FASHION Riveka Thevendran talks to Ridu Varshini, whose MustHaves label is earning it a following on Instagram, where she both showcases and retails her designs
First published in the March 2022 issue of Lucire KSA
In recent years, there has been a steady rise in online fashion brands, specifically on Instagram. While Instagram is the perfect app to keep in touch with loved ones and catch up with your favourite celebrities, it has added many features that allow users to shop easily from the app itself. Now, Instagram users can find their favourite brands by clicking on the tagged link that displays the price on any pictures posted on the site, and making use of the shopping page added to the app to look for specific products. The platform has been especially helpful in endorsing and boosting small businesses and brands that are exclusively on social media platforms, as it promotes interactions between potential customers and designers.
Ridu Varshini, a twenty-year-old designer and sole founder of her brand, MustHaves, hopped on Instagram to promote sustainable fashion. MustHaves is a great example of everything a brand can achieve on a social media platform. Based in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, a state in India where the culture is best expressed through traditional clothing made from a variety of materials like cotton, chiffon and silk, Ridu saw a problem that not many readily notice or are aware of.
Due to huge global fashion brands often buying materials in bulk, manufacturers in India often end up with excess and unused materials that are unlikely to be purchased as they are too small in number, even when combined. In addition, a great amount of fabric is also rendered inutile by manufacturers due to minor, yet impacting reasons such as a mismatch of colours, among many others. These fabrics are simply thrown away, which harms our already fragile environment. To combat this phenomenon, Ridu built her brand around making timeless and minimalistic clothing that were sourced exclusively from discarded and rejected fabric.
Even though Ridu finds herself at a disadvantage compared to her competitors as she is restricted to fabrics with mismatched colouring or less fabric to work with than her ideal, she claims that it helps rather than hinder the process as it forces her out of her comfort zone and allows her to explore new ideas and create a vision for a collection that she wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
Ridu’s dedication to her cause is apparent as she spends four to five hours at a time in sourcing units to try and come up with a colour palette on the spot for her collections with what’s available to her. While many designers view mismatched colours on a fabric as detrimental to their collection, Ridu finds that it opens a whole new spectrum of ideas for her to play around with. As she puts it, ‘I’m mind-blown sometimes with colour schemes that I would have never thought would go together.’
Although Ridu struggles with the amount of fabric she is allowed to work with at any given time, she insists that she does not support fast fashion. She goes on to state, ‘all our pieces are timeless and season-less. I try to cater to the needs of my customers, but also stick to small portions rather than end up with a stock of pre-produced pieces. I restock our best sellers with different colour combinations and this gives room for variety.’
When asked about some of the struggles she faced when it came to outsourcing unused textiles, Ridu was candid as she claimed, ‘It took me five to six months to be able to build contacts of trusted manufacturers who were able to provide quality fabrics according to the requirements of the company. It is a tedious and tiring process, but it will never not be worth it in the long run.’ Sustainability is the core focus as Ridu explains, ‘As a brand, we do not contribute in producing waste. Rather, we work around with the waste generated by huge global brands and we take steps towards making timeless garments that can be styled all through the year and not go by trends that die out in a few months.’
Ridu is also extremely grateful to her loyal fan base for being understanding and supporting her initiative to make the fashion industry more sustainable. This includes patiently waiting for the collection to restock. Although the wait time is a source of anxiety for any designer, fans of MustHaves have helped in reassuring Ridu that she has nothing to worry about. This is where Instagram, as a social media platform, comes into play due to its natural disposition to facilitate interconnections between people. Ridu is actively engaging with her audience and vice versa, establishing an open communication with her customers.
As a relatively new clothing brand, the main challenge Ridu faced when starting her clothing company was the sizing range of her pieces, due to the limited amount of textiles she has access to. The available sizes so far are small, medium and large. To make her line more inclusive, Ridu says, ‘I took up an initiative to use Spotify scan codes instead of size labels. Bracketing our bodies into size charts is practical, but at MustHaves, I want to break the barriers of sizing. I curate a playlist of hand-picked songs based on the vibe for every collection! Wear-Listen-Vibe.’
Despite having to juggle between her studies and her fashion brand while ‘figuring everything out along the way’, Ridu will be releasing a new collection called God Tier soon. It is said to comprise of very laidback and minimalistic pieces designed to look incredibly well put together, no matter the combinations you come up with. This collection is made to allow fans to mix and match to their heart’s content. Though Ridu has not set strict long-term goals for her brand, she definitely sees a future where her brand expands, with her original initiative in the forefront.
With over 2,000 Instagram followers and counting, Ridu is spreading the message of slow fashion, slow making and zero waste, one piece of clothing at a time. Operating exclusively through Instagram, her clothing line is available for purchase only through directly messaging her on her Instagram account, @musthavesbyridu. •
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