How this self-taught designer decided to live her entrepreneurial dream during the pandemic
In 2019, Rhea Bhattacharya shut her digital marketing firm TattleTale to begin working towards her dream entrepreneurial venture,– a womenswear brand based in Gurugram.
Just as she had begun the backend work and placed orders for the first batch of products to manufacturers, she had to cancel them due to the COVID-19 outbreak and return home with a few pieces that were already produced.
"The brand was supposed to launch in 2020 but I was not sure how to launch a clothing label when no one was shopping and everyone was just sitting at home. Factories and manufacturing facilities were shut and the general atmosphere was not very jovial," she tells HerStory, recalling the rocky start to her business.
However, as people got accustomed to the new normal and overcame the uncertainties arising from the pandemic, so did her business.
Around September last year, Rhea decided to try on the apparel herself, posted a few photos, and kickstarted the brand amid positive responses from netizens. By November 2021, it had shipped about 2,500 orders of limited designs and prints.
Living the dream
Rhea always wanted to be a designer and remained close to her passion but only as a fashion journalist writing for magazines like Grazia and Cosmopolitan. She later pivoted into public relations and worked as a celebrity publicist, which kept her connected to the world of stylists and designers.
Through her digital marketing firm TattleTale, she helped several small brands with content creation.
“But I did not see myself doing this after 10 or 20 years. Having seen adequate backend work of fashion labels small and big, I decided to give it a go with my own womenswear brand,” she says.
As an entrepreneur and self-taught designer, Rhea did not set out to do anything “ground-breaking” but to offer everyday, comfortable wear for Indian women.
“We have so many outfits in the closet but the options, at least in my closet, remain fairly limited to a white shirt and a blue pinstripe shirt. I noted the gap and realised that many working women, especially those who are older and middle-aged, are looking for everyday wearable options that are so limited right now,” she explains.
Bootstrapped with her savings, Drawn aims “to take very classic and simple silhouettes and deliver them in new and fun ways of doing prints.”
The 34-year-old entrepreneur started with a clear target audience in mind: working women like herself aged between 28-45 years old whose earning capacities were high and stable at this age. However, Drawn found customers in young, college-going students and even a 65-year-old woman for its apparel priced between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,500.
Sold online through its website, Drawn’s products will be launched at retail stores in New York and multi-designer stores in India in the coming year.
Starting up amid the pandemic
Rhea says that it was a challenge to find manufacturers who would work with small businesses, producing smaller batches of products without charging an exorbitant price. Even though Rhea started working with a manufacturer in her network, coordinating logistics to launch virtually and ship the products has been a challenge.
In 2020, India became the sixth-largest market for women’s apparel in the world, according to Statista. The pandemic saw many small businesses and homegrown brands like Drawn, which share the market space with established brands like Zara, H&M, and Marks and Spencer, among others.
Drawn relied on social media platforms for marketing. “When times were uncertain, it was very difficult to try and convince people to be optimistic, happy and shop when the general environment during the pandemic is demotivating,” Rhea says.
Now the entrepreneur is taking a conservative approach towards growth and looks to expand product categories based on sales and customer feedback, among other factors.
Edited by Kanishk Singh