Amidst fighting a rapidly growing pandemic, supporting social revolutions, combating destructive blows of nature, further shattering markets and livelihoods of workers from almost every tier of the wage groups, the world today is trying to move on with a new set of rules. This new normal also entails the continuity of the corporate life, giving way to Work From Home becoming a lifestyle in itself, majorly redefining corporatewear to embrace comfort and fluid aesthetics for those official video calls. Crisp suits transitioning to a blazer over dilapidated pajamas and sheath dresses being superseded by a button-down satin shirt are the new normal indeed, giving the right push to the category of Smart Business Casuals, which is becoming the face of power dressing owing to the powerful chic disposition and comfort it offers.
World renowned designers and labels such as Balmain and Balenciaga relaunched the category that trickled down the runways and was taken onto the shelves by mass retailers such as Zara and H&M. Smart casuals pose as a great market opportunity. Still, in a market place like India where ethnic design language dominates the runways, a gap is felt of a niche category that provides consumers the clothing they deem fit for their working environments, while still providing the exclusivity that only couture and MTM clothing can provide.
Brought up in a creatively fueled business environment at home, an Economics graduate with a Master’s Degree in Fashion Management from NIFT, Mumbai, decided to bridge this gap in the Indian market by introducing Torqadorn, a first of its kind luxury prêt-à-couture label aiming to bring out the perfect blend of ‘ready to wear’ and ‘couture’ elements into the category of Smart Casuals. Launched in 2018 as the brainchild of Tanvi Sethi, Torqadorn reimagines timeless aesthetics for the modern era, offering elevated essentials for women on-the-go. Championing values of female empowerment and inclusivity, ‘Torqadorn’ is a one word term for ‘Power Dressing’.
“My love affair with sculpted silhouettes began when a simple tailored blazer made me fly through a very taxing interview with flying colours and gave me an inexplicable sense of confidence to be the best version of myself and ready to take over the world! Being able to lend that fearless sense of self-belief to women through the clothes I create is the very foundation that Torqadorn is built on.”
Tanvi coined the term 6 years ago and purchased a domain while still pursuing her Economics Degree at DU and later went on to intern at Shantanu & Nikhil in their merchandising department. After 2 years at NIFT Mumbai and hands-on industry experience she gained interning at Reliance Brands Limited (GAS Jeans) and Triburg, she rejoined Shantanu & Nikhil as the Merchandising Manager owing to her strong creative bend and analytical background. This experience helped her launch and create a strong foundation for the label. “However, I figured that I still lacked experience in the fashion e-commerce space and switched to AlayabyStage3 as a Head Designer and Merchandiser; one year and six successful capsule collections later, I knew I was ready to take my label to the next level,” she added.
The confluence of pret and couture
The label offers collections that are a mystical alchemy of marrying two very different worlds and bridging the gap between them, offering elevated pieces a hybrid between classic silhouettes and modern tailoring along with creative surface ornamentation techniques. It goes above and beyond the traditional realm of corporatewear silhouettes and attempts to include ensembles which make women feel fierce and empowered. “We exist for the ‘women in progress’, who are strong, confident and independent yet ever-evolving, growing and striving to become better each day,” said Tanvi.
“Torqadorn is the best of both worlds. Often times, new brands pop up that lie on either end of the spectrum – some are extremely cheap and mass-produced, care less about the quality and hamper the re-wearability factor of the garments. Meanwhile, the high-end luxury couture labels are expensive, ostentatious, are rarely versatile and are a target of Instagram obsolescence. Having said that, there is a huge gap in the market for brands to cater to people who are looking for design-led, high quality investment pieces that can be styled in multiple ways to create new looks and are also affordable. This is where we step in.”
Their entry price points for simple cami tops, summer overlays, etc. revolve around Rs. 1,800 with occasionwear jumpsuits and draped dresses going up till Rs. 9,500 with their bestsellers versatile Satin Shirts and Work-Wear Blazers that retail between Rs. 3,000-6,000. This sharp pricing ensures the accessibility to the label’s target audience of neo-millennial women aged upwards of 25 who have an established sense of personal style. Adding to their uniqueness is the fact that the label offers customisation in a big way, as they are a made-to-order yet ready-to-wear brand. Clients spot a piece on their digital channels but request to customise it according to their requirements. For such requests, they have a small design studio in New Delhi to entertain customers who are looking for bespoke pieces tailored specifically to their size, colour and fabric choices.
