One may think that a clean-tech engineer, an assistant director, and a clothing factory owner don’t have much in common. Gaurav Durasamy, Abishek Elango, and Vasanth Sampath found common ground in their goal to make anti-microbial, self-cleaning underwear for astronauts. They want to reach astronauts through their brand Tailor and Circus, which was launched in 2018. But astronauts are just one of the many niche categories Tailor and Circus is aiming for.
Gaurav Durasamy, Co-founder, Tailor and Circus, says “We want to build specialisations and address multiple niche groups within the underwear category. For example, we are aiming for period underwear, wheelchair comfort underwear, trans-inclusive underwear, disposable underwear, etc.”
Going by Tailor and Circus’ expertise in making unisex, body-positive, and comfortable underwear, this long-term dream could become reality sooner than expected.
On one hand, the founders felt that the overt and hyper-sexualisation of traditional underwear had led to a significant drop in interest for women. On the other, they felt that gender bias and hyper-masculinity had led to a shortage of interesting options for men.
After research and making a few prototypes, Gaurav says the trio decided to import and use Lenzing micromodal fabric from Austria. They felt this unique fabric could address the market gap they had found in the innerwear industry. Pulp production at the Lenzing plant in Austria is self-sufficient and “exceptionally ecological,” Gaurav remarks. The fabric obtained from these fibres is organic and cellulosic, which means it holds a distinct advantage over cotton.
“It is more sustainable than cotton as it uses less water and zero pesticides for its cultivation. When used as a fabric, micromodal is three times softer than cotton and more breathable,” Gaurav says. “This keeps your body cooler in temperate climates, making it the ultimate choice of fabric for underwear.”
The current fabric industry features cotton predominantly — a crop which uses a lot of pesticides and consumes a lot of water. For Gaurav, the micromodal fabric is the better choice due to the brand’s sustainable fibre production set up.
“We plan all our fabric imports in advance, and these are only spun at Lenzing-certified mills before being moved to our factory for the remaining processes,” he says.
And during a testing round, the founders’ idea was proved to be successful. “Our first invite-only beta round of products sold out within 24 hours. Consequently, the sale of the first 10,000 units was a huge validation for us in terms of proving our product,” Gaurav says.
Looking at the sales, it’s clear that a niche fabric appeals to more than just niche consumers. The brand has been selling to a range of regular customers through its website and common e-commerce platforms. According to Gaurav, the brand is on track to manufacture and sell four lakh products by 2020. The brand has a team of tailors which is focussed on slow stitching at this factory. Tailor and Circus also have a marketing office in Bengaluru, which comprises a seven-member team, in addition to the founders.
Besides sustainable manufacturing, Tailor and Circus is a proponent of body positivity. It uses a range of people as models without being biased about their weight or other physical features. Gaurav says, “We don’t airbrush or hide scars, stretch marks, cellulite or shapes in any way.”
After sales, Tailor and Circus track data such as customer purchase behaviour, preferences in styles, sizing, designs and more, he says “This helps us anticipate customer needs as well as plan our inventory with a constantly growing repeat customer rate. We also take feedback at every stage and plan our next collection and product categories around that.”
Maintaining inventory is easier said than done. The brand consistently sells out faster than it anticipates. This leads to gap days where it runs out of certain sizes or a whole category, Gaurav says. Further, Tailor and Circus’ social media-focused marketing model makes it challenging to reach customers who are not on social media platforms.