Ikshit Pande Explains How He Built A Truly Global Brand, QUOD, With Its Roots in India
Ikshit Pande is a Nainital-born who studied in Delhi, worked in Mumbai, completed his masters’ in design further in New York, and founded QUOD, a brand that retails worldwide.
Currently, he is in QUOD’s studio in New Delhi, from where he speaks to me over a phone call. The designer and founder of this New York-born desi label notes, “I don’t believe we as creatives need to be stationed in one place to run a brand.” He has successfully imbibed a seamlessly global philosophy in QUOD, born in January 2019. The brand started out with presenting at New York Fashion Week in 2019 and has since only experienced an upward shift. With an aesthetic that he describes as “delicate and feminine”, but “fiercely unique” and “never passive”, QUOD is a prototype of contemporary power dressing that has its roots in India and a vision that transcends borders.
Following are excerpts of my conversation with the founder-designer where we discuss his transition from marketing and communication strategy to design, the difference in NY and New Delhi markets, and the advantages of being registered in two of the most diverse markets in the world:
- When and how did the brand come to being? What does ‘Quod’ stand for?
After graduating from the Parsons School of Design in December of 2018, and completing my design internship at Vera Wang, I was looking for something that would push me as much as attending design school did after working 8 long years in brand communications and strategy.
Before getting into school once again after so long, I knew I wanted to take forward my love for fashion, design, and lifestyle and fuse it with what I was doing prior to school. And as soon as I graduated, I realized how fashion now is a whole lot about marketing and I’m more equipped than many of my peers to take this plunge (of starting my own label) after an intensive few years of design studies and practical training at Parsons, Central Saint Martins, and the Vera Wang atelier. Soon after, in 2019, QUOD was born.
Borrowed from Latin for ‘thus it has been demonstrated’, Quod Erat Demonstrandum usually means to come to a conclusion from something that was earlier only a hypothesis. Therefore, you had an idea that this might be true, and following a due course of exploration, you eventually prove it to be true. Like usually at the end of an algebra equation proof—QED/hence proved.
For us, Quod Erat Demonstrandum or simply QUOD is an embodiment of this belief. This hunch of where the world clothing, style, and fashion agenda should be and where it should go from there. And thus, doing things that bring such a belief to life. Always looking forward, thinking new, and working to be fiercely unique.
- Can you tell us a little about your background? How was the transition from brand management to designing?
I began my marketing career with advertising (Lowe). From there I made a switch to Royal Enfield. I started in the marketing team as an executive and was the brand communication lead at the time I quit Enfield to go to Parsons. Some of the projects I led during my time at Enfield were projects that dealt with strategic design. As I kept handling such projects my respect for design and arts and urge to somehow find that speck in my own domain of expertise kept growing. And after a few years, as I hit a sort of satisfaction plateau with my work, I asked myself what next and the idea to go to school hit me (after all, I was turning 30 that year). Next thing I know, a whole lot of realizations dawned upon me, and because of my love for design and an interest in fashion and fashion marketing, I chose to go to school for fashion design.
- Your journey with QUOD has traversed quite a few borders. Where would you say you draw creative inspiration from?
Men, women, how they dress and style themselves, people on the streets, nature in a huge way, architecture and shapes in things and objects, there are a lot of things that inspire me. Although I do keep going back to nature. Perhaps because of my being born and brought up in the foothills of the Himalayas, there is a recurring connection to nature and to all of its forces.
Although one pop culture event did really make me stop and think as to where I would like to head my brand (if I would ever have one) while I was still in design school was Lady Gaga at the Elle Women in Hollywood celebration in October of 2018. Gaga chose to wear an oversized Marc Jacobs Spring 2019 pantsuit look to the event and explained how as a survivor of sexual assault she wants to “take the power back” and “wear the pants” in her speech. That moment pointedly defined for me what I would like to design in the future and for what kind of an audience. From there on, it was always about power dressing, no matter how delicate and feminine the approach to a particular look may be. The looks were never passive.
- Your brand is registered both in New York and in New Delhi. Can you shed some light on the ground realities of these two markets?
There are indeed a lot of differences between the two most vibrant yet diverse markets in the world. Our New York clientele buys and consumes fashion in a very different way than our New Delhi buyers. And not just the consumers, the way our studios function in the two cities is very different. But most of all, the business model is one of the biggest and most significant differences. While New York contributes to our wholesale portfolio, New Delhi is all about consignment and direct to consumer formats of selling.
- What are the Indian elements that feature in QUOD’s creations?
Although I have never seen our designs in such a light before, now that you asked I do think a lot of elements in QUOD designs come from the Indian culture. Especially our skirts. A majority of Indian regions do not have saree as their primary attire. And even today there are states, like Rajasthan, where some sort of a skirt variation is worn around the body with a dupatta and blouse. That’s where QUOD’s skirts come from. The romance, the fun, and the liberty of a skirt, as an idea, is heavily influenced by the Indianness of that silhouette. How to adapt that for modern living and extend it to the future is what we strive to do with that idea at QUOD.
- How does the brand incorporate sustainability in the design and production process?
About 90% of the styles of all QUOD collections use natural fibers, and with every new collection, QUOD’s aim is either to maintain this percentage or only increase it further.
The QUOD studio in New Delhi is a 100% hand-tailored facility. QUOD is also a 100% made on-demand facility. We do not aim to mass-produce and create every garment with object and intent.
All ornamentation or embroideries on QUOD pieces are hand-done from leftover/scraps of threads, fabric, or tulle. Most of our packaging is either home compostable, recycled, reusable, or a combination of these.
- How would you say business overseas and here in India has been impacted in the last year? What are the similarities and the differences in the pattern?
Since we operate in a variety of business models, from wholesale to consignment, to direct to consumer, each one has been negatively impacted and I think that’s where the similarities end. All through last year, we have seen a dip in the business across models, although that dip has not been the same across geographies. Some markets did manage to do fairly okay considering how bad things had gotten to at one point in time. Out of those who did not, some have started picking up, and the rest are on their way.
- How would you say the dual registration has benefitted the brand, and what were the initial obstructions you faced while establishing your brand in New York?
Dual registration was never a conscious decision for us. We started in New York and thus the registration came about. Similarly, when the larger studio was set up in India, the India registration came about as well. Other than the ease in following compliances in both the countries, along with other functional benefits, the largest benefit has been from the marketing point of view. Due to our dual presence, we are perceived as a global brand that is bi-cultural and brings the best of the values of two of the most different and diverse regions of the world.
- How do you perceive the Indian market after the lockdown?
The Indian market has always been exciting. And more so now because not just the Indian consumers, but consumers worldwide have learned to comfortably shop from their homes during the long lockdown. Therefore, we are eagerly looking forward to engaging with them in new ways that complement this new way of shopping. Having learned some valuable lessons on buying patterns of the Indian market in particular in the lockdown, we are also working on something new and perhaps a bit closely relevant to the palette of the Indian consumer. More on that at the right time soon.
- What are your biggest lessons that you would share for someone just starting their own label?
A few of them would be: To trust the process, it takes a long long time to get where you want to be. Patience is the key. Also, to ask for help. If you don’t know something, accept your novice status and ask for help. Ask your family, ask your friends, or ask total strangers who you think are smashing their game. You would be surprised how many are willing to help you through. And lastly, but most importantly, never forget to be your own cheerleader. Do it as often as you can. Only when you keep believing will others follow. It will be tough to be the first one to pick yourself up when things are not going your way, but do it before it drives you to failure.