“A challenge we face till date is the increasing cost of customer accusation. Sadly, consumers’ trust in businesses is eroding, and so is their patience. In the India specific e-commerce scenario, price-sensitivity is another issue altogether. The best way to combat this is investing in customer service, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve with the customisation angle. Creating a strategic sale funnel that keeps our CAC metric in check while delivering value to both the brand and the end-consumer is one of our biggest challenges,” highlighted Tanvi.
Tanvi’s go-to materials and silhouettes come alive in the design language of each collection the label offers. Her top choice is silk satin, as the fabric lends a luxurious touch to almost any silhouette and is versatile to create innumerous silhouettes right from flowy relaxed satin shirts and draped dresses to structured pant suits. The brand constantly evolves to adapt to the latest silhouette trends with a stoic design philosophy influenced by structure, geometry and architectural nuances, tailored sculpted blazers being their favourite silhouette to experiment with. The label often plays with earthy solids, emphasising on creating monotone looks, as it allows the wearer to experience the entire ensemble at once without creating unnecessary distractions.
A small team of 10 people with specific roles and expertise run the label’s operations creatively led by Tanvi in terms of new collections, range planning and pricing, with Mumbai-based partners heading PR & Business Development activities along with an in-house team for marketing, social media content and CRM, and a team of two for Logistics and Operations. They have partner factories that they outsource from and two in-house tailors. Striving to be socially mindful of the products they create to deter the unsustainable consequences of the fast-moving fashion cycle, they do not hold unnecessary inventory and mass produce only 30 per cent of their best-selling products in limited quantities, production of which is outsourced. As for the remaining styles, with lower frequency of orders, they are made to order by the in-house tailors and dispatched within 5-7 days.
Their biggest challenge was rejection, as ironically, one of their best-selling retail channels today rejected them thrice because data suggested that a new brand at these price points would never sell. “It was a really tiny niche I was aiming to crack into, with only a handful of brands who owned the space. It just reinforces my belief – work hard, take risks, never give up, and beautiful things will happen,” she expressed.
The label today has a strong digital presence, and retails via their website and Instagram Direct and also through major fashion marketplaces like Nykaa Fashion and 6DegreeStore. Getting listed on Nykaa Fashion has been a game changer for the label being one of the leading players in the e-commerce fashion space and one of their most profitable retail channels. “Sometimes, the fabric demands come from even two seasons ago, making it difficult to rely on B2C retailers in local fabric markets. Hence, we’ve partnered with multiple fabric suppliers in Tughlakabad and Chandni Chowk who order directly from mills in Surat. This ensures regular supply of raw materials,” added Tanvi.
Talking about fashion in the times of coronavirus, Tanvi reckons the pandemic as a wake-up call for both the consumers and for the industry to take a step back and slow down, step away from mass production and change direction. She considers that witnessing so many store closures, cancelled fashion shows and postponed events, consumers are gradually becoming conscious enough to move away from fast fashion, also because of the reduced purchasing power. “This is the time for brands to be savvy and sustainable in re-starting the industry”, she underlined, while adding, “Vocal For Local is a great and extremely important initiative that will help steer a clear path of recovery for the fashion industry. As for our label, we’ve taken this time to re-connect with our customers on a deeper level, to honour the orders and payment terms we had with our suppliers before the crisis and to adjust to this new normal.”
“Without giving away too much too soon, we are in conversation with a major fashion e-commerce marketplace to bring in a new line through the creation of a sister brand aiming to cater to our young-millennial customer base. The collection will include relaxed silhouettes and easy separates that are fun, edgy, chic, and most importantly, affordable. Apart from that, we are planning a dedicated accessories line to be launched later this year and vertical brand expansion into a new and exciting product category by second quarter of next year.”