Having kids is a big responsibility and a life-changing event. They challenge us, bring joy and even inspire us in their own magical way.
For Bengaluru-based designer mum Navdeep Kaur, the birth of her daughter in 2012 entailed all of this and so much more. The first time mother wanted the best for her child, and this concern, naturally, extended to her clothes as well.
“My daughter would react to synthetic fabrics very poorly. She would develop rashes on her skin which is why I would only stick to natural fabrics dyed in plant-based colours for her,” says the 37-year-old.
However, there was a massive gap in what she wanted and what was available in the market.
Navdeep then decided to speak to a lot of moms like her and found their requirements to be the same—natural fabrics, like hemp, cotton and silks, which were soft to touch and did not irritate their children’s skin.
Sensing an opportunity, she started to conceptualise ideas for a children’s clothing line, and after years of experimentation and research, she officially founded ‘Aagghhoo’ in 2019. In addition to clothing, the brand also manufactures baby products like blankets, pillows, and toys among several other products.
The name is certainly unusual, and when asked about this, Navdeep laughs. “‘Aagghhoo’ is that happy gurgling sound that babies make, and I thought it was the perfect name for my venture.”
All of these are made using handmade fabric dyed in natural colours. The fabric is sourced directly from weaving communities across the country, empowering over 500+ livelihoods! Until now, they have sold over 1000+ pieces from their line.
“My children have been the biggest influences in my life. My older one has always been very intuitive and has inspired the collections, while my younger one has modelled for many of my clothes. Often, she is the first one to try the clothes I make,” says Navdeep.
To own Aagghhoo’s child friendly creations, click this link.
Designer, mother and entrepreneur: An evolution
Navdeep had always been interested in design, and naturally, when it came to pursuing a career, she chose this field.
She finished her Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Art from the Government College of Art in Chandigarh, following which she joined the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad for a degree in Lifestyle Accessory Design.
The course had a compulsory internship tenure for students and to feed her budding interest in colour and its effect on people, Navdeep interned with Asian Paints, which turned into a job after her graduation.
“The kind of work I did there was to work with customers and their needs, and conceptualise the colour designs. So, I also had to do a lot of research (on the kind of paints, patterns, wallpapers they would want on their walls) while I was there. All this greatly helped me understand colour theory and consumer behaviour better, which as I see now, came in handy in several different ways when I set up my own venture,” she explains.
Navdeep worked with Asian Paints for four years, and quit in 2012, after the birth of her daughter. When her daughter turned one, she decided to set up her venture called, ‘The Color Workshop’ in 2013. Here, she would offer her services of design thinking, colour research, consumer research, experiments, among others to individual clients.
Navdeep admits that while she had little experience with fabrics, she was nevertheless interested in this area, especially (as mentioned earlier) since her daughter didn’t take to synthetic fabrics too well.
“There were very few brands selling clothes that used natural materials or processes while manufacturing. Also, I noticed that the colour of the clothes was gendered. The options I had for my daughter were bright pinks while all the blues were reserved for boys,” says Navdeep.
This observation, coupled with the gap in the market gave birth to the idea of Aagghhoo in 2013, although the venture came to be officially founded in 2019.
From the grassroots to a baby’s wardrobe
When Navdeep began her research, she knew that sourcing the right fabric was imperative. But where would she find it?
After considering all her options, she realised that the purity of the handmade fabrics would be guaranteed if she sourced from local weavers who have been in this trade for years.
And this way, not only would she be fashioning children’s clothing from the purest fabrics, but would also help to empower these communities.
“I met with a person in 2018 who was working closely with a collective of 70 weavers in West Bengal who were producing weaving fabrics from indigenous varieties of cotton. So, the first few fabrics that we sourced were from them,” Navdeep recalls.
Today, Aagghhoo sources materials from weaving communities in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. Also, in addition to cotton, they use fabrics derived from bamboo and hemp.
Navdeep sends the designs and patterns that she would want on the fabric and the weavers deliver as per her specifications. Once she receives the fabrics, she designs the outfits, and they are stitched in-house by a tailor.
“When I started conceptualising the brand, I wanted to meet the needs of the toddlers without them having to explain because, at such a tender age, they can’t. I started looking at my kid very closely and started noticing her likes and dislikes,” says Navdeep.
While designing the clothes, baby ergonomics was given utmost importance. “We were cautious about the fit and fabric because we wanted the kid to be able to freely move in these clothes. The designs are very simple and neutral, all dyed in natural colours,” she says.
The aesthetic and the quality of their clothes have impressed many takers. Take Bengaluru-based businessman Mahesh Jain for example.
Six months ago, the 34-year-old came across Aagghhoo’s stall at a flea market held in Jayamahal Palace and ended up buying a couple of clothing pieces, a baby scrapbook, a tactile toy and a blanket.
“The designs are simple and clean. It’s also organic, so I know it’s safe for my four-month-old daughter. The tactile toy is also something that my daughter likes and it makes a noise every time she plays with it,” he smiles.
Impressed with the quality, he even recommended Aagghhoo’s products to his circle of close friends and relatives.
Overcoming hurdles and marching forward
With a full-time venture and two young children, Navdeep’s days are incredibly hectic. After waking up, she gets her elder daughter ready for school and then moves on to her younger kid.
“I have converted two rooms in her home into a work studio. I work until 6 pm, but I take breaks in the middle to spend some time with my little one,” says Navdeep.
It might look like Navdeep has managed to lead a perfectly balanced life, but it hasn’t been devoid of challenges.
“Finding the right people who would want to work with us has been challenging. Some don’t have the requisite experience, while others do not want to spend too much time working on infant’s clothing line, says Navdeep.
Additionally, Navdeep says that there are very few people who can design baby’s clothing as per the correct ergonomics. “People may think it’s not very important or it’s super easy, but this is one of the toughest bits. The clothes need to be designed in a way that they fit perfectly,” she says.
Learning from her own experience of dealing with challenges, Navdeep has some advice for other entrepreneurs as well.
“I have always believed that the journey is more important than the destination. Always remember that the work you are currently doing is the most important thing. If your process is hands-on and you are true to your values, you will be happy and be successful. Be patient and set short term goals,” she says.
So, what plans does Navdeep have for the future?
She says that she is working on designing child-safe spaces and also working with a few toy manufacturers in developing this. “We want to design these spaces in such a way that children get to understand and interact with nature better,” she says.
She adds that she is also working on a ‘pre-loved’ range of children’s clothing that would mostly have to do with recycling fabrics and slow fashion. Along with that, they are also designing products that can be used by moms.
“I don’t want to make trendy clothing. I want to make clothes that are simple and wearable—children should be able to sleep peacefully in them. I also want to sensitise people on the value of handloom products and hope to become the number one sustainable brand one day. The end goal will always be to improve the quality of life for children and parents,” she says, signing off.
*An entrepreneur you admire
Ans: Ram Sinam (founder of Wari Watai)
*New tech that can transform the future of small businesses
Ans: E-commerce and Social media boom
*One value that can help small businesses thrive
Ans: Stay true to your core values
*Your favourite book
Ans: Eco Colour by India Flint
*In my free time I ____…
Ans: Spend time with my children
* Before this interview I was ____…
Ans: Working in my studio
*A message for your past self about small businesses
Ans: Meaningful work matters.
*Something they don’t teach in college but is important to run a business is
Ans: Real-time observations are equally important as theory
*One question I always ask people while hiring is ____…
Ans: if their ideas match with the studio design
*Best advice you ever got is to ____…
Ans: Be a work from home mom. I found my order in chaos, inspirations, peace by being at home
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)