Ex Wall Street investment banker launches a fashion label- 335th
Following a successful career as an investment banker with UBS in New York, Poornima Vardhan returned to India to become an entrepreneur. While she was planning to make her move, she observed that people generally focussed on looking good rather than feeling good. “There was a fit for every kind - slim fit, petite fit and more. But I did not find a confidence fit anywhere; clothes and accessories that make us look and feel confident,” says Poornima. Thus began her entrepreneurial journey with 335th, an innovative fashion concept of ‘Fitwear’. Fitwear refers to clothing and accessories fused with shapewear to smoothen your silhouette and flatter your body.
How an investment banker turned fashionista
Poornima holds an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School (Joseph Wharton Scholar), including a Master’s Degree in Operational Research from The London School of Economics and an Undergraduate degree in mathematics from St. Stephen’s college, New Delhi. Being a finance and accounting expert, Poornima had absolutely no idea about the world of fashion. She started from the basics by researching in China on different kinds of fabrics that give shape to the body and flatter the silhouette.
“Initially, I got all my employees to work part time since we were developing the concept and products. While working on an innovative idea it has always been a challenge to convince people to join us but I have been lucky so far,” says Poornima. The startup relies immensely on Research and Development (R&D). Each product goes through extensive R&D in the areas of fabrics, fits, construction and other details.
What’s in the name?
Deciding on the name of the company was an arduous task, reminisces Poornima. “The primary reason for the name 335th was that the clarity of launching my first venture with the concept of ‘Fitwear’ was crystallized at the address ‘335th’,” she reveals with a chuckle. She also wanted a company name that would be global and transcend language barrier. Being a mathematician at heart, numbers were an obvious choice for Poornima given that they have a higher recall value.
Positioning and offerings
335th is a premium brand of clothing and accessories that flatters your body and provides a custom fit. It is positioned to offer clothes that hide the inconsistencies of one’s body without compromising on style, quality and comfort. The company’s debut collection features women's leggings in solids and prints.
Working with industry experts in India and China, 335th created a special poly viscose elastane blend for its leggings. “We wanted the blend to define the shape of the body, provide comfort, be high on style, and soft to touch. We have worked with double contoured seams in the leggings that create a slimmer silhouette for the legs and the lower body,” adds Poornima. The four inch elasticized waistband firms the stomach thereby giving a flatter and smoother look.
Challenges & Road ahead
One of the biggest challenge for any new brand is distribution, and 335th will leverage both online as well as brick and mortar model. It is negotiating with several retailers for distribution. “However, margins and retail space are challenges that we continue to face as the rentals are extremely high,” rues Poornima. To overcome these challenges, the company is planning to launch its e-commerce store shortly.
“For our next season, Spring Summer 2014, we are launching an entire range of women’s wear,” reveals Poornima. Her company is also working on a men’s wear collection for Autumn Winter 2014. Over the next two years 335th will expand to other geographies and continue to focus on R&D to diversify and develop new products.