A place of commerce that weaves the richness of slow craft and the novelty of Indian designers beautifully onto the tapestry of sustainable fashion, IKKIVI is slowly becoming one of the top conscious fashion collectives that curates the choicest of creations in the significantly growing segment of sustainable fashion labels. The brainchild of Nivi Murthy, the online platform has not only created a demand for niche sustainable clothing in India, but also across the international borders.
Nivi started her professional career with Bachelors in Management, but a penchant for fashion led her to Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, to strengthen her roots in the fashion industry. Sustainability became an area of interest after her education when she started digging deep into the industry and understood the fast-paced ways of consumption of fashion and the condition of manufacturing across the country. The documentary ‘True Cost’ really made an impact on Nivi and that’s when she decided to utilise the power of commercial slow fashion to make a difference and change the way the fashion industry works.
In conversation with Apparel Online India, Nivi discusses about her unique fashion platform, about how she overcame the struggles that accompany, creating national and international e-commerce portal for niche products, and the importance of spotlighting slow fashion and ethical designers and labels in India.
AOI: What were the objectives behind starting IKKIVI, and what are the ethos that drive the collective?
NM: IKKIVI is a global online platform curating sustainable and ethically made fashion by independent designers from India. The brand puts mindfulness at the forefront for how we approach our products, growth, communication and online presence. Every product sold on IKKIVI has a unique story of its designers, of the weaves they use, of their design process and inspiration. Educating our global audience about these stories and the effort that goes into making a slow product is something we are passionate about.
IKKIVI was started by me and my friend who put our names together and we thought it sounded unique, so we went with it and stuck to it! Today, we are a passionate team of four women based out of four different places. We are all very dedicated towards the cause and working remotely is a lot of fun. I am the current sole founder, a graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. I work out of an office in Bangalore and handle the merchandising, administrative, research, operational, business aspects; curating designers and products is what I love the most. Rhea, our Creative Director, takes care of all the creative aspects for IKKIVI, to really shape a unique aesthetic for us not only in terms of visuals but also our language and what topics we should focus on in our communication. She is based out of Goa. We have an amazing social media manager based out of Imphal who works on our social media content, graphic design and helps us out with strategies for the same. And we have a content head from Nairobi who is simply wonderful and so passionate at such a young age. We are slowly looking to grow and continue building a strong and dedicated team. Apart from this, we also take a bit of tech and other help from time to time as per need basis.
AOI: What are the core processes that go into curation of fashion which demands the exclusivity and luxuriousness that slow craft entails?
NM: Our process begins with a hunt across the country for talent. We look in magazines, schools, coffee shops, markets, across digital media and keep our ears open for the most trusted word-of-mouth to find passionate young designers with a heart for our environment, a point of view of where the fashion industry should head to and of course expertise in tailoring. From then on, we have in-depth conversations with each designer about their journey, the product’s journey and the wider impact of our curation. They further discuss how their product was made, where, by whom, how long it took and why it was made. On our product page, you will find this information crafted as a story for you to know more about every piece in our shop.
We strive to recognise and empower our designers and our customers by sharing our knowledge and our unfiltered thoughts. We strive for IKKIVI to be a sanctuary away from the fast-paced world of fading trends and cut corners.
“As slow fashion is still a niche, our aim is to make it more mainstream by continuing to educate all customers we are able to interact with. We use stories of our brands and their processes to communicate the switch customers need to make for being more conscious, sustainable and ethical in their choices.” – NIVI MURTHY
AOI: What were the initial challenges that you faced while creating IKKIVI and how did you overcome them?
NM: IKKIVI started with the passion to showcase the large talent pool of emerging fashion designers in India to a global audience. Our first goal was to create awareness about the quality and standards of the contemporary designers in India. The biggest challenge we faced was convincing the customer about the quality of the garments we were providing, especially because the entire set up was across borders. But once we started selling our first round of products, the customer loyalty grew, as the international customer is ready to invest in logistics for a product that promises uniqueness and good quality. The second challenge we faced was bringing in designers on board when we started because very few designers have an online presence, especially because they are young and have smaller units. Secondly, they are hard to find as the only place we used to find these designers were flee markets, exhibitions, or on facebook, etc. Putting together, our first crop of designers took a long time, but eventually we gathered their trust after discussing our Indian and international portals with smallest of details out in the open, and once IKKIVI took off, more designers joined us on board, as today we boast of curating about 30 unique designers.
AOI: What are the qualifications required by a designer/label to become a member of the IKKIVI family?
NM: Our brand is driven by this potential, purpose and the openness of the labels that we curate in order to curate pieces that are of top quality, and are dedicated to improving the fashion industry’s overall impact. In order to be part of the IKKIVI family, labels need to fulfil the requirements of at least two of the values (stated below) that is important to us and also show strong evidence of working towards being more sustainable and ethical in their practices.
|Use of local or traditional techniques||Vegan|
We add new designers/collections every week. Each designer or collection has a story to tell and that is something we love communicating to our audience, whether it is the fabric used, the inspiration or the technique used in their collection.
AOI: What are your future plans?
NM: In our efforts to continue creating awareness and promoting Indian independent designers globally, we have a few plans launching in the next couple of months – IKKIVI Vintage and IKKIVI Zine. IKKIVI Vintage is a curated collection of unique second-hand clothing handpicked by the IKKIVI team in our efforts to extend the life of a garment and encourage the use of perfectly ‘good condition’ stylish clothing. IKKIVI Zine is an online magazine for all things ‘slow’, not just fashion but also food, living, personal care etc. In order to bridge the gap between offline and online, we do pop-ups so that customers can come and interact with us, touch and feel the products and understand the clothing better. In September, we are launching IKKIVI in the United States with a pop-up in New York!
AOI: Tell us your view on the sustainable fashion space of India.
NM: As a consumer in India, we are at a stage where the choices we make today will really have an impact. The fashion industry in India has always been rich with culture, traditions, techniques, crafts and fabrics. We have grown up in a country where we took care of our clothes, mended, shopped only on occasions and loved hand-medowns. Why should we now switch gears and follow the West?
As a business, we at IKKIVI are trying to create awareness and build a demand for sustainable and ethical fashion. This is something that will allow factory owners, karigars, craftsmen the opportunity to demand and expect fair wages and fair working conditions. The value of what there is to offer (not just cheap labour and resources) is huge and that is something that needs to be recognised both in India and globally.
“We have an association with IKKIVI for a very long time. IKKIVI is one of the platforms where you find genuine sustainable and good quality products online. The team at IKKIVI is focused and have always made an effort to work very closely with their designers and have never shied away from testing new models in business. We are glad to be associated with IKKIVI and the team.” – Kanika from Kanelle
AOI: What is your advice for the young entrepreneurs venturing into sustainable fashion?
NM: I will just say that stick through it. Right now, sustainable fashion is at a very niche level, so the initial struggle will be there, but it is definitely heading to a more mainstream arena. So if the new entrepreneurs aren’t receiving much returns initially, they shouldn’t lose hope, because it will get better. The margins aren’t great in the fashion conscious segment, but as this becomes more adopted and common, it will prove to be a positive investment opportunity.