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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

6 May 2015

Talking e-commerce and artisans with Indelust's Sana Rezwan Sait

Contributor Sarah Ditty

Sana Rezwan Sait bio

SOURCE catches up with seasoned fashion industry veteran Sana Rezwan Sait, who recently launched Indelust, an e-commerce platform bringing beautifully designed, ethically sourced fashion from south Asia to the global market.

Sana Rezwan Sait is the Founder and Creative Director of Indelust – an online shop showcasing a curation of sustainably sourced fashion, art and design by emerging designers, artisans and innovators from the Indian Subcontinent.

Indelust is a destination where artisans can work with fashion-forward designers to create clothes, accessories and homewares that inspire for a lifetime. What’s stocked on Indelust has been very carefully selected with Sana’s exceptionally high level of taste and a fierce eye for detail.

Born in Bangalore, Sana is passionate about high fashion and has worked with Stella McCartney, Jasmine DiMilo, Giorgio Armani, and Liberty of London. Since 2007, Sana has served as the CEO and Creative Director of 23 Carat – a creative consultancy and strategic advisory firm based in New York and Bangalore.

In 2011, Sana launched Maison, a luxury fashion concept store in India (and the country’s first online concept boutique), selling the world’s top international brands from Saint Laurent to Givenchy. In her spare time, Sana consults for start-ups, contributes to fashion magazines and currently sits on the Creative Advisory Council of the Nest Guild.

Here we sit down with Sana to discuss how Indelust is helping to shine a global light on forward-thinking designers from south Asia. Sana also shares with us her thoughts on what’s happening across the global market for fashion more generally.

Why is the time right for Indelust to bring fashion products from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh to the global market?

There are so many creative and innovative designers coming out of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc., and some designers who have studied and/or worked abroad, but have come back ‘home’ to re-interpret what they learned utilising traditional styles and techniques. As an Indian, I am proud that we are finally doing something the rest of the world is paying attention to. Indelust is an expression of this new fashion sense and confidence emerging from our part of the world.

At the same time, the rise of ‘fast fashion’ has created a number of social issues, primarily in the developing world, which have come about because many of the large fashion houses are not taking responsibility for the inputs to their supply chain. The most obvious example is the Bangladeshi garment disaster in 2013, but there are also everyday examples, such as the artisan community, where centuries of skilled craftsmanship is being substituted for cheap, mass produced products.

In the long run, this type of production does not provide a sustainable income for workers and we are losing our artists and heritage. These artists represent handcrafting traditions centuries old that are in danger of disappearing forever. It is our belief that we can revive and support these artists by connecting them to consumers who value quality, tradition and craft craftsmanship.

Have you noticed a growing consumer desire for artisan-made products? If not, how do you think Indelust will help kick-start this?

I don’t think it’s a trend per se. I think at the core of true luxury goods, you will always find artisan made products. I do think, however, consumers these days have been a bit misled by the mega marketing machines that have taken over many of these luxury houses. We no longer invest in the artisanship behind an Hermes bag, or if we do, it’s secondary only to the prestige of what possessing this label will say about us.

You started the Bangalore-based concept store, Maison. What made you decide to go online by launching Indelust?

I think what’s happening in the world of e-commerce is interesting. I think it’s created a profound dialogue between the consumer and the brand. I wanted to showcase the product featured on Indelust in a forum by which we could engage in this dialogue on a global scale… Because after all, sustainability is a global responsibility.

It’s always hard to capture the amazing quality, detail and beauty of artisanal handcrafted products online. How do you deal with this challenge?

Technology has come a long way since the the advent of e-commerce over a decade ago. At Indelust, we use the latest technology and employ a digital team that portray our merchandise in the most accurate, vivid, and detailed way. I think as consumers in this day and age, we’ve learned how to trust our retailers discretion when we cannot necessarily touch something.

To supplement this, we’ve opened a store in Bangalore that brings the Indelust experience to a brick and mortar. We also have many pop up shops and trunk shows throughout the year to help add another dimension to the Indelust experience for our customers. We are planning on opening our first U.S. brick and mortar in NYC in the near future.

Indelust pop-up shop in New York City for Fashion Revolution Day last month

How do you find new brands to stock? What makes products stand out? Tell us about the Indelust reviewal process.

We find our designers through Instagram, tradeshows or word of mouth. We choose designers that are re-interpreting ancient traditions and techniques in a modern, more minimalist context. We also select partners who are producing ethically and creating a sustainable livelihood for the people they work with.

We do our best to support the vast network of artisans and craftspeople throughout the Subcontinent. AIACA (All India’s Artisans & Craftworkers Association) was a great place for us to start tapping into the groups they support. At this stage, we are focusing on designers who work with artisans, but as our network expands and brand grows, we would like to also connect artisans to designers.

Some of our suppliers were chosen because of their social mission, e.g., they are committed to working in economically disadvantaged communities or are actively trying to revive ancient artisan techniques and traditions. We don’t need external reviewers for these enterprises since their entire operation is based on delivering social impact.

We also work with new emerging designers who work with artisans to create handmade unique products. We ask NEST to conduct an ‘Artisan Audit’ on these suppliers in order to assess how their business is structured and to help them achieve scale sustainably and ethically.

NEST will evaluate the designers’ hiring process, employees/artisan demographic data, artisan participation in decision-making, artisan training and pay, work hours, workshop safety and the production process. Whether or not NEST conducts a formal review, all our suppliers must sign and comply with a ‘Code of Ethics’ – developed by Indelust and NEST.

One of the makers of Kaligarh’s beautiful jewellery

What are some of your best selling brands and/or products?

We have a great mix of brands, our ready to wear sells very well in India and our home décor and jewellery sells in Australia and the US.

Indelust stocks SOURCE member brand, Kaligarh

Who are Indelust’s customers? What kind of people are they and what do you think the major factors are in their buying decisions?

Indelust targets 25 to 45 year-old women and men who think globally and are socially responsible, but are not necessarily passionate activists consumed by a cause. While they love fashion, they aren’t dictated by labels or trends. They tend to combine contemporary labels with vintage and purchase pieces that will last in their wardrobes a lifetime.

Our initial customers were concentrated in the US (NY, Portland, Austin, etc.), but I am happy to say we have seen a huge increase in shoppers from India and other countries.

How’s Indelust doing – are you growing?

We launched the business 6 months ago, and yes, we are growing and have a lot more growing to do!

Indelust stocks acclaimed designer, Rahul Mishra

What’s in store for Indelust in the coming year(s)? What are you aiming to achieve in the long-term?

We hope to add more emerging and established designers as well as artisans to our brand mix. We also plan to expand into the children and infant category. We see a lot of opportunity for growth in India and hope to open more stores around the country, and possibly one in New York.

From a big picture perspective we are working to build awareness about ethical sourcing and to establish a devoted following of customers worldwide who appreciate unique and handcrafted products.

Be sure to visit the Indelust website.

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