19th February, 2021 | 8 min read

Runway to conscious consumption ..

Instrumental to the transition of the fashion industry in India, this week’s guest, Diva Dhawan is currently spreading positivity via her venture “And Then We Stretch”, and promoting conscious consumption via her venture “VRTT Vintage.” 

Why did you choose this industry to begin your career?

I never planned on moving to India for modeling. It was something that happened on its own. I always had an interest in fashion, and I knew I wanted to model, but I always pushed to do it in New York, and it never worked out for me. I always used to come to India for family holidays but, I never really had my grounding here. However, when this industry opened up and invited me with open arms, it was truly refreshing. I decided to take up the challenge to move here and start working here. When I transitioned to college, the one thing that helped me choose this career path was that I'm such a hands-on person, and It ended up being such a beautiful path because it made me meet so many people. I think I grew with the Indian fashion industry to what it is today. I'm happy and proud of what the industry has grown to become and how it's expanded. 

From the beginning of your career to where you are now, what has your journey looked like?

I started working super young. I've been modeling for around 13-14 years now, and it was challenging at first. I never really understood what it was like to live in India, and I lived in a bubble in New York. However, I would say it was a beautiful start. In terms of work, my mom traveled with me for the first year and didn't leave my side; Having that support system has been a blessing. I got accepted from the start in India; I've worked with some of the most amazing people, and some of this country's best designers to date. I was one of the youngest girls to participate in the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week. It's a blessing that my parents supported that I wanted to do that and accepted it as a career choice that I was making. It's only now that I can say I have the grounding to start my own business because I've built a network of people that I have worked with for so long.

How do you think the fashion industry has evolved in terms of retail?

I feel like we didn't have a grasp on how to deal with Indian consumers. We were always restricted in the fashion industry. I think the beauty now is that India is respected on a global level of fashion and people are looking at India to discover new fashion designers. People are talking about people from the fashion industry here and giving them importance. The publications that have launched in the past few years, like Vogue, Cosmo, Verve, all of these magazines coming to life, put India on that international benchmark. That certainly has helped retail! We were always influenced by the western ways, but now India has its own reach, and people get inspired the other way, it's kind of like a role reversal. 
What led to the inception of the brand VRTT Vintage? 

I was born and brought up in New York. For me, the whole concept of thrifting and buying secondhand never had a stigma attached to it. My co-founder Gabriella, coming from a fashion space, has great style; she shops worldwide & loves purchasing vintage items. We wanted to develop an idea to give people access to the things that we wore. Although the luxury market is robust in India and most of the biggest brands are here, you still don't have the same options available in India. I would say our main focus was coming from the sustainability angle. We wanted to bring something sustainable and affordable into the Indian market. Those were the two reasons how VRTT Vintage started. We wanted to make people understand that there shouldn't be a negative connotation attached to secondhand purchases; buying pre-loved shouldn't be considered a bad investment; it actually means you're doing the environment good. Our whole tagline is based on that.

What is the process of consignment on VRTT Vintage?

First, a form is sent depending on what product you want to consign. For example, it's a handbag. We send you a reference of photos to take against a white wall, preferably in natural light, see all angles of the bag; we then move on to examine whether it comes with the dust bag and the authenticity card and authenticate the bag for you, we’re firm believers that it should always go through double authentication as we pride ourselves on selling only 100% authentic goods. We give you the option of consigning goods for either one month, three months, or six months, and you give us your preferred duration to market your products for you.

Is there anything about the brand you would like to share?

We are very particular about the turnover process, it has to be as quick as possible. If a product is sold, we try and clear the payment within 48 hours. Customers have always said that the process is effortless, and the products always come in excellent packaging and great condition. What you see is what you get. I think that's helped with our customer satisfaction because they're dealing with a real person talking to them through a secondhand purchase. They might be a little weary about it first, but we try and make it as open and honest as possible!

How are you promoting a healthier lifestyle with your brand And Then We Stretch?

You have to do what works for you! I started practicing yoga when I was 15; my mom pushed me to do it and It was just a euphoric feeling. I made it a part of my lifestyle, which inspired me to start 'And Then We Stretch.' I got certified as a Pilates teacher a few years ago; I wanted to deepen my practice and knowledge in this new exercise form that I had learned. I would spend my summers teaching for fun, and I didn't realize my passion for teaching until last year because of the lockdown, which is why I call, And Then We Stretch my pandemic project. It gave me the room and the time actually to work on something I truly enjoyed. It was a pure passion project. 'And Then We Stretch' came about as promoting and sharing your version of a healthy lifestyle. 

Can you share some tips for people to feel better about themselves?

I'd suggest not to compare yourself to what you see around you. We are all born with our strengths and weaknesses. We all have things that we're not confident about. You have to check yourself for a second and go inwards and understand that you're never going to be perfect in everyone's eyes, but you need to feel good about yourself. Not everyone can carry every fashion trend or dress the way people dress on social media and that’s okay! When it comes to body positivity, you cannot look outwards for this journey; you must look within.

How do you balance your personal and professional life, especially now that working from home comes with having lesser boundaries? 

That's something I still struggle with; I try to use an hour in the morning to do something that's just for me, whether it's educational, exercise, reading, watching something, listening to music, or going outside for a walk. When COVID hit, it forced us to stay at home for an unfortunate reason, but we all were forced to stop doing everything at the end of the day. Let's remind ourselves that when we're rushing to do our next project, hurrying to make a deadline or hastening to meet everyone and be social it's essential to take one thing away from that & slow down a little bit.

What is your take on how technologies help your business?

God bless technology! Although it's terrifying, It has connected the world. I would say from a sales standpoint in VRTT; it helped us start this business. It helped us connect to a network of people interested in what we do, and I don't know what I would do without it.

What is an online fitness class or trainer that you look up to?

One is Pooja, she's a yoga teacher in Bombay, and the other is Suraj, a functional trainer-coach in Bombay.

What is your favorite way to detox?

Outside, around nature, without my phone. 

What three words describe your personal style the best?
Minimal, black, and high-waisted.

If you were to go back to modeling, who's the one designer that you'd love to walk the ramp for? 
Dhruv Kapoor. 

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