The Husband-Wife Duo behind Mumbai Startup ‘I Wear Me’BringArtBackto T-shirt Designs
What makes a t-shirt cool or funky? A wacky one-liner? Or maybe a funny image?
The entrepreneur duo behind I Wear Me believe creative graphics and art can add that WOW factor to t-shirt designs.
I Wear Me started its journey on 24th April, 2011. Hina Palkar, Founder & Director, I Wear Me, is a photographer and a design maniac. She loves to play around with shapes and create new geometry. She has worked as a graphic designer in various agencies like Blue Stocking, Kolkata and Adverto Advertising, Bangalore.
Ashwin Palkar, Co-Founder & Director, I Wear Me, hails from advertising and branding space. He describes himself as a gadget freak, photography addict and an avid traveler.
YourStory recently caught up with them and had a candid chat about I Wear Me’s journey so far and plans for the near future.
How did I Wear Me journey start?
As creative souls, inclination towards art, design came naturally to us. The idea to use t-shirt as a canvas to express a designer’s creativity left us spell bound. Also the need of having a design led brand in the market led us to this experiment.
We started I Wear Me on 24th April, 2011, primarily to promote art and design in the Indian community. As designers we always thought there could be so much that could be done in terms of designing on a
t-shirt is concerned. We have always seen one liners, humors and tongue in cheek statements floating around. It was boring and hence we wanted to do something different and bring a fresh wave of design trend. We want to build a community of art and t-shirt lovers where one can see the value of a creative graphic, art, aesthetics, etc and see what beautiful graphics could do to a t-shirt.
I Wear Me packaging; T-shirt are dispatched in reusable tubes to customers
What makes I Wear Me different?
The brands USP solely is the unique and creative designs that it offers to its customers. Secondly, I Wear Me also focus on being green. We offer products, which are sustainably manufactured with minimum harm to our planet. We recently partnered with Shop For Change, to promote fair trade and use of organic cotton clothing in India. Our t-shirts are manufactured in fair trade factories, which do not support child labor or use toxic dyes and harmful chemicals. The best part farmers are paid a fair price for their produce. This ensures that we as designers get a high quality and virgin cotton free from chemicals and harmful fertilizers. We also ensure that we do a very limited print run of every design that we make. This makes sure that every product is unique. IWM’s core objective is to offer a superior design experience through our t-shirts.
What's your business model?
As of today our revenues come in from what we love doing the most. That is designing awesome looking t-shirts. We currently offer two ranges; a completely organic range and acotton modal range. Both ranges are eco friendly and have been manufactured using sustainable production processes. Our revenues also come from corporate sales, here too we value add by offering our clients a design solution rather than doing a cut paste job of a logo. We try to make every design a unique one and identifiable to that particular brand/corporate. We have an online e-store, which is powered by robust e-commerce software; the store gives us our major source of revenue. We intend to invite other complementary brands having similar interests towards art and design for cross selling. It’s a good way to promote art in India.
Some of the major recognition that I Wear Me has received.
The major achievement came for us on 24th April, 2011 when we actually went live with our e-store. Our first order came the very next day. We haven’t yet received any awards or so but we are glad that I Wear Me has managed to get mentions in national publications across India. This in itself is an amazing high considering the fact that both of us have no background in textiles.
Where do you see I Wear Me five years from now?
At I Wear Me we take things as it comes, but having said that the brand has grown over the first year and it makes us even more responsible and things are more challenging now. Going forward we are looking at every aspect to improve our brand offerings, build a core team of experienced and young talent. Continue the mission of promoting art and design.
On the product front we are looking to expand our product offerings too. There are exciting products in the pipeline and am sure our fans will be all excited to see them.
Currently we want to grow our online store. IWM has also started to retail its t-shirts from various stores in major Indian cities. We would continue to build a strong retail network. We have been asked a lot if there is a brand store in the offing, “ Well we definitely want it but it will take some time before we launch that” We are also planning to stock our products at various other multi-brand e-store, this gives us visibility.
We are also building our core team. We are looking to partner with talents across various design schools in India and abroad. This is done mainly in the interest of churning out pure design work for the brand.
How has the experience of starting up with your better-half been?
It is fun and at the same time challenging. Fun because it is easier to be in sync with somebody whom you know. Most startups face hurdles because of difference of opinions, ego clashes amongst its founders. In our case it was minimal since we knew each other well and we knew exactly what our strength and limitations were. It helped us plan our role more efficiently and effectively.
It also ensured we spent more time together. We had fun while working and that was the key.
What will you suggest other husband-wife duos like you to do in order to maintain a balance between their personal and professional life?
The key lies in understanding. Tough both will be together most of the time as they are working on the same venture, it is very important to spend quality personal time as well. There should be dedicated time defined for professional and personal purposes. Never dilute your personal time with work even if it involves your own venture. By doing that you are robbing your spouse of his/her right of having a quality personal time.
Do not press for things to happen. Make sure you don’t get into bossy moods. You work within a relationship and one needs to respect that while at work. Discuss things often, both about work and life, but do it separately. Have a regular check on your finances, as it’s a lifeline of any business.
Lastly, have lots of fun while working as this sets the tone for a great partnership.
What were the challenges of starting up?
The biggest challenge was to educate our families and build trust within them. Convincing them that I Wear Me would be a successful initiative was the hardest part. I think support from the family is very essential during the initial days. It not only builds the confidence of an entrepreneur but also helps him/her to focus on the business. We did a lot of bootstrapping in our initial days. It is important to avoid unnecessary expenses, etc. Another big challenge is to find right vendors and people to work with. It’s very important for any startup to work with not only the best but the right talent. Joys and challenges are a part and parcel of any startup and one needs to learn the tricks to balance both smartly.