Puja Mapxekar, a cute, bubbly and full of life type of girl and perhaps the youngest fashion designer that Goa has. Within very short span of time Puja has achieved the landmark in the fashion industry of Goa by establishing her label called “KANDIDA”. The journey to this success was not easy for Puja it took a lot of efforts and spent sleepless nights to reach where she is today in just one year’s time. Unlike the conventional fashion designers Puja does not design only for the rich and famous but according to Puja, her designs are made for the masses. How? You need to read the complete story of Puja here to know about her Endeavors.
I remember meeting Puja almost one year back into my office, then she was just about to start her brand label KANDIDA and she came to my office to make some eco-friendly bags. At that time I just felt that she is too young to enter into the fashion industry but today I feel that perhaps I was wrong cause within that one year’s time Puja had not only established herself in this industry but also created the brand image. What made Puja go for fashion designing and how she manages all these herself at the same time keeping up with the market trends? I spoke to Puja about the Secret of her Success and she told me this. “When I was a kid I used to watch the FTV since then the fashion always appealed to me. I was not much into the studies and hence it became my weaker point. So till SSC I somehow dragged myself and passed with minimum marks,” said Puja adding that, “I knew that I will not be doing the graduation and I chose to take up the occasional stream in my Intermediate (HSSC) and I opted for the commercial garment designing and marketing in Carmel Higher Secondary at Pillar.”
According to Puja, she was always aiming to go for the best college in the fashion designing because she always wanted the best. “After completing my HSSC from the Carmel Higher Secondary at Pillar with the good marks I realized that I am capable of doing better in this field and forgot about my low marks in SSC. Then I started aiming for the best college in fashion designing and my teacher suggested me about joining the NIFT in fashion designing. Getting into the NIFT was not easy at all. The entrance exam was very tough and there were thousands of aspirants who applied for the limited 100 seats,” said Puja.
Puja first thought that this will be impossible but due to the advice and help of her teacher Puja decided to opt for the NIFT institute of fashion designing and appeared for the entrance exam. “To my surprise, I got the 16th Rank out of the 100 people got selected for the NIFT Bangalore. This was the outcome of all my efforts and help of my teacher. NIFT Bangalore is the second best college out of 50 colleges in the world.” Said Puja.
Puja has completed the four years course under her Bachelor of Design Degree and got passed out from NIFT in the year 2014. “After completing my graduation in Fashion design from NIFT I decided to take up the jobs to get some experience. I worked in two firms for one year and then decided to do something of own and that is how the label KANDIDA came into the existence. “The name KANDIDA came into my mind long back when I was in the 12th standard. At that time we had a project to make our own labels and I had to think of a nice name for it and make the layouts of the visiting cards. It made me think that the name should be some funky type and it should come from the family as they are the ones who supported me all these while and one name flashed in my mind “KANDIDA” which was derived from Canchan, Dinesh, and Damodar. I was sure that this name will keep inspiring me very time I think of it since it was made of the most important people’s name in my life,” said Puja.
According to Puja, although she is Goan by name but she is a German national by birth and when she thought of making her designs a unique one she started thinking as what will suit the best into her design. According to Puja Indian people living in Germany for more than35 years eats Indian food and wears the Indian Sarees, they even speak Indian language especially the Goans speak Konkani in there. Looking at that I decided to keep my designs pure Indian. “The Indian designs are more of printed blocks, unlike western designs which are plain. I always liked making Indian funky prints and that is what I brought into my designs. The Indian printed designs are the USP of KANDIDA label which is also my taste of ethnic wears,” said Puja.
Puja made all her designs very fashionable and used eco-friendly fabrics. “I realized that Goa is a place wherein everyone likes to wear the fashionable clothes so I decided to make the dress more fashionable and taking into the account the liking of people I added the eco-friendly fabric to my collections. According to me in India, the fashion shows takes place every other day and Goa is being the tourist-centric place lots of foreigners and Indians tourists visit the state who also loves to do the street shopping and that where the idea of providing the designer wear in less that Rs. 5000 stuck to and I launched the most economical range of design starting with just Rs. 2500 in all sizes,” said Puja adding that “I design for a specific requirement within the range of Rs. 2500 with print and embroidery in any fabric. Though the margins are less but this is what makes me happy.”
