DASGUPTA: An Independent Designer Makes It Happen
It’s no shock that starting a clothing line is a rampant dream. Flipping through the pages of your own look book, the exciting chaos backstage at your own runway show, seeing your designs on the rack in a boutique… these thrills seem to thrive on the opposite side of a glass wall that keeps financially handicapped, run of the mill fashion school grads outside-looking-in. New York-based designer and F.I.T. graduate Aparna Dasgupta once stood behind that wall, and then she decided to shatter it.
Her line Dasgupta, a dedication to her family name (which will otherwise be lost once she and her sister marry) went from sketches to product through her resourceful climb in a sagging industry. Now available through online retailers and in boutiques along the East Coast, she shares her so-far-so-good success story with fellow do-it-yourself designer hopefuls.
From Moleskin to Sample Room
The first cracks in the glass were made on the Q train with a moleskin notebook and a head full of ideas. Newly graduated from the intimate apparel program and employed as assistant designer at a mass market sleepwear company, she knew she was meant to forge an aesthetically pleasing path of her own. She treated her job as continuing education, absorbing everything she could about design, production, and marketing. Side projects like fashion show collectives and one-off’s for clients came and went, leaving behind a useful trail of contacts like makeup artists and show producers. While her projects were scattered, one thing was consistent: a burning need to project her vision through clothing.
Full Speed Ahead
She sketched a spread of eight looks for a Fall 2010 line and hit the garment district, where she’d been fostering business relationships with fabric retailers since school. Her investment in those vendors paid off—one agreed to hide rolls of fabric for her while she tracked the progress of the collection and awaited re-orders. One was willing to order yardage of custom dyed silks for her very-limited production budget. She researched sample rooms until she found the perfect fit. Once she saw the first sample in completion, the high was too great to abandon. “Then it came down to working like a dog for months” she explains, “finding places to sell the line, casting models, organizing a photo shoot…”
6-to-10 pieces of each garment were created for the debut line—and despite this small scale, limited production has its perks. Exclusive product for customers and the chance to develop a relationship with a small clientele base is something Aparna holds in high value.
So how much did she spend?
“Between development, which includes patterns, fittings, sample-making, etc… and production, it was upwards of 20 grand. The line was funded by my own personal savings earned during those three years working after school. I had no financial help from my parents, friends, or other backers,” she asserts, while admitting she received support in motivation in priceless amounts.
Aparna also avoided extraneous costs by designing her own labels, hangtags, website, and look book layout. “D.I.Y. wasn’t only a good idea, but it was the only way to go.”
About the Collection
Her debut collection, which takes hints of steam-punk and Victorian aesthetics, is designed to fit seamlessly into a stroll down 5th Avenue or an alt-culture nightlife party. While each garment is rich in character, all of them can be worn without overwhelming other separates. “It’s up to the customer to accessorize and adapt the pieces in their own way,” she explains. So far, the reviews are shining.
The fate of the Dasgupta line is still to be seen, but Aparna knows her focus is better spent on the moment. As the fall line steadily attracts customers and press, she’s hard at work on Spring 2011. The same moleskin notebook is bulging with fabric samples and quick, elegant sketches. She pours over each page, explaining the looks with refreshing enthusiasm.
“You don’t wake up every day overflowing with motivation,” she admits, “and when you don’t, you just have to wait out the lull and keep moving forward. Just keep going. Your motivation has to come from your own excitement, because it’s your vision, your resourcefulness, and your discipline that’s going to make the dream a reality. It’s yours alone—no one else’s.”