AND: BTS Of The Journey From Cloth to Customer
Brand Breakdown is Shopflo’s monthly 4-part newsletter, in which we deep dive into an Indian D2C brand, and understand its constituent elements to figure out what makes it tick ⏰
A brand that has found residence in the urban women’s closets, AND is a trailblazer that brought global contemporary silhouettes to India. This week we take a look at the work that goes behind each AND outfit, and the operational processes the company follows.
Western clothing for women in India was an evolving concept in the 90s. At a time when India opened its gates to the brands of the world (read: economic liberalisation), women working in corporate offices also grew in number. As we read in the previous edition, this was also the time when a young Anita Dongre was spurred to start her own brand by the rejections she faced.
AND identified a gap in work and casual wear for women in India
One thing that liberalization did not bring with it was brands that designed clothes for Indian women. The uniqueness in our culture brought with it: women of different needs, comfort levels, and values. The scarcity of contemporary silhouettes to choose from that cater to these requirements is what resulted in the creation of AND.
Indian women do not come in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mold. Each region of this country presents a unique version of what it means to be a woman in this country. AND is a brand that has chosen to celebrate this diversity by tailoring its merchandise mix of each store to suit the characteristics of the region. In terms of color, silhouette, patterns, and even the visual merchandising of the store, every detail is carefully curated.
With each year that passed, AND grew to widen its collections to include casual day wear, denim, evening gowns, a linen line, winter wear, maternity wear, fragrances, accessories, and by 2019, even sportswear.
AND Girl was launched later on the consumer insight that most of the women who shop at AND, are young mothers, looking to also dress their girls in comfortable, fashionable clothes. Working two seasons in advance, the final garments that hit the store conceal the amount of planning and work that goes into them.
Creating garments for AND is a multi-step process
The design team at AND consists of designers, along with a designer solely dedicated to the denim line, and graphic designers that work on the prints for the season. Phase one of the designing journey kicks off with Research.
The color, trends, silhouettes, fabrics, and patterns are discussed, and mood boards are created more than two seasons in advance. This period also includes speaking to, and visiting numerous vendors, to discuss the fabrics to be purchased for the season.
The team then moves on to the next phase: Ideation. This phase involves a lot of sketching and pattern creation. Each designer sketches their ideas out on paper and sits with the head pattern-maker who creates each part of the design on pieces of thin cardboard, to be later used while cutting the fabric. Every measurement, right down to the length of the fabric left to stitch the seams is discussed. Mockups are created on muslin and tried on (humans, not mannequins) to gauge fit and wearability, and tweaks are made.
Every step of the process has been refined over the years for smooth operation
The Creation phase comes next, along with a lot of chaos. Fabrics are ordered in small quantities to make samples, and designers spend their day running between tailors, pattern makers, cutting masters, vendors that do embroidery, women who do the finishing (buttons, embellishments, etc), and their own desks. There are numerous trials during this time, and collection is slowly built. Brainstorming with the Visual team to ideate shoots and store layouts also takes place during this phase.
This culminates in the final Decision phase, where the entire design team sits with the merchandising and buying teams, to present the collection which usually consists of around 200+ styles at the time. Each and every garment is tried on and discussed, and goes through numerous rounds of tweaking before the final orders are placed. A good chunk of the styles gets rejected (due to reasons ranging from measurements and fits to costing and available fabric quantities).
The quantities and fabrics for the stores in different parts of the country are considered, and the final quantities are locked. The very last event before the styles go for production and hits the stores is the Trade Fair. A showroom is set up with the upcoming collection and accessories for the viewing of buyers from various multi-brand stores such as Pantaloons and Shoppers Stop.
Keeping the consumer at the centre has been crucial in AND’s growth
Once this is wrapped up, the designers immediately jump into the research phase for the next collection, and the cycle continues. Simultaneously, consumer feedback is taken from the stores on a weekly basis, and smaller collections with shorter lead times are created to cater to fads and consumer preferences as well. The insights gathered from observing consumer shopping behavior are analyzed and incorporated into future collections.
Garments tell stories, and for a brand like AND that was created with the purpose of clothing women in wearable, comfortable fits, there is a person behind each small detail. As consumers, we are unaware of the numerous processes and people that run behind the clothes that we wear, and understanding them, gives us a deeper appreciation of the operations that have been perfected over the years.
In the next edition of this month’s brand breakdown, we’ll check out AND’s marketing strategies, and the stories the brand told through its social media and campaigns.
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In case you missed the previous edition, here you go
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