India is said to have one of the largest diasporas in the world. Yet in Malaysia, the Indian population only makes up about 6.8% as of 2020, according to our local Department of Statistics.
It’s no wonder that traditional Indian wear that also happens to be Malaysian-made is scarce.
One artisan filling this gap is Brinda Sagar, an Ipohrian who started her brand amidst the lockdowns at 21 years old.
With a keen interest in photography, one of her pastimes is Instagramming, as she puts it. This hobby would later aid her in gaining customers for her Indian wear business, The Sagar’s, which now has over 24,000 followers on Instagram at the time of writing.
Raised by shop owner parents in Ipoh, Perak, Brinda has been exposed to a business environment from a very young age.
Nearing the end of her university journey in Professional Communications, the lockdowns were imposed, and she moved back to her hometown from KL.
“Time away from all the hustle and bustle of KL made me start a special Instagram page for my interest which included styling,” Brinda told Vulcan Post.
“The only available choice at that moment for me was to style Indian traditional attire as my parents were in this retail business for years.”
With the intention to inspire others through her styling abilities, Brinda’s Instagram page started gaining the attention of buyers as time went by.
Now, she reported that The Sagar’s has found customers from Malaysians, Singaporeans, and France-based Indian populations.
The right fit
Scrolling through The Sagar’s Instagram page, where most of the operations take place, the page specialises in sarees for women.
Though Malaysian-made Indian traditional dresses were rare to find several years ago, the craft is now slowly picking up its pace.
“There’s a wide variety of online Indian traditional clothing stores to choose from, especially after my brand got famous,” Brinda claimed.
The saree designer even stated that there have been several pages copying her designs and reselling them, something that seems unfortunately too common in the fashion world.
She elaborated that there are also some taking inspiration from her designs and creating modified versions of her dresses.
Yet, Brinda doesn’t let herself get too bothered by this. Perhaps it’s because she’s aware of The Sagar’s product-market fit, and her marketing abilities.
Aside from her strict curation of designs, customisation services are also available, where customers can request certain designs and choose their own saree colours. These factors are what Brinda believes makes The Sagar’s stand out amidst the competition.
“Everyone can buy my products because of the design. Our dresses mainly are long-sleeved-flair gowns,” she said. “The fact that you can customise your own dresses also opens up the possibility for other races to wear our clothing line according to their sense of style.”
Handmade to order
As the sarees are considered luxury items and are handmade, Brinda attributed her key business challenge to fulfilling customers’ demands on time.
Meeting special deadlines given by customers sometimes puts her in a dilemma as The Sagar’s requires at least four to six weeks to complete a single order from the day a request is made.
“It is important for our customers to be patient as there are a lot of intricacies involved in completing a designer Indian dress,” Brinda added.
When it comes to festivities, Brinda sets up pre-orders for her customers. To prepare for the influx of dresses to tailor, a portion of the work is outsourced to factories in India, especially for pieces that are in The Sagar’s ready stock.
Brinda shared that she faces little issue when it comes to styling her designs. “I just follow my style instincts and people seem to really like it,” Brinda pointed out.
Emphasising her sarees’ quality, Brinda occasionally finds it challenging to keep up to her own standards. “My business mantra is ‘quality over quantity’, [so] I complete a customer’s dress order as if it’s being made for me. In other words, I put myself in the shoes of my customers.”
Also believing that comfort should come before style, Brinda ensures her designs fit that bill. This particularly holds true with traditional Indian attire that can be uncomfortable due to a piece’s stoneworks and rough thread embroideries.
It seems that this attention to detail is working for Brinda. Reviews praising The Sagar’s product quality have been helping build customers’ trust towards the brand and Brinda’s abilities, which is noteworthy for a young entrepreneur who’s just getting started.
While Brinda has worked with customers from France, Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand, she stated that postage fees can be pricey.
Thus, she intends to first expand The Sagar’s brand in the local market, and is hoping to own a physical store for her clothing line down the road.
Featured Image Credit: Brinda Sagar, founder of The Sagar’s