‘Maikai’ means goodness; it comes from a Hawaiian word. A new brand, Maikai within a short span of time has built a reputation for itself and is becoming consumer’s favourite just by virtue of word of mouth publicity. But what’s unique is that the brand is selling handblock sports bra. Vidya Sethi, Founder, Maikai Clothing tells us how it all started and where she is heading with her brand.
Vidya got her formal education in Computer Science from Odisha, the state where she was born and brought up in. From a very young age she was inclined towards fashion. “But in the pursuit of a meaningful career and what I wanted to become, I wanted to be a doctor. When we were growing up, becoming a doctor or an engineer were the only two options for the most intelligent kids, which is what we were told. So in pursuit of all that I ended up becoming a computer engineer, even though I had clicked through the state level medical entrance exams. After 4 years of engineering, I worked with TATA group for two-and-a-half years as a software engineer. But I never could find meaning in my career and decided to move to the development sector and that’s how I joined the Teach for India fellowship programme. The programme really opened doors for me, showed me the real India and I realised what education is at the grassroots level and how privileged I was.”
Vidya then goes on to add, “This made me want to stay in development more and I got connected to the Gandhi Fellowship programme from Piramal Foundation; after my fellowship, I moved on to Digital Media Marketing because I had a knack for social media since college and doing that for a company in the education sector made me happy to be part of the change I wanted to see. I was doing very well for myself; I had two back to back promotions but I felt like I needed to take a break because work was definitely intensive. I was living in Mumbai for a decade almost, then I took a 6 months sabbatical from work and went to Goa, and I finally decided it was time to build my own brand. I started understanding the carbon footprint of fast fashion and till now 20 per cent of my wardrobe is fast fashion. However, from 2019, I decided not to buy fast fashion anymore. That’s how Maikai came about, I wanted it to be good for the environment I wanted women to enjoy their body. I wanted to be size inclusive and make clothes that are comfortable, flirty, sensual and feminine while still keeping the process zero waste.”
Nurturing the unique
Vidya was heavily into body building for 3-4 years and she used expensive sports bras that never really fit her well. “There was this whole issue of spillage, feeling uncomfortable and the bra getting stinky. I wanted to make something for women, which is completely custom-made for their bust. That’s how I made the first product. Initially I had yoga in mind when I was designing my first bra. But with four iterations, we came to this product that provides more support and coverage. The amount of love I received gave me more motivation to keep developing new products,” Vidya shares her inspiration story.
The journey was challenging, Vidya admits, because she launched Maikai in 2019 and 2020 was the year of pandemic.
“It was unfortunate but I took all of that time to look inward and plan, think big, think about the things I want to do in the next 5 years and we reopened just in the beginning of August or September and the response was really good. Now I’m learning how to scale the production, I’m still learning but I think I’ve come to a really close SOP around the whole process. The journey has been very promising, people have written the most beautiful stuff to us and being able to support two teams makes me very proud. The most promising thing for me is women are able to embrace their uniqueness, no matter what the number,” Vidya highlights.
Maikai now has expanded its collection and sells dresses, jumpsuits, sports bras, zero waste scrunchies, headbands and the recently launched Maikai lounge set.
Maikai produces its unique range in small batches and gets them done in unique patterns just to bring in a lot of variation. Today the brand on its journey has reached all across India, from Kolkata, Assam, UP, almost all the states in the South to other parts. Thus, Maikai now has a strong consumer base.
“We don’t want a store as of now, we want to have a cloud production and want to ship from here. Having a retail space doesn’t make much sense to me because everything is custom made. I’m proud to say that what we make is handcrafted and zero waste. The differentiation is the price point at which I offer my silhouettes and the contemporary designs I provide, which are very unique compared to other sustainable brands. We don’t follow fashion trends, we are creating our own and I don’t see them going out of fashion in the long run. My products go through a lot of trial and testing and revision. From sketching, to selecting the perfect coloured fabric for a particular design, each of my products goes through rigorous checks. It’s slow and it takes a lot of work, but I’m happy to be doing this,” Vidya mentions.
Vidya also highlights that in the time to come, fast fashion brands are bound to get aware and adopt ways to become more sustainable.
“It will take a lot of time but brands like H&M moving into recycled polyester is a good first step. I think the scale of production needs to come down. Speaking of people working in the slow fashion industry, I think people should be more focused on how they can bring down the price point; of course luxurious lines should be there, but slow fashion should be more affordable. The difficulty in convincing the consumer about slow fashion is all owing to the fact that fast fashion brands are pricing their collection at a cheaper range and slow fashion is higher priced. However, consumers need to understand the time and effort taken to give a slow fashion collection its shape. India is slowly accepting the idea of sustainable production and ethical fashion, but the ride is slow and it will take some time before we attain that holistic consciousness,” Vidya concludes.