Puja does not feel that she is creating any sort of competition in the market by providing the designer’s clothes for less than five thousand rupees. “I do not call it a designer label but the designer retail label and there is no problem with any other designers whosoever as far as the pricing are concerned. I create one design and make many copies of it thus making it easily affordable for the people. I also sell it on the online sites like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Shopclues so I have to keep all sizes available in stock so it’s not the competitors that I have in Goa but the globally,” said Puja.
I asked Puja Fashion designing is not the cup of tea for everybody and only the richer section of the society opt for it. She said that it is the fact but she did not depend on her family for the complete funding but the course she did was from the money that she had saved from her school days. “I did not get the much backup from my family. I used to save the money right from my high school days. Every time my grandma gifted me some FD’s and she would also give me cash to buy stuff but I would never spend them. Besides that when I worked for a year I saved all the money and that helped me to start my small business.” said Puja. According to Puja, being a German national could have easily opted to stay in any of the EU countries and take the advantage of the free education but she decided to stay in India and do her studies and career here since she likes the Indian culture and customs.
Presently Puja has set up the small retail unit in the capital city and besides her online sales of the designer clothes, she is also targeting the foreign tourist who comes to Goa in the search of Indian embroidered closes. Her retail outlet will be catering to the elite local and middle-class consumers. Puja is also preparing for the participation in the exhibitions to promote her designer range. “We are planning for the Goa Couture Fashion Week in the line of India Fashion Week and I am also participating in the exhibitions like “Pop it Up” which will be happening in Taleigao.” said Puja.
When I asked Puja if she has any plans of getting established her label in the metro cities like Mumbai she said that she is not planning to move out of the Goa at the moment but maybe later on when she gets the better financial support she will decide of setting up her label on Pan India basis. “People of other bigger brands have the investors and they manage to set up pan India networks but nothing similar happening with me,” she said.
According to Puja, she has been shortlisted for the rising star awards which is an initiative of whereisthecity.com “This website is selecting 100 women entrepreneurs from every country and I have been selected from India and later on shortlisted to 50 finalists and now the final round will be taken up with the help of online voting and the winner will be awarded as Woman Entrepreneur of India at the function to held at JW Marriott in Mumbai,” she said.
Puja has participated in the various fashion shows including the one that took place in the Bangalore. “I have recently participated in the Bangalore Fashion Week and my show stopper was the South Indian Actress Shubra Avappa. This was my first show at that big level after the Lakme Fashion Week which is the best and oldest fashion shows in India. My show at Bangalore was the part of my expansion plan where I built very good contacts,” said Puja.
When I asked Puja as what tips she would like to give to the budding young fashion designers of Goa who are either in the process of becoming one she said that “The tip I would like to give it to the upcoming fashion designer is, we need to create the small portfolio for every brand and I did that by participating in the Bangalore Fashion Week. The next I am planning is the Lakme Fashion Week. There is a lot of efforts involved in the creation of collection which can take as much as one year or even more depending on a number of efforts one puts in. According to me, the imagination plays the major role in the creation of designs. In my experience, I can say that we all have the power of imagination and a signature style, as my signature style is doing prints. I imagine prints, it’s like I see a print inside and I want to sketch. After sketching no one would like to hang their creation on the wall but would like to show It to the entire world and the designers are people who put it in a garment,” she said.
Puja feels that every fabric has its own personality and it should match that personality and without fabric one becomes an artist but not the fashion designer. “I am specializing in Indian prints but little funky. We do digital handmade funky prints, this means we take a piece of paper and we sketch after that we put it in a coral draw then we rectify the lines and design, however, we want following to that we put nice colors, and then we print it on the fabric. So its digital also, handmade also and printed also. We don’t use block print but we print it on the digital printer. The colors that we use are according to the season but we also have our special colors which are little funky and vibrant. We work with export houses like Benton who work in mass so we have tied up with them,” said Puja.
Puja has struggled in the life and came up as winter at the end and now she wants to help the young talented people who want to learn the fashion designing. “I get lots of calls from the colleges and I have trained so far around 15 students but I sometimes feel the constraint of space and resources take up more people at the same time and I am also not in a position to provide them an employment at the moment due to lack of finance. I like to train others and I don’t charge for it. I just take freelancers from everywhere but not full time as I don’t want to give the entire work to them because even I want to use my creativity. If I give this work to someone else then the value of my work would go down,” says Puja. Puja is the budding young talent and entrepreneur that Goa has and she can become an inspiration to the many Goan young girls who wants to set up their career in the fashion industry in Goa.