Fashion designer Samant Chauhan showcased his latest collection in the ‘phygital’ space. His life is an inspirational success story
Samant Chauhan showcased his latest collection titled ‘New Born’ at the ‘phygital’ edition of the FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week recently. Or simply, it was an online fashion show. In the backdrop of woods with dry leaves strewn on the ground, models walked around adorned in exquisite florals, elaborate embroidery on flowing garments. The overarching idea is “to break the chain of dullness” that last year’s pandemic has entailed. New outfits harbingered a new season, with a new perspective and a glimpse of the celebration. “The right balance of shimmer and shine indicates the balance that we need to honour this year in our lives,” as Samant succinctly puts it.
Seated on the top floor of his three-floor showroom cum office in Shahpur Jat, he talks about his work, times, and challenges. A small-town lad from Munger in Bihar, he came to Delhi in 2002 to study in the prestigious National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). He was overwhelmed by the English speaking gentry of Delhi, not for long, he soon realized action speaks louder than words. And when he got going there was no looking back. Now he has many stores in Delhi and Mumbai, is one of the leading designers in the country and runs the business with his younger brother Prashant.
He is connected with his roots, and the fanfare of the fashion industry has not led to any form of denial about who he is, and what he is here to accomplish. He is an entrepreneur, and he has no delusion about it but does so with a sense of responsibility. Humility is his asset, he has nurtured a great team that he takes pride in, and works tirelessly to give shape to his vision. And he is blessed with many talents, sketching is one of them.
He has a team of some 150 staffers, treats them like an extension of his own family. He pays them good salaries, and they have indelible contributions to his success story. Then came the pandemic. Business suffered. Samant’s main concern was “How will I retain my people during the lockdown?” Tough times need tough measures, some may not make business sense. “No one was forced to leave the job, and we remained strong as a team,” he explains. And that’s not a favour shown to them, he needs each of them. His fixed costs in running the whole setup are in excess of Rs 40 lakhs. And he likes to reinvest profits back in the business, which has ensured steady growth.
It’s his passion to create, and wealth creation just happens to be a by-product. He yells out to his accountant, “Jha sahib how much money do I have in my personal account?” Jha sahib retorts with a humble number for a designer of his stature. He has different economic parameters for success.
He only uses Bhagalpur Handloom and needs thousands of meters of cloth every year, and it takes 8 hours per day, per man to make 4 meters of cloth. In this fashion, he generates employment, not just in Delhi, but also for dozens of handloom weavers in Bhagalpur. “Number of weavers provided with a reliable source of living is how we calculate our growth,” asserts Samant, “turnover to us is how many people are purposefully engaged.
Samant is proud of his humble origin and wears it as a batch of honour. He gives the credit for his success to teamwork and the stellar support of his brother, Prashant, so that he can pursue creativity—imperative to grow in the fashion industry. He seeks inspiration from history, architecture, travel and music. He’s a bold designer, one of the better known collections is inspired by ‘Kamasutra’.
He’s won many awards at international levels, the first one being Young Asian Designer in Singapore within a year of him graduating from NIFT. He won a cash award of $4000 that he invested in setting up his business, and got the ball rolling. ‘The Silkworm’ collection showcased in London, won him ‘Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award’ by British Council for generating employment in rural India.
There’s a paradox. Despite his friendly, easygoing persona, a team man, antithesis of highfalutin so common in the fashion industry, yet his enterprise is called after his name: Samant Chauhan. And a big part of his business is exports, almost 60%. All the exports are done with his name as the brand. He’s the creative energy behind this big enterprise. And if you tell this to him to his face, he blushes.
Unlike many families in Bihar who’d pressurize their sons and daughter to get into a government job or become a doctor or an engineer, Samant’s father, a railway employee, encouraged both his sons to follow their dreams. He always subscribed to the Delhi edition of the leading English dailies, despite being delivered after three days. He wanted to give his children a wider perspective and encouraged them to think big and remained hooked on to what was happening in the capital. He grew up watching tennis and soccer, and not just cricket. Had he not become a designer, he’d be a photographer for sure.
He’s demonstrated: teamwork in adversity and intelligent use of technology during the pandemic is the best strategy.