Design from Threesixtyone degree
Rajesh and Anirban Haldar, fashion designers working for pantaloon brand, stitched their dreams late into the night and hemmed their indulgences for a year before they could save enough money to launch their own design house called Threesixtyone degrees in 2006. In conversation with YourStory, the designers, who made their debut in GenNext category at Lakme Fashion Week this year, talk about their future plans to reach international market.
Why an entrepreneur? How both of you came together to start your own design house?
Anirban- I graduated from NIFT in 1999 and worked as a fashion journalist with Images for a year. Subsequently, I managed the Joshipura Design studio in Delhi for five years, handling the India operations and learned the nitty-gritty of running a fashion house in the process. Later, I joined Pantaloon's design team and worked there for another 4 years. I was heading the design team for ethnic wear as well as the women's western wear.
Rajesh- An award winning student of NIFT 2001 batch, i joined Pantaloon's design team to handle the men's casual wear brands. After tenure of five years i was entrusted to head the Design team for Lee Cooper's India venture. I was working with Lee Cooper for almost a year, when i realized that it was about time to give shape to our dream. We shared similar vision and dreamt of having a design house of our own. Though we had started conceptualizing our idea since 2005, we got 'Threesixtyone degrees' registered in May 2006.
What were the challenges and obstacles you faced in initial years?
Rajesh- In November 2005, we hired a place for our sampling and were going for inaugural Puja when Anirban met with an accident. We couldn't do anything for another three months. Finally, we rented the same space and started our operations in May 2006. We needed to immediately start with our sampling and yet continue with our respective jobs. So, for almost a year, we worked in office during the day.... rush to our sampling unit and continue work till 2AM in the morning. That was a challenge but we were happy to go through the grind. After all, it was our own Design House. We also decided to quit our jobs in phases so as to keep our cash-flow intact. I finally decided to concentrate on our business and launch "Threesixtyone degrees" more commercially, I quit Lee Cooper in mid - 2007
Anirban- The challenge was to balance our sampling and work with Pantaloons. We were handling very key positions at our jobs and at no point gave a chance for anyone to feel that we were neglecting our official responsibilities. Secondly, for almost two years we worked continuously without even a single weekly break and had to give up on a lot of important personal commitments.
Turning points in business
Anirban- First major breakthrough was when we got through the Taj Khazana stores in the two Taj properties of Goa in Nov 2006. Currently, we retail our garments through some of the best known fashion stores such as Ensemble, Zoya and Vibe in Mumbai, Elahe in Hyderabad, and Cinnamon in Bangalore and Taj Khazana stores at all the properties of Taj across India.
Rajesh- In April 2008, we got entry into GenNext category of the Lakme Fashion Week to showcase our fall-winter 08 collection. We got tremendous response and were featured extensively in media. That was a huge turning point as we got lot of visibility and appreciation for our work.
As mentioned earlier, we are into many aspects of design solutions and take up related assignments. One important move was to style a promotional video for one television soap. After that we have done various projects of styling and designing costumes for events. One such assignment was to design the costumes for the cheerleaders of Indian Premiere League's T-20 Mohali team.
What are the differentiators of your business?Unanimously - We have our very own and distinctive sensibility for designing clothes. 'ra' is a contemporary womenswear line that stands completely away from the traditional thoughts and norms of Indian design. The USP of the line is the innovative use of intricate Indian ornamentation and surface developments to render a neo world feel. It is to create a sensibility that crosses the boundaries of all ethnicities.
Rajesh and Anirban -You innovate only when you start thinking from the point where it might have looked complete to others. It's about looking at anything from that degree, to start afresh and get more than 360 degree assessment. We want to live up to our name 'Threesixtyone degrees' and explore multiple avenues by building a company that can provide solutions and cater to various needs of this industry. As for 'ra', our plan is to take the name to all possible destinations. We want ra to retail from the best known stores across the globe.
Key requirements for scaling-up the business
Rajesh and Anirban
-We need representatives and showrooms in the US and Europe to reach out to stores there. We would also like to do international shows to be able to reach out to more people.