Sana Rezwan Sait | Founder of INDELUST

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Sana Rezwan Sait, the woman behind three formidable fashion ventures, just launched her most recent enterprise – INDELUST. With a deep background in the fashion industry and extensive exposure to entrepreneurship, she was bound to make her mark. Read more about the woman with brilliant insight, ideas, inspiration and why she and her husband/business partner, Nihar Sait, were determined to make this venture so socially oriented.

 

You completed a BA in Fashion Marketing, an MA in Fashion Buying, and worked with prestigious companies like Stella McCartney and Harrods. During this time, you began your own first venture, 23 Carat.  Was it always your intentions to start enterprises of this nature?

I had always wanted to run my own business since I was a little girl, so I feel being an entrepreneur is fairly natural to me. I strategically geared my studies and work experience towards the luxury fashion industry. 

Maison (a concept boutique), 23 Carat (assists international luxury brands with their foray into India), and now Indelust (an e-commerce platform for emerging designers and talent), all have a very unique, and specified concept.  How has your own personality moulded the vision of these businesses?

My interest in the creative world has definitely inspired all my businesses, but they have really stemmed from filling a gap in the market. 23 Carat was initially set up to assist international luxury brands like Givenchy and Emilio Pucci to expand into India. 

The company was then later used as a platform to launch Maison—a high-end fashion concept store for women in Bangalore—and across India through its e-commerce site. At Maison, I personally developed the functional capabilities of each member of my team, from store management, to merchandising, to public relations and e-commerce management. 23 Carat produced all of the graphics, store windows, fashion photography and film, online store design and much more. 

When I decided to close Maison and move to New York, the market need for 23 Carat continued. We are now a creative agency for established businesses and start-ups. Our services include visual identity, brand development and web design, as well as strategic and financial advisory. 

As for Indelust, the idea came about to solve a real social problem. We are a for-profit social enterprise that ethically sources fashion, art and home from the Indian Sub-Continent. Indelust functions in two ways: 1) we source from emerging designers that make a positive social impact or are reviewed by NEST, a non-profit organisation dedicated to training and building artisan businesses in developing countries.  Nest audits the designers’ manufacturing processes and gives them the tools to scale up sustainably; 2) we work directly with artisan groups that live in economically disadvantaged communities to help them reclaim their livelihoods.  Many of these handcrafting traditions that have been around for centuries are close to extinction. The few clusters that do exist today are a testament to our heritage in the Indian Sub-Continent and that is why we chose to revive and support them. We are able to do so by creating a platform for a global market that demands quality, tradition and craft. 

Curation of products, personal style, and a discerning eye - in culmination with having the foresight of market placement - are integral aspects for the types of business ventures you’ve been involved in.  Where did your knowledge and instinct for such things develop from?

I believe it’s a combination of several things—prior work experience, travel, visits to exhibits and art galleries, and reading magazines that aren’t just about fashion. I’m always inspired by the obscure and fascinated by minimal design. I try to translate that through what I wear and the way I live. 

Tell me a bit about the conceptualisation of Indelust and the inspiration behind it.

When I attended a CEO Summit for retailers last year, a panel of speakers talked about the Rana Plaza garment factory catastrophe, where over 1,100 people died because of the market demand for cheap and fast fashion. The victims were producing clothing for brands like Matalan, Primark and Walmart, working in unsafe conditions and earning a wage that could barely support themselves or their families. Attendees included large retail conglomerates from all over the world. I couldn’t believe that we were only one year after the incident, and yet it seemed like most people wanted to distance themselves from what happened, rather than commit to changing the business practices that led to such a disaster. 

One of the speaker’s, Charles Kernaghan, Director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights said, “we have to really search our hearts and our souls as to whether we will stand up for the rights of human beings, especially in places like Bangladesh… This can be a turning point.” And at that moment, it was mine! It really made me think about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where many of these garment factories continue to exist and churn out $1 t-shirts that are worn by millions of people all over the world. I came home that evening and I spent hours talking to my partner, Nihar Sait, about the situation. We tried to come up with a way to make a difference. The idea for indelust.com was then born. 

India’s fashion industry has become a burgeoning market, and it is gaining an increasing amount of recognition.  Indelust is aimed at creating awareness for emerging talent.  How do you feel that that these two aspects will coalesce? 

India and its neighbouring countries have a proud tradition of crafts and trade dating back to the Indus valley civilisation. We were always talented, and now we are being recognised in a different way. 

As for what is currently emerging within the Indian sub-continent in terms of design, I see a considerable amount of restraint. It’s clean, functional and cool. What you will find on indelust.com translates to many geographies, whether you live within the Indian Sub-Continent or in United States, Japan or Brazil. 

As an emerging market, India has a lot more growth in its future and I see the same for the talent there.  

Once launched, this will be a platform for sustainable luxury fashion, art, and design out of the Indian Subcontinent for international clientele.  What is the most essential aspect to you that people take away from this project?

Design can make a positive impact! Be the change, and be accountable for your fashion choices.  

What is the process for the curation of such products?  How are the designers, artists, and others decided upon?

Aside from the social aspect, all the items curated lead with a sense of simplicity and versatility.  Traditional techniques are interpreted through contemporary design and that is what inspires me. Rather than being trend oriented, each piece has been chosen with a focus on longevity, so that it will live a lifetime in your wardrobe or home.

There has been a growing awareness of ethical fashion in the industry.  How did this impact the development of Indelust and your decision to develop partnerships with NGOs such as NEST?

We aim to build a fashion business that is sustainable, ethical and profitable, with improved supply chain transparency. Value chains will be improved with better industry collaboration, monitoring and purchasing practices. Our partnership with NEST helps us execute on our principles and gives us third party validation.  

What do you see as the future of Indelust?

Once we have established the market and product offering, we would to love to work on more collaborations between emerging designers and artisans for one-of-a-kind exclusive collections. We will also continue to refine the social development aspect of our business, such as establishing new metrics that more effectively measure the impact our work is having on artisan groups and their communities. With this we hope to help alleviate poverty, empower women and revive artistic traditions.