“Our goal is to scout for and give a platform to brands and creators who have a unique voice, a focus on design and are authentic with what they do,” says Sakshi Bhoolabhai, co-founder of IN-D.CO, a platform for India’s most outspoken independent brands. She started this platform with her childhood friend, Isha, whom she had known all her life. The two of them had always loved design, and used it as a means of self-expression. However, they feel that in a world that endorses fast fashion and sustains itself on everchanging trends, the authenticity of expression gets eclipsed.
“We began to feel lost,” rues Sakshi.
It was then that they started scouting for brands from all around India, that resonated with their credo. On finding many unique creators and craftsmen from around the country, they decided to build a platform to highlight those unique homegrown brands and tell their stories. The motive was to create a safe space for consumers to explore the best Indian brands and let them decide what resonates with them; in other words, create a safe space for self-expression.
The duo was meant to launch their business with an online-offline model on March 2020 but was forced to forego their plan because of the onset of the global pandemic. They launched in July, keeping in mind the precepts of the new world. Currently, they are operating online with an e-commerce store, but plan to host events and pop-ups in different cities to highlight local creators going forward. The pandemic has shaped their business in a manner different from what they had initially planned, but they are determined to ride it through and make those plans a reality when the time is right.
In their firm, products are curated based on design, authenticity and value systems.
“We are very interested in learning and telling the stories behind each product. Who made them, with what inspiration, with what material - all of these questions are considered and asked to each brand. We look for transparency and intent in creation,” affirms Sakshi.
IN-D.co works with independent brands across the country who in turn, work with artisans from all parts of India – from Dimapur, Nagaland to Kutch, Gujarat. The organisation makes it a point to cultivate personal relationships with those brands, engaging in open conversations with them about their products and the artists who are involved in making them.
“We have photographs and videos of each maker creating the products to vet the processes. We also feature these photos on our website and social media to bring recognition to the makers of the products, ” says Sakshi.
By providing a platform for these products to contemporary customers, they hope to directly affect the makers and take the ethos of their crafts (handloom, block-print, wood carving, bamboo weaving etc.) forward. They also aim to push out a message to consumers to shop local and homegrown, so that they begin to value thoughtful creations made by independent brands over those by big box brands sustaining themselves on fast fashion.
Having said that, Sakshi and Isha do feel that, owing to zero retail visibility, independent brands lack a voice in India. As a result, they have to mostly rely on social media and pop-up exhibitions for garnering prominence, while retail visibility lies primarily with International Big Box Brands, which, along with international trends, tend to affect younger consumers. However, the duo feels that in a post-pandemic world, consumers are more conscious about shopping local; so there has been a shift in demand for independent brands. Even though there is still a long way to go, they feel that inculcating awareness through storytelling could eventually shift the needle in favour of independent brands going forward.
“We give a voice to brands that stand for something - from creating Gender Neutral fashion and jewellery, the usage of Artisanal Crafts in contemporary products, Up-cycling of materials to create jewellery, Handwoven Fabrics in fashion, Conversational Clothing and the usage of Sustainable Materials and practices,” says Sakshi.
With more and more people appreciating independent brands and preferring to shop local, more creators are taking the leap to start their own brands with their own unique messages and products. Sakshi and Isha hope that this trend will continue, wherein people will eventually move away from international trends and start using homegrown fashion and objects as a means to self-expression.
Sakshi has worked with architects Bijoy Jain, Abha Narain Lambah, and Rooshad Shroff. She has an eye for design and loves old buildings, gardens and spaces and objects with character.
Isha has a robust background in the business, technology and startup world. She has worked with several startups in San Francisco before moving back to India to pursue her love for design and Indian craft. In India, she has led the expansion for MindSumo, a crowdsourcing startup while travelling across the country to meet craftsmen and build a personal network. She works on reviving traditional crafts by working with brands, designers and architects to bridge the gap between maker and consumer.
Check out their Instagram here.
If you enjoyed reading this article, we suggest you also read: