "I don’t know how to grade we only do bespoke". Are you kidding me, so I just wasted weeks in addition to money, and all I have is one pair of pants? I took the L and went back to the drawing board. 

In the next part, I'll talk about my first experience with a professional pattern maker and the rude awakening of how expensive making clothes is.

<- Part 2 / Part 4 ->

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