Scores of entrepreneurs set up stalls and do brisk business in pop-up events. But rarely does one make an instant connect with the founder, so much so you end up not only becoming a loyal customer but also see a potential friendship blooming. Well, this happened with Archana Ravi, the owner of Slowthreads, a responsible brand that urges us to try slow fashion, giving some thought to our environment and sustainability. But till she started Slowthreads Archana was a fast fashion consumer herself, who loved shopping! We are curious to find out more about Archana and how this transformation came about.
Constant desire for challenges
Archana is from Chennai and having grown up seeing financial troubles at home, she decided early on that she wanted to make money. In her own words, “I thought that would make life so much better!” In pursuit of this she worked at many corporate companies starting with Standard Chartered Bank, moving onto Hutch (Now Vodaphone), Royal Sundaram and then onto a Fintech company where she helped support and transition their operations from UK to Chennai. She wanted to move into technology from customer support and she did. “I need constant challenges, or else I get bored,” she says. But software delivery took its toll on her health and as a young mother she was heading for a burn out. “In all the companies I’ve worked at, I’ve built things from scratch. So I knew I was good at it and decided to try it as an entrepreneur,” she adds.
The sure shift towards sustainability
Then came time for researching the fashion business. “Initially I didn’t think about sustainability. For me, it was more the merrier at that point in time as a fast fashion consumer. But slowly I started realising the impact of fast fasion. It didn’t hit me instantly but it got me thinking. I didn’t want to do something that keeps adding to this negative impact. I wanted to be mindful in what we make and consume,” she shares about how she switched tracks to slow fashion. Soon Archana also realised that no brand can claim to be 100% sustainable. “When you drill down you’ll see some breaks somewhere. I take great care to ensure I use recyclable material for packaging. But when I had to send a large consignment I tried many ways of packing it responsibly. I even tried cornstarch packaging but it was raining and it wouldn’t hold up. Finally I was forced to resort to plastic. So I call Slowthreads a responsible brand. Sustainable is not a claim I, or I suspect any brand, can honestly make.”
The language of slow fashion
“It’s that category of fashion that’s not mass produced. So I pick fabric and dyes that are natural. Many prospective customers shy away from these fabrics because the colours will fade. They think clothes that run colour are bad quality but they are actually more exclusive and safer for the environment and ultimately our health. For the fabric, I prefer Kala cotton as it’s a hardy crop that doesn’t consume too much water and can withstand pests and insects. I source it from a weaver in Kutch and I also source Khadi from Anu Prerna, a collective of 300+ weavers in West Bengal, that supplies predyed handwoven fabric. This fabric in colours I choose, get sent to my design team in Delhi where samples are made as per my design preferences and held, till I receive orders. So that’s the process. I realise that sitting in Chennai and sourcing from other places will not hold up as I scale, but this is my experimentation stage and as a small brand I can do this now,” Archana, elaborates on the process.
The universal charm of shirt dresses
Design-wise Archana has been keen on stocking shirt dresses. “I’m a plus size myself. So I was clear that what I design should suit anybody and make them feel good. So shirt dresses fit the bill. They complement any body type making the wearer feel comfortable and smart, no matter what their size. I had a friend who was conscious about wearing knee length dresses because she felt they made her look bulky. She was helping out at one of my pop-ups wearing a Slowthreads shirt dress and we would have people coming up and complimenting her and wanting to try the style she was wearing. That made her feel confident and smart. And it was exactly what I was hoping achieve!” she shares excitedly.
Kindness is key
Archana started off Slowthreads, giving herself a 6-month trial period. But when she made money from her first pop up, she knew she was on the right path. “I made Rs.20k and was thrilled. And I love participating in exhibitions because it helps me meet my customers first hand. I’ve already participated in 13 pop ups and have built a loyal customer base. While my friends used to tease saying I’ll only have arty aunties buying my stuff, I’ve had all kinds of people interested in the designs I have to offer. I still remember this sweeper lady at the venue where I was participating look at the dresses and ask me curiously,”Evalavu ma?” (How much do they cost?). She was looking at them for her daughter, but was awed by the price. I assured her, one day she’ll be able to afford it and she went away happy. I believe kindness is the cornerstone for my brand. I’ve been to stores where the owners and the staff act so uppity it puts me off. And I vowed I would never treat people that way. If they come to my store, irrespective of how they look or speak, I’m going to pitch my brand and class is never going to come in the way!” declares Archana.
Move the marketing to platforms
The journey so far has been exhilarating for Archana but also intense and exhausting. “I do everything myself right down to the packing stuff. So my focus now is to make my brand available on a multibrand platform that attacts my audience profile and will take care of the hassle of marketing. There’s no point going to popular platforms that sell fast fashion that’s way cheaper. Market-wise in South India, Bengaluru has been very kind to me. They understand slow fashion and I don’t have to spend time explaining it. Kochi too has been a good market for Slowthreads. Passion for what I do has brought me so far and I think it’s time to move to the next level!” concludes Archana.
Shop for slow fashion at slowthreads.in