WOMEN’S DAY Staying true to my core beliefs was a challenge: Shagun Agarwal
This Women’s Day we profile some women entrepreneurs who started small but have nevertheless carved a niche for themselves
She began with dressing up her dolls in the childhood, and by the time she turned 15 Shagun Agarwal was very clear that she wanted to be a fashion designer. So, even while she qualified as an Interior Designer it is designing of men’s garments that she chose as her vocation. Then again, though she designs for men, it is ‘well-informed and fiercely-independent Indian women’ from whom she draws her inspiration.
“I hail from a conservative Marwari family, and was ‘allowed’ to set up my ‘studio’ in a room in my house and that’s where I began designing for friends and family,” says Agarwal. “But, back in the 1990s, fashion design wasn’t considered a ‘real profession’ in our society, so I was married off soon. I started my own label Darshika Menswear in 1999,” adds the Kolkata-based designer.
Trying to balance work and home perfectly wasn’t not an easy task, but she managed beautifully. “From a full-time mom to businesswoman, I learnt how important each facet is in a woman’s life and how one needs to define what “having it all” means during these different stages,” she remarks.
Agarwal has since successfully matured into creative styling, translating textures and embellishments into refreshingly new and unexpectedly contemporary silhouettes. Excerpts from an interview:
How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?
I started by making 10 basic cotton kurtas for men and selling them from my home. It was word of mouth publicity that people came to know about me. Once it started picking up, I started exhibiting at various events in the city. The exclusive store came much later.
What challenges did you encounter?
Everything was a challenge – managing children, family and a new business, and it was tough at times. Then, I had limited investment and almost no past work experience so I had to learn everything on the go. But one of the greatest challenges I faced was in staying true to my core beliefs and also changing the status quo.
Looking back, what’s the major feeling that you get about your journey?
It’s completely of awe and pride. I had no idea I would come this far and receive so much appreciation for my work and this little passion project would become a full-grown business. The journey was full of ups and downs but I’ve cherished every bit of it and looking back just pushes me further to do new things and grow further.
Any specific reason for doing only menswear?
It was majorly influenced by scarce options available in the market for men back then and just a shift from the female centric crowd.
One advice you would like to give to upcoming entrepreneurs.
Work very hard and believe in what you do. Your faith and commitment will make you achieve your goals.
What sort of changes have you seen in designer menswear since you set up in 1999?
The menswear fashion industry has really grown in India now. Back then men didn’t experiment with colors and silhouettes but now they have really come a long way and are much more open. Clothes have become more sleek and fitted even for men.
What are the colours for men this season?
Bright yellows, floral prints and lots of pinks. Pastel shades like lilac and powder blue are still going to be in, I believe.
Pret or Couture – what are men more comfortable with?
Pret. Comfort has always been a priority and it shall continue to be.
Which one do you prefer – retail store or digital ones
Retail Stores. I think the whole experience of engaging with a particular product is lost in digital mediums.