In 2016, the Delhi based designer Jigyasa Jolly launched Modo Caldo, an apparel brand that offers high-end contemporary designs for women who need semi-formal clothing that stands out. With Modo Caldo, Jigyasa has succeeded in turning street wear options (such as jumpsuits and dungarees), into smart casuals/semi-formals for working class Indian women. They have also introduced wrap-around dungarees as a homegrown prototype of an evolved semi-formal look.
Modo Caldo also stands out as a startup that is run exclusively by women. They have already dressed up some of the most noted female style icons in the country, such as Mithali Raj, Soha Ali Khan, Sanjeeda Sheikh and Rati Pandey.
This is an exclusive interview with Jigyasa on The Times Blog, as a part of the #TimesStories initiative.
What prompted you to launch Modo Caldo? Tell us more about the brand and your vision as a designer.
Modo Caldo is a high-end luxury brand that offers both contemporary and global clothing solutions for women. Offering semi-conventional yet commercial designer wear, our products are an amalgamation of western silhouettes with Indian aesthetics. It was while working with other designers that I felt like I was losing my identity, my USP as a designer, and that's when I decided to bring my version of high fashion to the Indian market. During the same time, I realized that there was a very thin line between indo-western and western clothing, so to bridge this gap, I launched Modo Caldo.
Since launch, what have been your main challenges?
We launched Modo Caldo on 15th April 2016, and it has been a roller coaster ride since then. The biggest challenge we faced was demonetization, which hit us in the initial months of our launch.
Being a start-up, it was very difficult for us to survive at a time when revenue-positive companies were also quitting. But we stood our ground, faced the storm and survived. Another constant challenge has been to approach the right customer for us, i.e. women who accept changing trends.
How did your family react when you told them you wanted to start your own brand/label?
I am lucky to have motivating bunch of people around me. My parents and family have been a constant source of support - both emotionally and financially. And, I have been fortunate to have friends who have supported me in all my highs and lows.
How did you find the right audience for Modo Caldo?
Our target customer has always been women of all age groups, who take pride in donning multiple hats - they accept changing fashion trends and love to experiment with their looks. Selling semi-conventional clothing in India was never an easy job, but our approach (to take the help of Bollywood, bloggers and media) has helped us reach our target market more effectively.
Was there ever a time when you felt overwhelmed with work and unable to run the brand? What made you continue? What kept you motivated at your worst moments?
In creative professions like ours, there are days when you feel exhausted as a designer and then there are days when generating revenue is a challenge. In a span of two years, we have been through multiple highs and lows, but our love for design remains our daily dose of motivation. I will say this again - it took lot of perseverance to deal with the Indian economic crisis during demonetization.
Who are you most influenced by, and what is your takeaway from their work?
Anita Dongre has been a major influence. The way she started from a single-room studio and scaled up, has taught me that small beginnings can be a stepping stone towards something much bigger. Today, she is wildly successful, and everything happened because she was dedicated and passionate. I am inspired to be at least as successful as her, if not more.
What are the Top 3 Business Takeaways that you did not know when you first started out?
1. A successful design is not what you like, but what your customer likes.
2. Businesses do not run on strategies planned on paper
3. Generating revenue is more important than following your passion (in your early days).
What advice would you give to your ten-year younger self, if given an opportunity?
Dear Jigyasa Then,
"I have no advice for you. Go out there and explore!"
Any advice to aspiring designers in niche categories?
I would like to say this to all the newcomers, particularly women - It will be your attitude, confidence and belief in yourself that will keep you going. Whatever the situation may be, just stay strong and find a solution. Know your audience, but more importantly, find your USP. It is a constantly changing market, so stay updated and try offering something new and original all the time.
How important is consumer publicity for the fashion segment? How is it different from conventional or digital advertising?
Consumer marketing and publicity play a major role in business development. Just social media marketing or advertising on various platforms can lead to inquiries, but when you are recommended by an existing customer, or in stuff that people read, it builds trust in your product.
We keep hoping for some good word-of-mouth marketing, but Indian customers are known to shy away from personal recommendations. We hope this changes soon!