“People should start doing their part in sustainability, now is the time – the world is quite literally ending now. ” – Palak Bhasin, Co-Founder, Girls Next Door
“Ours isn’t a thrift store, it’s a consignment store. We wanted our consumers to have an experience where even though they are buying second-hand clothes, it’s as good as buying clothes that are new,” says Palak Bhasin, co-founder of Girls Next Door in a conversation with Startup Story Media.
While there are activists who are making headlines for their environmental activism, there are others like Palak Bhasin and Kashi Marwah, co-founders of Girls Next Door, who are doing their own part in making fashion sustainable and healthy. Breaking stigmas associated with second-hand clothes and selling zero-waste products, they are creating a new and robust fashion ecosystem in India.
An idea out of the closet
We have often heard about how good ideas are just around the corner if you look hard enough, but for Palak and Kashvi, a great idea was waiting for them right in their own closet as they talked and wondered about how we “never have enough clothes to wear”.
Palak told Startup Story Media how they came up with the idea of selling second-hand clothes and how they managed to make it work. “Upon finding more about it, we found out that the fashion industry is the second-largest polluting industry in the world. It takes ten thousand gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans. This gave us a great number of goosebumps. So we thought we should do something about it.”
As Palak tells us, Girls Next Door wasn’t initially meant to be an online idea but soon they realised during the lockdown that they might not be returning to college due to the pandemic after all and they didn’t want to stay just an Instagram page. “We decided that we don’t want to be just an Instagram page – we wanted more out of it. That’s how we decided we wanted our own website, our own tags, our stickers and everything.”
The website of Girls Next Door says it all – their inspiration, their journey and their commitment to the environmental cause:
“We advocate the principle of reusing; which involves selling, donating and buying – pre-owned items of clothing. Furthermore, buying products from GnD would allow liberal shoppers like you to purchase clothing that you love, without supporting unethical & insensitive production processes such as labour exploitation.”
It hadn’t been that easy to maintain a sustainable second-hand fashion store and they had to face the challenges that come with their work. With the stigma associated with used clothes, they had to think differently and with creativity. Palak busts the myth of hygiene that people often associate with new and old clothes.
“When you go to a big shop like Zara and you see a top that you like and then you try it on – that top has been tried on by 50 different people in a single day. The clothes that we have been sanitised, washed, dry cleaned, ironed and kept at our place – no one is doing anything with that,” she tells Startup Story Media.
Juggling college and startup
Palak and Kashvi, at the end of the day, are two young teenagers trying to make sure college is going as good as their startup. Although it hadn’t been easy for them initially, they tell us that they learned to manage things well eventually.
Palak tells Startup Story Media that they have a team of interns working for them and since they both always wanted to start something of their own, it hadn’t been that hard to adjust. Always active in her school and college days as well, Palak tells us how things worked out for her and her best friend Kashvi.
“Our classes are mostly during the day and of course, we do need management skills. We have a group of interns – so we have ten people working for us now. We have an innovation outreach team and the work is divided between all of us. We have a daily meeting at 10 PM where we discuss ideas about our content, our upcoming curation, about how we reach out to more people. That’s how we are able to handle our college and work because there are ten minds working on this.”
Marketing and content creation
Given the fact that they are a small business, marketing becomes a huge part of their business model, perhaps even the main part of it. Palak tells Startup Story Media that having their own website has added a lot of credibility to their business.
“When people see that a small business like ours has a website, credibility increases to another level. The second thing is we make curation videos on different themes. For example, for this month we are dropping a new curation for the entire month and the curation theme is pride – it’s queer theme curation. I think all of this has attracted our customers and then testimonials have been very useful,” Palak says.
What had started as their friends buying clothes for them is now a full-grown startup. Palak says that coming up with content and curation videos have been of huge help for Girls Next Door which delivers products pan India. “When you see the pictures, you think that this is as good as Zara or some high-end company who is doing an entire shoot. We put that effort in and people see that” she says.
Girls Next Door gets most of its customers through their Instagram page. Although they do have accounts and pages on Facebook and LinkedIn as well, their main customer base comes from Instagram.
Future plans and message
Having been applauded for their marketing strategy, Palak says that she and Kashvi are now heading for the branding industry to help others with their businesses as well.
Palak tells Startup Story Media, “We are soon going to expand into brand management. This is surely not something that is related to sustainable fashion, but we would like to get our hands on that. Because people have really applauded us on our marketing skills, so this is something we have in store for 2021. We are already working with two clients and are trying to bring this idea of sustainability to them as well.”
When asked what she would like to tell young upcoming entrepreneurs, Palak said that she would suggest them to start with their best friends first. “First of all, start it with your best friend. If you have a plan and even if that plan is generic, think of ways in which you can market it in different ways so that it gets to people. As my friend Kashvi says, whatever you do which is different from others, that thing will help you a lot. And of course, next is the time management skills. Make a complete plan for everything. There has to be 100 per cent communication – this is the key.”