Kyra & Vir: Making designer wear affordable and accessible across the worldAthira Nair
The San Francisco-based curated fashion marketplace connects customers with a suite of boutique designers for custom-made outfits
Kyra stands for a 'strong woman' and the name Vir is often associated with a ‘brave man’. Together, Kyra & Vir represents a strong, modern entity with its own sense of style, purpose, and, most importantly, soul.
This is exactly why Akta Adani, 32, chose to name her startup Kyra & Vir. The San Francisco-based curated fashion marketplace connects customers across the world with local boutique designers. Founded in 2015, the company focuses on making designer wear accessible and affordable.
It was while planning her own wedding that Akta realised that shopping should be a pleasant, engaging and bespoke experience and not one fraught with challenges. “I constantly found myself making a trade-off between quality and price. I realised that high-end designers have limited designs, offered no customisation and had very high mark-ups. It was my quest for something more personal that led me to start Kyra & Vir,” she says.
Two years later, Kyra & Vir has 50 designers from across the world catering to customers in 25 countries — including Australia, Canada, Norway, and New Zealand — with the US being their biggest base.
Mumbai girl in San Francisco
Originally from Mumbai, Akta started her career as a finance associate and worked for over 10 years with international organisations including Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg. But coming from an entrepreneurial family, it was only a matter of time before Akta started her own venture. Her mother Swati Adani, an established designer in Mumbai, is her role model.
“Growing up, I have always admired her grit and determination. Coming from a small town with just a high-school degree, her business grew from a one-woman enterprise to build a team of 25, and created many opportunities for artisans. Her business was among the few that flourished even during the recession. Her learnings, rigour and perseverance are qualities I embrace and live by every day,” says Akta.
But starting own business with almost zero to minimal resources was difficult. “However, I also believe it brings out the best in you – to think creatively, and do more with less,” she says.
Taking customer experience to a new level
Kyra & Vir offers consumers outfits based on their preferences, personalities and price points. The company’s digital platform allows customers to design outfits from scratch or customise existing ones via their mobile phones. Each outfit is made-to-order based on customer measurements to achieve that perfect fit, and is delivered in a few weeks.
Akta believes that what consumers actually care about is wearing clothes that help them embrace their personality. “We are debunking the myth that you have to wear what is on trend. We have styles that have been around for six months and continue to be our bestsellers. That’s because it is made and inspired by consumers,” she says.
Choosing a business model
Kyra & Vir primarily targets professionals who have no time to go to retail outlets. Every consumer gets paired with a stylist who will work towards designing a look that meets their price point. They provide Indian, Western and fusion styles.
By partnering with indie designers, Akta claims, Kyra & Vir offers made-to order products at affordable prices. There is absolutely no mass production or waste. “As a company, we believe in providing them an entire eco system - right from logistics, customer service to customer insights and expertise,” she adds.
Kyra & Vir has 50 designers and they use only locally sourced, handcrafted materials. “Adapting to the changing trends, sustaining quality, collaborating with designers, and maintaining constant social media interaction are the wheels on which we stand on,” says Akta. For branding, they work with bloggers, smaller businesses, communities and loyal customers.
For Kyra & Vir, anyone who allows one to think of his/her wardrobe in a different way is their competitor. “Our focus is to build a brand from scratch. We want to challenge the traditional, mass produced products,” Akta clarifies.
Growth and expansion plans
Akta had bootstrapped the company for the first six months. She raised funding from Arena Ventures in late 2015. Kyra & Vir now has a team of eight employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with a regional office in Mumbai.
Having offices both in the US and India facilitates 24/7 customer service for Kyra & Vir, which considers itself a global company. According to Akta, whether it is the right colours of the seasons, prints that are trending or fabrics that can accentuate a design, the whole team – the designers, the seamstresses, administrators, and sales staff – is involved in catering to the customers’ preferences.
When asked about profitability, Akta says, “As a company, we are focused on growth and expanding our business operations. Therefore, we continue to spend our time and resources in attracting the best talent.” She claims that since the launch, they have grown approximately 150 percent in revenue.
Kyra & Vir’s biggest demand is for womenswear. In the next few months, they will be launching an entire ‘shop the look’ experience for women, and eventually offer products for men and children. In the long run, Kyra & Vir hopes to be the destination for handcrafted, high quality and unique products from different cultures around the world. Their USP is their advantage here - it is not just about bringing the best designs to the customer, it is about bringing the design that’s best for them.