Two women entrepreneurs are building a size-inclusive sustainable activewear brand for women
Launched in 2021, aastey is a size-inclusive sustainable activewear brand for all women. From creating India’s first sustainable and size inclusive leggings to reaching a community of more than 60,00+ women across cities, aastey is making waves in the athleisure space.
Athleisure has blurred the lines between comfortable workout clothes and stylish street wear. And, while several brands in India have launched activewear to cater to this growing market, few manage to meet customer expectations in terms of fabric quality and size inclusivity.
Jeevika Tyagi and Kanupriya Mundhra have taken up the challenge to build an Indian sustainable athleisure brand for women that’s on par with global powerhouses like Lululemon, Nike, Adidas, and Gymshark.
Launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Mumbai-basedis the country’s first D2C (direct-to-consumer) startup to crack the manufacturing of recycled polyester apparel, according to its founders. The startup offers a wide range of options from leggings and sports bras, to yoga mats, eye masks, tote bags, and more.
“Choosing one aastey leggings is equal to recycling 25 trash bags,” Co-founder Jeevika Tyagi tells HerStory.
A Sanskrit word, aastey means to be fully present in every moment.
The startup has 200 SKUs and operates pan-India. Apart from its own website, it also sells on Amazon and Myntra. aastey’s price range for apparel starts at Rs 1,295 and goes up to Rs 2,495.
The right fit
Through their research, Co-founders Jeevika and Kanupriya found a gap in the fashion industry, especially in how brands, even today, create mutually exclusive categories like petite and plus size.
“Surrounded by brands that had limited availability in sizing and were continuously producing clothes that were harmful to the environment, we wanted to create something polar opposite, something that offers a counter-culture to fast fashion culture. Keeping these things in mind, we decided to build a brand on the foundation of two core values: sustainability and size inclusivity,” Jeevika says.
The co-founder says the idea of aastey was born in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 and the team spent a year building the product.
Jeevika believes that their continuous effort to make the brand sustainable, from manufacturing to packaging sets them apart. The startup doesn't have its own manufacturing facility but sources the fabrics and designs it. Most of the manufacturing takes place outside of India.
Funding and monetisation
aastey crossed Rs 1 crore ARR (annual recurring revenue) within the first six months of launch and is now growing at 3X rate. It has a community of more than 60,000 women across India.
“We will soon be opening our next round of funding to scale online and open our own stores. Early last year, we took the brand to the market post raising a seed round of Rs 10 crore from Kalaari Capital through their CXXO initiative. We are using this round to get early traction and find our product market fit,” Jeevika says.
Roadblocks along the way
aastey, which started with a small team of two founders and an intern, started hiring around its fundraise. It is now a team of 30 people spread across India.
According to Jeevika, it was tough to build the brand.
“No vendor was ready to do low MOQ (minimum order quantity) for sustainable fabrics. Additionally, size inclusivity in the backend means manufacturers make sizes that are not part of their usual cataloguing. Literally, every manufacturer said no to us when we started on this journey. So we couldn’t initially directly plug cloud manufacturing but only post launching it is now a pull effect,” she says.
Sourcing the right fabrics was also a challenge, the co founder adds. The team had to build a global supply chain to be able to work with international manufacturers.
Prior to launching the startup, Jeevika worked with tech startups as a CXO, while Kanupriya has worked in the field of media and communication.
The way ahead
Athleisure market in India gained traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic as people started focussing on their health.
“The increased consciousness led to a surge in the demand for athleisure and activewear. Today, athleisure has turned itself into an industry. The Indian athleisure industry is worth Rs 54,000 crore. Today, athleisure is the only category of clothing that is now socially acceptable to be worn visually and actively. No longer are airport looks just for the airport,” she says.
aastey plans to go deeper into the Indian TG (target group), presently it is available 60% in tier-I cities and 40% in tier-II cities. Its idea is to switch this proposition to 30:70, with 70% expansion in tier-II cities.
“We want to grow exponentially on all present existing revenue streams/online markets and look to go offline with our next raise. We truly believe the innovation we have done with our fabrics needs to be felt by the community,” highlights Jeevika.
(The copy was updated to correct the year of launch.)
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti