Homegrown slow fashion power dressing brand Qua is changing the way Indian women perceive workwear. Translating to ‘power’ in Arabic, Qua is the brainchild of engineer-turned-entrepreneur siblings – Rupanshi Agarwal – Founder & CEO of Qua and Bharat Agarwal – Founder & CxO of Qua, who quit their careers in tech to bridge the gap and cater to the workwear needs of modern Indian women.
With over 5.2 million urban women set to enter the workforce by 2023, the market is growing at a CAGR of 7 per cent, and the per capita expenditure is expected to hit Rs. 6,400 by 2023, rising from Rs. 3,900 in 2018, making now the ideal time to address this problem.
Upholding sustainable practices of slow fashion, Qua focuses on the longevity and versatility of clothes by sourcing high-quality fabrics and further works towards normalising functionality in women’s workwear.
While working in tech, Rupanshi noticed a massive gap between women’s workwear available in India and its quality. Limited clothing choices, monotonous colours and uninspiring designs, led Rupanshi to explore the art of power dressing for women in the country.
“In today’s age, more and more women are working as leaders and experts across industries, and yet there aren’t many Indian brands that are catering to their lifestyle needs,” Rupanshi Agarwal, Co-founder of Qua, told Apparel Resources (AR) in an exclusive interview. “The modern woman is incredibly productive, creative and hardworking and needs a wardrobe that applies to that new role.”
Keeping these factors in mind, Rupanshi and Bharat launched Qua in 2019, an affordable luxury brand that aims to break the monotony of workwear by offering a minimalist aesthetic in fresh and versatile colours, fine fabrics, ultra-modern tailoring and clean silhouettes.
PRODUCT ASSORTMENT, DETAILS AND PRICING
Currently focused on apparel and jewellery, Qua caters to ambitious and confident women between 26 and 50 years of age, who live in metro cities. Pegged between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 10,000, the brand offers a wide assortment of structured pant suits, elegant shirts, chic dresses and versatile co-ords under its apparel category; and elegant, work-appropriate jewellery under its accessories offering which starts at Rs. 1,200.
At Qua, timeless and classic pieces are designed and produced to last forever, fighting against temporary trends. Challenging the societal norms of only men having the luxury of functional workwear, the brand strives to offer quality and chic work clothes which celebrate femininity, confidence, gender equality and functionality.
“Pockets in womenswear have become such a big thing, but in fact, they shouldn’t be! Pockets in clothing are a fundamental requirement, but unfortunately, they were never a part of womenswear and that is the reason women get excited if they get pockets in their dresses and trousers. With Qua, I want to normalise functionality in womenswear and strike a balance between functionality and style,” Rupanshi explained.
The brand’s tailoring essentials have a special emphasis on details, lending a personal power to the looks. Its designs are packed with top-notch cuts and structured shoulders, functional pockets and immaculately framed collars, combining classic styles with modern silhouettes.
Corroborating the same, Rupanshi said, “Our workwear collection includes design elements such as ruching, peplum silhouettes, immaculately framed collars, concealed button plackets, mother of pearl buttons, co-ord ensembles and wide leg silhouettes to amalgamate style and comfort. Our fully-lined pantsuits are made out of trans-seasonal fabric and feature padded shoulders and functional pockets. By introducing a much broader colour palette (mint green, brick red, deep olive, midnight blue and powder pink) to pantsuits and shirts, we want to break the misconception that workwear always has to be mundanely black and white.”
Keeping in mind its end customer, Qua’s minimal statement jewellery pieces have been curated from a versatile perspective to create light-weight and easy-to-wear pieces that are handcrafted by Indian artisans.
Commenting on the future trends in workwear for women, Rupanshi said, “Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, nothing seems more appropriate and comforting than softer and breathable fabrics like cotton, viscose and linen. With the lifestyle change, the demand for functionality and versatility will take precedence in workwear. The waist-up dressing will continue to prevail which will put the spotlight on detailing like statement sleeves, necklines and exquisite pieces of jewellery. Puff sleeves, power shoulders, ruching and knot details, contemporary collars, wide-legged and cotton-lined pants, pantsuits in vibrant colours, oversized shirts and minimalistic jewellery will reinvent workwear and empower women while working from home.”
In terms of colours, one can expect fresh and calming tones such as sorbet pastels, which are hassle-free and easy to pair. Solids are expected to take a backseat, whilst unusual pairing of colour and prints will be favoured to add a touch of vibrancy to the monotonous ‘WFH’ lifestyle. Colours mixed with neutrals, pastel colour-blocking, combination of different prints like florals, geometric and stripes, will be seen having their fashion moments in the coming months.
ADVOCATING SLOW FASHION
It is an established fact that around 85 per cent of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators. To reduce the wastage of textile, Qua manufactures clothes in small batches by analysing the brand’s previous data and predicting market demand.
“For us, sustainability is a journey comprising multiple small steps for the betterment of our environment. We have designed a line of trans-seasonal clothes that do not deteriorate after wearing once or twice and last longer with proper care. Our goal is to create timeless and classic designs instead of following fast fashion trends. We ensure sustainability by downsizing the manufacturing of clothes,” Rupanshi highlighted.
