Put your best foot forward. Meet the sisters, Akanksha, Arti and Neha – Founders of Pastels and Pop – Selling Handcrafted products with a strong niche in the fashion ecosystem!

Empowering women, empowering artisans, bringing back an almost dying art form back to life, customer happiness and hiring for a great team are some things that get us excited about the business. The beauty of following your passion is that even when there are a few bumps in the journey, we stay excited and ready for everything that lies ahead of us

Pastels and Pop is an ethnic designer label inspired by the vibrant handcrafting culture of India. Their handcrafted products include Punjabi juttis, mojaris, khussas and Indo-western clothing. Juttis originally originated from Punjab and parts of Rajasthan whose history dates back to 400 years ago, when they were created using royal embroidery with gold and silver threads. Mojaris / Khussas is a style of handcrafted footwear that were traditionally made by artisans using tanned leather. Keeping the quintessential traditionalism of these ethnic fashion wear intact, Pastels and Pop have beautifully blended this dying art of craftsmanship with today’s fashion needs using quirky patterns and vibrant colours, to create a brand that is unique.

Chennai Insider got an opportunity to have a conversation with the women entrepreneurs and “sole” sisters behind the brand and we asked some questions on their journey. Take a look at what they have to share.

Tell us about yourself. What were you doing before choosing this field?

Pastels and Pop is founded by three sisters – Akanksha, Aarti and Neha.

Akanksha has a background in engineering but started pursuing her passion for designing early on and is currently heading product design and working closely with the artisans.

Neha also has a background in software engineering and oversees the operations of the company. She uses her experience of working for big tech companies in the Bay Area to grow Pastels and Pop and explore different venues for expansion.

Aarti has a business management background and is the head of the company logistics. She works closely with the customer service and satisfaction team.

When did you start Pastels and Pop? How did you guys meet and decide to come up with this business?

We’ve had a never-ending love affair with the Indian Jutti. Our initial years were spent in the heart of Punjab, and we always adored the juttis our mother used to buy from the streets of Amritsar.

In December 2014, my sister Neha, a co-founder of the company, was about to get married. Naturally inclined towards designing and dressmaking right from childhood, the three of us then created and designed all our outfits from scratch, and brought our sister’s dream wedding outfit to life. We received innumerable compliments throughout the wedding for our clothes. Then a chance meeting with a jutti-maker turned construction worker a few months after the wedding, triggered off this crazy idea in us. First, we absolutely loved the designing process, and, second, there’s a huge, vacant market in Bangalore and other South Indian cities for quality designer ethnic wear which is also affordable. We went about doing our research and in July 2015, Pastels and Pop debuted with its first ever jutti collection.

Pastels and Pop is a very interesting and unique name. How did you come up with it?

Our products speak the language of color. While we make juttis in pop colors like a bright pink or a lush red, at the same time, we also play around with earthy colors like lemon yellow, sea green and soft peaches. Hence the name. Another reason for the name is, Pastels represent the essence of traditional handcrafted juttis, and, by having added a pop factor to them, we are redesigning juttis for the modern woman. So the name is an attempt to express these amalgams.

Did you have any apprehensions before starting out this venture? What were they? How did you motivate yourself?

Like most first time business owners/entrepreneurs, we too had some doubts before starting our business. The most pressing of them was if we have the skills and abilities to pick up important business skills in an industry that is fairly new to us. Thankfully, our family has always been supportive of our decision and they have been a major support system throughout. We also made some great early hires that has helped us stay motivated and on the right path.

What were the reactions you received when you decided to start up?

Most people have been supportive ever since we discussed the idea of starting Pastels and Pop. There are always those that provide constructive criticism and we greatly appreciate it, as it has helped re-evaluate a lot of our strategic decisions as a company.

Did you start with e-commerce or a physical store? How did you decide the collections?

We started in July 2015 with an Instagram and Facebook page and accepted orders over messages and calls. After about 3 months, we launched our website which is currently where most of our sales come from. Last year we launched a collection of men’s juttis and this April, Pastels and Pop opened doors to its first studio in Bangalore.

Pastels and Pop gifts a pair of juttis to a less fortunate for every 5 pairs sold. Tell us more about this social impact?

Here’s a small backstory regarding our commitment to donate 1 pair of jutti for every 5 pairs sold: We visited the Nemadi Mane foundation, a home for orphan girls, during Diwali in 2017. We were moved to see that our juttis brought a great deal of joy to these little Angels. These innocent girls, and many others, are not as fortunate as we are – but they are all princesses at heart. That is when we at Pastels & Pop pledged to take them one step closer to being just that. We are extremely proud of our  commitment, which is – for every 5 pairs of P&P juttis we sell, 1 brand new pair of Pastels and Pop juttis will be gifted to a girl in need.

What gets you excited about your business?

Empowering women, empowering artisans, bringing back an almost dying art form back to life, customer happiness and hiring for a great team are some things that get us excited about the business. The beauty of following your passion is that even when there are a few bumps in the journey, we stay excited and ready for everything that lies ahead of us. Working on something we love while also creating jobs is the best part about this job.

Take us through a day in your lives – Your schedule from the start of the day till you hit the bed?

Our typical day mostly starts with us looking at all the new orders, checking emails and following up with customer queries, grabbing a quick breakfast, reading through our to-do list for the day and then heading off to our studio. Once there, we spend most of our time designing and collaborating on new designs, sourcing materials, phone calls, more emails, meetings, more phone calls and we call it a day when we’ve accomplished a majority of everything we set out to do for the day.

Is founders paranoia real? What keeps you awake?

Founders paranoia is real. We’ve lived it and there are still a few days when it comes back. As founders, delegating becomes a really hard task. We treat the business like our child and want every employee to feel the same. This makes it a bit difficult for us to delegate since we are the ones who have been doing this for a long time and want only the best of products to reach our customers. Training new employees and creating an atmosphere where everyone shares the same feeling is something we are always working on. 

Nothing comes easy. For something as big as the most talked about label for bridal juttis or casual juttis, you must have worked really hard to come a long way. What were some of the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Every new day presents itself with new challenges and we try our best to accept them, address them and move forward. During the early days of the business, one of our challenge was finding and retaining the right artisans and craftsmen who shared the same sense of product perfection as us. Another early stage challenge was to present ourselves online as a genuine company.

What is the favourite / hot -selling amongst all?

Our best-selling product has been the ‘Golden Symphony’ juttis. Because it goes pairs well with almost all colours, it’s a wedding and festive season favourite!

What are your plans for the future?

Our goal is to expand into more retail stores nationwide. Over the coming months you will also see a lot more new styles being released from our label. Our long term goal is to establish Pastels and Pop as a well-recognized ethnic footwear label worldwide.

What would be your piece of advice to young entrepreneurs?

We are fairly young in the entrepreneurial journey and believe there is much to learn every single day on the job. But one piece of advice we would love to share with anyone else who might be considering to start their own business is that work hard, very hard. Invest your time in building a great team. If you have the right set of people working with you, no matter how big a challenge, you will easily be able to take it on.

To view the collections, head to https://pastelsandpop.com/


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