It’s not common in today’s fashion atmosphere to come across a brand that has been more focused on showing up in boutiques and runways before showing up on page three. We sit down with one such creative genius that has remained keenly focused on creating fluid silhouettes that earned worldwide recognition right from the first collection. This is Rahul Mangals account on humble beginnings turning into an overnight success.
Where did your journey begin and what were some of your early challenges?
About 9 years ago Shikha and I decided to quit our jobs in a fashion house and start a freelance outfit designing garments for buyers around the world. But in a rude twist of fate we bled out more money than we made in this endeavor. We are both self respecting, hard working people with humble beginnings and at the time we were left with nothing but a few stitching machines and 2000 meters each of indigo and off white cotton fabric. Vrisá was our phoenix that rose from the ashes of our previous misendeavours. That is where my journey began. Of course there were challenges every single day that made me think we might soon be out of business. But right from the start I have had a strong appetite for trials and a rock solid partner. I particularly remember finding it challenging to get Vrisá the right kind of visibility. Social media didn’t exist in the way that it does today. Now we have top designers launching new collections on their feed, but when we started, being chosen for trade shows and fashion events only came after a rigorous selection process.
What was your first big breakthrough?
I would consider it a divine intervention of sorts, but our first collection was very well received. We were fast selling out at boutiques and returned from Exhibitions and events, completely sold out. But I would have to say; our biggest breakthrough was Fashion Week. It not only made us globally accessible but also taught us a lot. Shikha and I were both industry outsider, we did not have the privilege of PR and social media teams that some new entrants enjoy today. We learnt a lot of tact and skill on the job. Fashion Week also taught me very quickly that nothing speaks louder than your work, and that is what I have remained focused on.
What is your creative process and source of inspiration?
I like to think of myself as an extremely poor being, in that my design sensibility is hugely influenced by my experiences. For this reason I’m quite selective about my interactions and consumptions. My travels around the world, museum visits and even single fragments of textile have been a source of inspiration. I consider myself a connoisseur of crafts from around the world and you can see that as the protagonist of all 9 collections we have done so far. I have also been very aware of who my customer is and what they want. Its like they say – a goal without a plan is just a dream, the same goes for fashion. Creative garments without ready buyers will never turn your dreams into reality.
What makes Vrisá unique?
While my sources of inspiration are there for the world to see, no one can see them through my eyes. We have never employed junior designers or outsourced any design work; I have individually created each piece. There is a part of us in every garment that we put out in the market, that is our design language and uniqueness. For this reason when you see a Vrisá outfit you will instantly recognize it.
What part of creating and running a brand gives you the most satisfaction?
In the early days simply being selected for design shows or Fashion Week gave me utmost joy. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my childhood start Madhuri Dixit wearing garments from my first collection. But 9 years in there are 2 main sources of joy and satisfaction
1. The global demand for Vrisá has allowed us to create employment for artisans and craftspeople. While we started with a team of 2, today we have grown to over 100. Being able to create those opportunities is a special feeling. Shikha and I make a conscious effort of grow the number of these opportunities annually.
2. There is a recent conversation about loving your body in every shape and size. International fashion brands, be it high end or high street, are grown conscious of their brand language and are feverishly creating plus size campaigns. It gives me great satisfaction knowing that the inherent silhouettes of Vrisá have managed to look sharp and at the same time fluid. No one has ever had to squeeze themselves into one of my creations. Vrisá has always been an all-inclusive, self-love brand that makes you feel good about yourself. Making someone feel happy and confident simply by designing complementary outfits is an extremely satisfying feeling.