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Smriti Sain spent a lot of time exploring her skills as a fashion student at NIFT. After having worked with big brands like Woodland and Ritu Kumar, she started up Chiaroscuro, a workshop initiative that specializes in crafting leather collectibles. “While I was working with a wide variety of individuals & organizations, I learnt more about myself and the fashion industry,” says the founder.
Eventually, that feeling of wanting to do things better creeps up so strongly that the only way forward is to just create the world you believe in.
The founder says that Chiaroscuro has been a dream that has been coming on so slowly over the past decade. Once Smriti knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, there was no stopping her. She stayed away from full time work engagements, became an independent consultant and working on projects part time to allow herself to explore. “I also saved as much money as I could along the way to have a funding pool for my start-up. I’ve warmed up to the journey step by step,” says Sain. She started with one workshop machine at a time and one artisan maker in the in the beginning. “It has built up gradually over the past few years at a pace I felt comfortable with,” she adds.
Having a consultancy income was an incredible support all along, but letting go of the training wheels at the right time is also key.
Smriti believes that easy life never attracted her. Once she scaled one challenge, no matter how big/small, it was instantaneously onto the next. “My parents brought up me and my sister to be ambitious people. We both have very high expectations of what we’d like to do with our lives. This really drives you to be bold in what you expect out of yourself no matter how scared you feel inside,” she says. Smriti was fortunate to have constant family support while she was starting young.
When you start early, the thought that you have something to lose never crosses your mind because, well, you really don’t!
Her start-up, Chiaroscuro make beautiful bags with carefully selected & outstandingly natural, pure leather. “All our leathers are responsibly sourced from tanneries only as a by-product of the meat industry. No animals, endangered or otherwise are ever reared primarily for their hides. We also strive to put to use, stock lots of various tanneries around the country in an effort to consume the material that has already been created and reduce wastage,” says Sain. Furthermore, each piece crafted at Chiaroscuro is ‘Single Artisan Made’, in his individual style. No dispassionate assembly lines, no disconnect with the complete craft!
Chiaroscuro names all its creations in interesting names likes Lizzie (pouch), Stefanie (sling bag), Anabelle (tote bag) and Michela (wallet) giving each one their own identity. They also give an option of monogram customization of the bags to make them truly yours!
While creative work came naturally to Smriti, she faced challenges while starting up. “I’ve had to self-teach myself the accounting, paperwork, managing a largely male workforce, web development, social media marketing,” she says. Though the list got new additions every day, Smriti has come a long way in facing them.
As an entrepreneur you are challenged every day. And you rise to each challenge every single day. As a modern day woman entrepreneur, Smriti is amazed by the taboos in this day and age.
“Why we sometimes have a penchant to generalize everything instead of celebrating individuality eludes me. Whatever works, just works. Exception to the rule or not. I am not a mother yet but I guess this could translate to ambitious women aren’t good wives or daughters,” she says.
The fear of living an ordinary life that created no real value for any one of my biggest fears. Through the journey, the founder has learnt to prioritize. “Certain people, life experiences and things (yes things too!) will always be important to me regardless of anything that happens. Let’s focus on the achievements and milestones instead,” she says. She says that like any other start-up, hiring for Chiaroscuro has been a tough task.
A skilled labour that knows the craft inside out is a rarity. To ensure the growth of expertise of her team, Chiaroscuro has created an environment in their in-house workshop that allows for skill development and ample space and time to really craft each creation.
Being a woman heading an almost all male workforce has it’s challenges and advantages as well.
Smriti feels that believing in the vision that one has is of utmost importance. As an advice to future womenpreneurs, she quotes Sarah Ban Breathnach. “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”
Smriti hopes to see Chiaroscuro create lasting value for all its employees and customers. Feministaa wishes her the best in this journey!