Fashion and fandom have never intersected more than they do now. Enter Svaha Apparel, which enables women to show off their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) passions through their wardrobe. Brains and beauty coexist in the company’s unique pieces that celebrate everything from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to robots and dragons.
Founder Jaya Iyer joined me for a recent chat about how she founded the company, their creative process, and how the fashion business has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about Jaya and her incredible company before you check out all the Svaha USA product offerings here.
Nerdophiles: What motivated you to start Svaha in the first place? Did you see a gap in the geek fashion market or what stood out to you?
Jaya Iyer: I was working at ThinkGeek; I used to buy apparel over there, and I decided to take some time off and stay home because my kids were very little. That’s when I noticed this gap, because I used to shop for my daughter a lot.
If you go into a store, all you would see is pinks and purples for girls and all these dark gray, black, green, and blues for boys. Also, the design concept on the girls’ [clothes] were just so “princess-y” and cute unicorns and things like that, and for boys, it was boring stuff or sometimes science-related stuff. If a girl wanted to be one of the things that is considered a boy’s profession, she just couldn’t get any clothes like that. She had to only like princesses and ponies.
That’s when I realized there’s a gap in the market and that I had the right experience for it and the contacts to make this happen. I just decided to give it a try.
NP: That idea also changes Svaha’s business model. You’re not only making the usual decisions of a fashion line, like following trends, but you’re trying to have a product that reflects a purpose. How do you meld those two missions together?
JI: For us, the whole design process has multiple steps in it. First of all, we decide, okay, this month, what are the new designs that we’re going to make? Currently, we’re working for the summer of 2021, and we’re thinking about all the events that are happening.
For example, we have Pi Day coming up [in March] which is a big deal for our customer base. If you’re going to make something for Pi, you have to come up with something that has to be absolutely accurate. Believe it or not, the first time we made our Pi design, we realized that one number in Pi was wrong. It must have been like the 55th number or something, but our customer is the kind who will find that error. We have to do our research. We have to make sure there are no errors in the design.
Then once the design team starts working on the design, we have to think about making sure that it is comfort driven. That’s one thing that all our customers say is that “Your clothes are so comfortable to wear that I can never wear anything else anymore.” We do take care of that and we have to make sure they all have pockets.
Also, when we’re deciding on the colors, we do look at the forecast of what color is going to be the in fashion next year. But then there are some things we cannot change the colors for because, if it’s the sea creature we’re making, it has to be the color that the sea creature is. We cannot change it. So some of the things like that, we have limitations.
We try to make sure that there’s at least one design in science, one in technology, one in engineering, one in art, and one in math. We make sure that we don’t not have a design in one of those categories for a long time. But there are so many different branches in science. Even within biology, there’s marine biology, there is botany and there’s just so much. We have a chart which we make, and we try to make sure that we cover each one of these categories.
And then we also always have customers telling us, why don’t you make this? And why don’t you make that? A lot of our ideas come from our customers. So we have a running tally of how many people have asked for what design, and then we use that sometimes to give us inspiration.
NP: You mentioned ThinkGeek, and there are other brands like Her Universe that have really opened up this space. How have you seen the intersection of fandom and fashion change in your experience with Svaha?
JI: I think that most people who consider themselves geeks, they really don’t worry about what they’re wearing most of the time. But when they want to dress up – for example, our clothes are the most popular clothes people will wear when they love Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Teachers, if they are going to a conference, will make sure that they wear our clothes because they want to show that they love books or they love cartoons, like in literature related designs that we have.
I think comfort is still key to them because they’re like, “Oh, if I’m going to be going to a conference, I want to be comfortable in this dress the whole day.” And they will wear our clothes. That’s why comfort is number one on our list.
Sometimes the new high fashion products that come in are not really comfort-oriented. They’re nice to look at, but they don’t suit all the body types. I feel like my customer base or the geeky people who follow us, they want new body types but they still want it to be comfortable. They don’t want to wear something just because everybody else is wearing them.
I also make everything from extra small to 5XL. The silhouettes go very well with extra small all the way to 5X.
They constantly do ask us, “Hey, can you make this change? That change?” I know that when I launched, I had like maybe two or three styles of dresses and people just fell so much in love with [them] that I didn’t feel like I needed to change. I was like, okay, if it’s selling, I’m going to continue making it. But now I see that people are trying to get inspired by, Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to wear clothes like this. You should make something with that kind of color. People are getting inspired by whoever their idol is and saying, I want to wear clothes like that.
NP: Fashion has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year we’re seeing so many people staying home and not caring about their wardrobe as much. How has Svaha adapted to that new normal?
JI: We launched a whole line of yoga pants and leggings. People are saying that’s my new normal. I only wear yoga pants, but I want to feel good about wearing the yoga pants that I do and I want pockets in my yoga pants. So we launched a whole line of yoga pants with pockets and they have the little hints of geekiness, like they have dinosaurs or they have planets, or they have a neutron and like a few neurons going up the leg.
The second thing is that there are a lot more people who are telling us, can you make more tops? Because a lot of them are on Zoom calls…We have started getting a lot more requests for tops, rather than dresses or bottoms which have prints on them. We used to have some dresses which only had print at the bottom of the dress. And now people are like “Who’s going to see that, because I’m going to be on a Zoom call?”
For more about Svaha Apparel and to purchase any of their products, visit the Svaha USA website.