Neha Kabra: An Entrepreneurial Fashion Designer Driven to Make a Difference   
Neha Kabra

The Indian fashion industry is growing significantly with time. Technological advancements have also played a significant part in taking the industry to the next level. Many leading fashion brands are competing to assert their dominance in the market.

From this perspective, these top brands are always on the lookout for impressive fashion influencers who have tremendous power over their audience. These influencers endorse different fashion brands and convince the audience to purchase fashion products and merchandise through marketing campaigns. They play an important role in enhancing the popularity of any fashion brand in the market.

One such celebrated personality who has established herself in the fashion industry is none other than Neha Kabra, the Founder of Maati, the renowned fashion brand. She has always been driven by the urge for creation. This understanding, along with sourcing responsibly from nature, is what shaped the journey for Neha and Maati, which was indeed accompanied by tremendous ups and downs. However, the brand’s journey has been beautiful and memorable.

Neha’s Source of Inspiration

The urge for creation is what drew Neha towards the fashion industry. However, what caught her attention was to make every day count. “If we can revolutionise everyday fashion, it is more fun than just having that one glam piece,” she states. While growing up, Neha was inspired by various subcultural fashions that would make do with every little thing they had and made a statement out of it. She was motivated by African subcultures, Indian subcultures, personalities such as David Bowie, Rihana, Anaita Shroff. However, later on, Diya Mirza, Bandana Tiwari and their values towards the environment inspired Neha to push her limits and accomplish more.

Beginning of the Journey

Neha always had the intention of doing something with design. Accordingly, she studied at Raffles Mumbai while pursuing a course as a fashion designer. Subsequently, she worked with other designers who went to Mumbai and also got an opportunity to work at Lakme. After completing her design course, Neha moved on to London and pursued a course in pattern cutting from central St. Martin, where she learnt the technicalities of fashion.

Right from her college days, Neha has been driven to do something in the field of fashion in her own right. Before going to London, Neha carried out deep research and came up with the idea of sustainability in fashion and to establish Maati.

Opinions about the Industry

Neha believes that fashion is a challenging industry to thrive in and survive. However, she felt that the covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns made people more aware of the local markets, homegrown brands. It also helped in the whole mindset shift towards ethical fashion. Hence, Neha thinks that the effect has been positive. Although the sales and the market took a hit with the competition around, it has definitely improved.

About Maati

Speaking about Maati, Neha opines, “We are a small homegrown label working with different villages all over India. We have worked with weavers of Bengal to Kutch. Indian textiles as well as craftsmanship is something that always leaves me mesmerised.” She adds, “We have made only a few collections to provide for everyday Indian fashion by amalgamating Indian craftsmanship. Currently, we are working on a project of making T-shirts from handloom cotton as it is widely used and could be game-changing in the industry along with focusing on upcycling of rugs for one-of-a-kind jackets”. These jackets are made out of heavily embroidered discarded rugs, making them even more beautiful. They are worn by Masoom Minavala and are very popular in festivals too.

Overcoming Challenges for Better Outcomes

According to Neha, the ideology behind Maati is to source responsibly from nature and make sure it creates bare minimum wastage and carbon footprint in the process while lasting long enough. However, if mixed with earth, it shall dispose of quickly without leaving any remains. In order to achieve this, and sustain the same results over time, a lot of complex challenges have to be overcome. She believes that sometimes the solution is readily available, but the means to apply the solution are not.

Earlier, in India, eco-friendly fashion was not popular. However, people have become aware now because it is trending on the internet and has gained popularity. But, it is important for them to know that every action has a reaction that generations to come may have to pay. Neha expresses, “Sustainability is not an option but probably the only way of moving forward. This concept is something I have learnt over the years and have adapted to my lifestyle. Once you adapt, you do start making a difference”.

Major Achievements

Neha believes that her biggest contribution to the fashion industry would be just the thought and concept of not living up to the two seasons’ timelines. This has helped her to introduce herself to the concept of seasonless and genderless fashion. Throughout her journey of trailblazing the fashion industry, Neha got an opportunity to be a Ted-x speaker and got a chance to speak about slow fashion.    

The Secret Sauce of Success

Neha believes that the biggest secret to success is consistency. She believes that one should have their ups and downs but should be consistent at their work. “The bad days will lead to the good days but be at it,” states Neha. She also says that one should be to be true to their nature. “Only if you believe and trust in what you are doing you will be able to keep doing it,” she expresses.

Neha believes that it is always good to be a part of the change, especially in this era where everything is super quick and attainable from wherever one is.

The Future Horizon

Regarding the future, Neha states that she wants Maati to educate more and more people in the country and abroad about quality and sustainability. She also intends to set up her own production house to engage people to work in self-sustaining clusters. This would also help talented individuals to learn, adopt techniques, and pass on knowledge along the way.

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