Get Down to Brass Tacks…
Anaka Narayanan is a feisty young entrepreneur who converted her love for Indian textiles to set up Brass Tacks, a brand that celebrates the union of Indian fabrics with western silhouettes. At her flagship store in Chennai’s bustling Alwarpet area, she shared her inspiration & insights from her 10-year journey….
Find Inspiration: I’ve grown up surrounded by handwoven & tie-dye textiles. They’re a part of my childhood – so it was hard to not be drawn towards handcrafted Indian textiles!
Personally connect with your Idea: I started with making clothes that I would personally love to wear and transitioned to making Indian fabrics a contemporary choice for women. I loved the silhouettes and style of the West but didn’t like the fabrics. Indian textiles are great, but I felt someone needed to translate the Indian fabrics to modern silhouettes.
Get your Basics Right: The book by Helen Joseph on Pattern making which is like a bible for budding designers, was a good start but I realized that Indian women were of a different body type. I must have measured close to a 100 woman and to prepare a size chart that works for Indian women by sticking to the core basics of pattern making. I have all of them to thank, along with a few friends who graciously offered to be measured!
Research pays off!: I would say all the research that went into figuring out our Indian “standard” size chart really paid off. Our size chart tailored to Indian women is one of the reason our pants do so well – we have the waist-hip ratio figured out! We also make clothes that are well cut
Choose who you stand for, you cannot please everyone: If you are in the business of clothing, you can’t cater to all body types. People will choose a style that will fit them. My clothes are well fitted as opposed to body hugging. Even styles that are essentially loose (the clamp shibori top for example) are well cut, so they fit a body type well.
Accept that social norms influence customer choices: Clients’ tastes and choices are influenced by the society they live in. So, a client looking for something to wear to her cousin’s wedding after party may not pick up a dress because it may be too flattering, but she will pick up a printed or a smart trouser and a nicely fit shirt, which looks great as well.
People, People, People: I got lucky! I found my core team of two tailors within weeks. My pattern-maker joined within our 4th month. Our production manager, started as a consultant and joined full-time a few months later. I have now been able to build a team that is aligned with my vision. From a team of 5, we are now 23!
In the real world or the online world: For a brand targeting a niche segment, a physical store is very important. It communicates your brand philosophy more effectively. For a website, the investment in marketing has to be continuous and in large amounts. I still feel Indian customers are wary of ordering clothes online. They have to touch & feel the fabric, and try it, to buy it.
Start small, stay steady: I started off with a small mailing list from friends and family, and then built it organically by collecting emails and phone numbers from customers. Emails work really well for Brass Tacks. The way we engage with people on our Facebook page has also helped our shoppers understand what the line is all about.
Competition spurs creativity: I welcome competition because I feel that creative energies feed off of each other. If someone finds it easy to copy my designs , it means I need to do a better job to keep my brand unique!
Keep at it!: Don’t be afraid to seek advice. I have a few mentors with whom I still meet as it’s great to have someone with a lot more knowledge & experience than you. Breathe, take a break and come back to it!