Fashion designer Anjali Agarwal from Kharagpur founded her own label when she was just 25 years old and her journey of becoming an entrepreneur was a constant reminder of “There are no free lunches in this world”. Anjali started freelancing when she was just 18 years old and while it was all very fascinating and more of a learning period, the struggles that came along has made her stronger than ever. Today, in an exclusive interview with oower, Anjali looks back and talks about her inspirations, struggles and gives us some insiders about the industry reminding us again how hard-work can be a real game changer!
Oower: Before going in for more details, tell us Anjali what was the guiding force that kept pushing you to come up with your own label?
Anjali: I have always been fascinated with colors and clothes. Even as a kid I would dress up and sometimes paint my own clothes with water colors if I wanted to change something. Since childhood that fashion bug has always been there in me even when I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing. But behind all this like you mentioned ‘a guiding force’ is always there and it was the same in my case. My elder sister who is also a fashion designer has been my constant source of inspiration and motivation along with the support of my elders who were there with me from the very start of my journey. All reasons combined have pushed me today to run after my dreams and fulfill it no matter what it takes!
Oower: So Anjali since you started out at a very early age which is mostly a period of self exploration, tell us how it changed your perspective about the industry?
Anjali: I was already freelancing since a long time like when I was just 18 so I had seen the industry inside out. I interned at Ratan textiles in Jaipur and also with Ritu Kumar in Kolkata. These were the places where I learnt about the business part of the industry and it was an eye-opening experience for me. While freelancing, I never had to ‘sell’ my designs. So this always stayed with me that even after I’ll launch my own label, people would still come and buy what I’m making. These internships busted this bubble for me when I learnt that marketing is the tool holding it all together. Till the time I was freelancing I was mostly selling my designs to family and friends. Soon I realized that in order to sell my designs to people other than my friends and family I did have to market and promote my designs in a certain way. So yes, starting out early was a productive learning period where I gained knowledge about this industry and it did help me to get some perspective.
Oower: Since we are talking about self-exploration, tell us a fashion related myth that you want to break for our audience
Anjali: I think when it comes to fashion people automatically believe that fashion is wearing unorthodox or over-the-top clothing like haute couture, etc. but I strongly believe that fashion is something very personal. Each one of us feels differently when it comes to fashion and at times we may wear something that makes us feel in our gut that this is not the kind of thing you would sport and that exactly is your fashion instinct kicking in and telling you to choose something else for you. So everyone is fashionable in their own way. Our job as designers is only to help people find their fashion instinct which is already inside them somewhere and focus on no matter what you sport confidence should be right up there and even before that.
Oower: Coming to the creative part of your job, how real is a mental block for an artist?
Anjali: Mental block is real and it can trouble even the mind of the finest artists and I am no exception to this problem. I have faced this problem first hand when there are too many deadlines to meet and the work is all spread out. Your every client would want something unique and you as a designer should have it in you to deliver what they desire no matter what. This is how the fashion industry works. The pressure is very much real and creativity takes time so in testing situation like these I always take a short break and give myself the time I require before I go back to work being all calm and relaxed.
Oower: Anjali in our journey we all have that one highlight moment which is basically a turning point for us. These points can many times be testing also so what was that point in your journey?
Anjali: My journey has been a roller coaster ride. From working in Kolkata and having everything available right away to shifting to Kharagpur and suddenly realising that I have to start from scratch has been that highlight moment for me. From finding the right artisans and tailors to making them work in a feasible manner and shuffling continuously between Kolkata and Kharagpur, with the responsibilities of being married in a joint family were the biggest challenges that I faced. But all that kept me going was the unconditional support of my husband and his family who treat me as their own and not an “in law” was my biggest strength during that time. I wouldn’t be here today without that kind of support and this not only a highlight that I would want to share but also acknowledge the fact how family and close ones play an important role in helping you achieve your dreams