Qua also emphasises on the importance of having a capsule wardrobe that can be styled in multiple ways and can be worn multiple times. The brand is also constantly working towards minimising the usage of polyester, as it is an oil-based plastic and does not biodegrade like natural fibres.
According to Rupanshi, “Qua encourages women to practise slow fashion by investing in high-quality clothes and accessories that last longer, and repeating their clothes by styling them in different ways. Modern working women inevitably face gender-specific challenges at their workplaces, and we don’t want ‘deciding what to wear to work’ to be one of them.”
Furthermore, the rapid spike in online shopping has led to an increase in packaging waste. Upholding its values towards environmentally aware processes from the onset, the brand provides zero plastic packaging for its clothing. All online orders are shipped in 100 per cent recyclable cardboard packaging.
MANUFACTURING AND SOURCING
Qua outsources its production and manufacturing and works closely with Indian factories for sourcing its fabrics and tailoring.
“A lot of our fabric is sourced from South India, whilst most of our tailoring is done in Delhi and Gurgaon. We try to source locally as much as we can,” Rupanshi revealed, adding, “Localising the supply chain gives us a tremendous opportunity to help the environment, as it reduces shipping and storage, thereby reducing emissions and energy usage. Apart from this, being vocal for local also proves to be a big boon for the local economy.”
Aiming to be an inclusive brand for women, Qua provides a wide array of size options ranging from XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL, and comes out with 4-5 collections per year.
In-sync with the current trends, Qua doesn’t compromise on comfort and chooses premium fabrics like Turkish cotton, viscose, linen and wool blends. These light-weight, soft-to-touch and comfortable fabrics offer optimal breathability.
“We outsource premium fabrics such as Turkish cotton, viscose, linen and wool blends, as they are biodegradable and offer optimal breathability. Our blazers are lined with 100 per cent viscose instead of polyester and our collection of dresses and co-ords are made using 100 per cent viscose and cotton. Most of our shirts are also made up of 100 per cent viscose and cotton,” Rupanshi elucidated.
HARNESSING THE POWER OF DIGITAL FOR CUSTOMER ACQUISITION
Qua takes pride in promoting and empowering women, and thus, the brand is constantly inspired by the duality of strength and sensibility that women possess. Being an online brand, Qua places utmost importance in recognising and addressing its customer’s pain points and strives to provide an excellent customer experience.
“We have a unique 90-day free return policy, free standard shipping where the order gets delivered within 3-4 days and express shipping where we deliver orders within 1-2 days. We have also started free home trials in Delhi-NCR, which got an overwhelming feedback with a conversion rate of 95 per cent, and we were planning to expand this service to other metro cities as well, but due to pandemic, we had to put this service on hold. We also provide our customers one-on-one virtual styling sessions from the comfort of their home. We prefer to use WhatsApp over chatbots to address our customer service and queries, as it is essential for us to resolve the issues of our customers in real time and people highly appreciate human touch,” Rupanshi explained, highlighting some of the key steps the brand is taking in order to tap the digitally-driven consumer of today.
To further simplify the purchasing process, Qua offers styling sessions via WhatsApp and online blogs available on its website. It constantly offers fashion tips and style guides to give its customers more confidence to ascertain effortless elegance in their personal style. Through its digital community, the brand celebrates diversity and promotes awareness regarding gender equality covering everything from pay checks to pockets!
Commenting on the digital aspect of fashion, Rupanshi said, “With the shift happening from offline shopping to online, we believe virtual trial rooms are about to become a norm. People are used to shopping offline after trying on the clothes, and being an online brand, we are trying to replicate that same experience by providing them free home trials wherein they can try on our clothes from the comfort of their homes (free of cost) and then decide what they want to purchase.”
Besides being available for purchase on their official e-commerce website www.qua.clothing, Qua also retails on Myntra, Tata Cliq Luxury, LBB, HYPD and Stylenook. The brand is also in the process of onboarding Nykaa.
Determined to forever stay ahead of the curve, Qua plans to introduce blockchain in its technical system in the near future, and will start accepting payments in cryptocurrencies subject to Government policies.
With the aim of becoming a one-stop shop to meet all the sartorial needs of working women, Qua is all geared up for dropping additional product categories such as footwear, handbags and accessories in its upcoming collections.
**Bharat graduated in Metallurgy from IIT-BHU, whilst Rupanshi graduated in Computer Science and worked in a tech company prior to starting Qua.
“I’ve always had a passion and an eye for fashion, but the lack of a fashion degree is something that always held me back from working in this industry. Soon I realised that, it doesn’t really matter if you have the passion for it. Being a successful entrepreneur is as much about passion and persistence as the idea itself,” Rupanshi told AR.
At Qua, Rupanshi handles design, production and marketing whilst Bharat is responsible for technology, operations and performance.
The brother-sister duo complement each other perfectly – Bharat being more analytical, has a logical way of thinking – he is a problem solver, whereas Rupanshi is more creative and outgoing making it easier for her to network and envision the brand out of her own experiences as a working woman.
Founded in July 2019, Qua has been growing consistently and today, comprises a team of 2-10 employees with the main manufacturing unit located in New Delhi, India.