Via East is a brand that is completely focused on handloom saris that are sourced from weavers and sold online.
Via East is an online ethnic wear brand that focusses on Indian textiles and the myriad art forms associated with it. The platform showcases a range of saris that are made for the modern, progressive Indian woman and has its design philosophy rooted in a love for good craftsmanship, simplicity and elegance. On the website you can choose to buy saris by price, type, fabric and colour. Some of the kind of saris retailed include Banarasi, Chanderi, Checks & Stripes, Embellished, Embroidered, Gadwal, Jamdani, Kanjeevaram, Maheshwari, Mangalgiri, Paithani, Printed Sarees, Sambalpuri, Traditional Silk, Woven Border, Woven Motif and Kota saris. The saris are available in several materials too – all of which adhere to its handloom philosophy. So you have saris in Chiffon, Cotton, Crepe, Georgette, Kora Silk, Kosa Silk, Linen, Linen Cotton, Linen Silk, Matka Silk, Munga Silk, Muslin Silk, Organza, Silk, Silk Cotton Sarees, Tissue, Tussar Silk and Satin. You can also choose to shop by colour and these also have a special festive edit collection with some hand picked saris for the perfect occasion. Deeksha Sharma, Founder, Via East, tells us all about the brand’s journey to date in this exclusive conversation.
Tell us something about your early days and if handlooms was always
I have been involved with the fashion industry for over 14 years now. I graduated from NIFT, where I got significant exposure to the Indian textile industry. The experience also expanded my horizons towards modern fashion aesthetics and the intricacies of how the fashion industry works in India. Post that, I worked with both offline and online retailers. I was one of the earlier team members of Myntra and worked there for several years, joining the company at an early stage gave me the opportunity to witness and participate in its stellar growth, through this experience I got a deep, intuitive understanding of the e-commerce space.
When and why did you start Via East?
I started via East in 2017. While working with large online and offline retailers, I realised that handloom products as a category were underrepresented on these channels. I also felt that it was difficult for modern women to purchase sarees that meet their aesthetic expectations and have simple and understated designs. With internet user base rapidly expanding in India, there are not enough channels available to women where they can find a large collection of sarees that also meet their design expectations.
Why did you choose to work with Indian handlooms?
I think Indian handlooms represent a lot more to people than just products. It is deeply rooted in tradition and history. I feel that this tradition is worth preserving. While I am absolutely in favour of globalisation, I feel it is also important to preserve something that connects us to our roots and gives us a sense of individuality. I can personally connect with the feeling because I inherited an old Banarasi heirloom from my mother that holds a very special place in my heart and I know it to be true for many women. I wouldn’t want future generations to not feel that same sense of belongingness.
Where do you source your saris from?
We source sarees from all over India but specifically focus on Banaras and Chanderi. We also get sarees from Jaipur, Bhagalpur, Kanchipuram, Kota and some other places.
Who or what inspires you?
The idea that the work we do makes an impact in the lives of those who work hard and are less fortunate inspires me and our team the most. We do our work with a sense of responsibility and ethics. In the long run, we want to scale the platform and thus provide significant economic opportunities to Indian craftspeople.
Do you have saris woven specifically? How do you choose the weavers you work with?
Currently, we do not have sarees woven specifically. We rely on the creativity of the craftspeople, most of who come from a long line of weavers and possess a huge repository of designs and techniques and are continuously innovating. We choose weavers based on their aesthetic sensibilities and technique. We focus on simple but traditional designs and work with weavers who have a similar approach.
How receptive are consumers to the price premium for handloom products?
I think that most of our customers understand the hard work that goes into producing a handloom saree and are fairly receptive to the prices. That being said, we try to price our sarees in a way that is fair to both our customers and weavers.
Saris are seeing a huge revival today, how can platforms like Via East help?
Platforms like Via East can help in many ways. One big way I can think of is by making saree shopping easier. It has always been difficult for women to buy sarees, one has to go through a large number of designs to find one that they like, on top of it, it involves going to traditional markets, which, let’s face it, can be tough. Other than this, youthful, online brands also have designs and fabrics that are rethought for modern women. Such platforms cater to the evolving needs of women and are selling sarees that can be worn at work, dinners and other casual events
What are some fashion trends you see in 2020?
In the ethnic space I see quite the opposite of what one might call trends. I see a revival of interest in traditional and vintage motifs. Most of our customers still opt for the most well established and time honoured palette and designs.
Tell us about the USP of your platform and how it is different from others?
Our platform focuses on simplicity and honesty. We try to declutter every possible aspect of our platform and present to our customers the facts in the most straightforward way. We purposely stay away from exaggeration and garb. We chose designs that are beautiful in their subtlety and we represent our sarees in a way that most Indian women can relate to. Our portrayal of women is real and raw, which is the way we think it should be.
What are your future plans?
In the future we plan to work more closely with our weavers and understand their rich history and culture and pass on this understanding to our customers in terms of designs. We also plan to focus more on wedding and occasion wear and perhaps add a few more categories adjacent to sarees.
This story first appeared in the January 2020 issue of Apparel Magazine here: