Vrinda Gupta: Handcrafted Footwear Brand Amalgamating Comfort, Elegance & Ethics

Vrinda Gupta: Handcrafted Footwear Brand Amalgamating Comfort, Elegance & Ethics

Vrinda Gupta

Although the fashion industry has largely been catering to women, the big players in the industry have mostly been men. According to a survey, women spent 226 percent more than men on fashion, yet the top 50 global fashion houses had less than 14 percent women at the helm of affairs. However, the winds of change that were set in motion by Coco Chanel have been blowing faster than ever and ushering in a more gender neutral C suite in the global fashion industry. Vrinda Gupta, Founder, TEAL is a successful fashion entrepreneur contributing towards the evolution of the fashion and footwear industry as well as empowering artisans through her work. The astute leader also guides upcoming entrepreneurs develop their own footwear brands.

Vrinda has always had a passion for bags and shoes, which led her to travel to China and curate collections for her brand. To broaden her knowledge of footwear design, she enrolled in various courses at the Arsutoria, Milan and TAFTC, Singapore. Vrinda wishes to reduce the usage of machine-made footwear in favor of preserving traditional handcrafted shoes, which is how TEAL was founded. The brand has also been awarded the Global Footwear Awards and received accolades from Vogue and Cosmopolitan as well.

The Women Entrepreneur Magazine team interviewed Vrinda, the driving force behind the successful brand, TEAL that specializes in designing and manufacturing footwear. Here are choice excerpts from the conversation.

Give us an overview of TEAL. What are some important features about your expertise as an entrepreneur and business leader that you want us to highlight through the article?

TEAL, established in 2016, specializes in handcrafted footwear, with each shoe handmade in the company's own workshop, a testament to the company's love of shoemaking. It contributes to the preservation of traditional shoe manufacturing methods through the employment of talented crafts people. A proponent of comfort, elegance, and ethics, TEAL produces stunning shoes with delightfully eccentric patterns and an increasingly fashionable mindset. The brand also strongly promotes sustainability by creating only vegan shoes with some of them being made by upcycling scraps collected from apparel designers.

Apart from being the founder of a full-fledged design firm, I also train entrepreneurs who want to establish their own firms. I realized that while many individuals might be passionate about footwear but they may not have the starting point that I can provide by my training and manufacturing footwear for them to give it a start.

I provide manufacturing services as well as prototypes for firms looking to develop new items, particularly footwear. Now that I'm a qualified trainer, I teach adult learners in Singapore. I work with SkillsFuture Singapore, a government project aimed at up-skilling mid-career workers in a range of subjects.

Take us through your early educational journey and prior industry experience that you bring to the table. What led to the foundation of TEAL?

I completed my MBA in finance and worked as an equity researcher at Royal Bank of Scotland. I've

always had a fascination for bags and footwear, which prompted me to travel to China to curate collections that I would sell under my brand. I eventually moved on to be a fashion buyer at Zalora, where I assisted the brand launch their private label in Singapore, again by sourcing from China.

I have enrolled in several courses to further my expertise in footwear design, including a Diploma in Footwear Design and Collection Development from Arsutoria, Milan and TAFTC Singapore, and Circular Economy and Sustainability Strategies from the University of Cambridge. I also earned a WSQ Advanced Certificate in Learning and Performance from the Institute of Adult Learning. I setup my workshop in India and began scouting for obscure and skilled artisans in need of a venue to showcase their talents. My whole approach was to avoid utilizing machine-made footwear in favor of retaining traditional handcrafted shoes, which led to the formation of TEAL.

As an entrepreneur and trainer what are the various roles and responsibilities that you take care of in your current roles? Tell us about your most significant milestones that you have achieved so far.

My major role and responsibility is to oversee the entire brand. I am in charge of the accounting, and human resources departments, as well as workforce management. One of the most difficult business challenges is managing the expectations of various individuals with whom you work. I've encountered cases when the master artisan left during a major order for personal reasons. Since I have dabbled in different aspects of businesses, I am well prepared to overcome these challenges.

“Teal contributes to the preservation of traditional shoe manufacturing methods with the employment of talented craftspeople”

The first milestone for me was assembling a group of shoe artisans in India, empowering them, and allowing them to develop a product from scratch. Another significant achievement is that I was recognized as an ethical workforce brand by the Global Footwear Awards. I've been recognized by Cosmopolitan India, which named us one of the top ten accessory firms in India, and I've received recognition from our brand from Vogue, India too.

My leadership mantra is to be courageous and determined to push through every situation, let nothing deter you and then miracles can happen!

Going forward, what scope of growth do you foresee for the fashion industry globally? What are some of the most impactful trends developing within this space currently? As a successful business leader, what would your advice be to young women and girls aspiring to become business leaders and entrepreneurs in the future?

Covid-19 has ushered in a dramatic change in the way things are done, particularly in the fashion business. People are becoming increasingly cognizant of what and how much they consume. As a result, there has been a significant emphasis on sustainable fashion and being more environmentally responsible. Digital is another major trend that is here to stay. One thing to keep in mind is that the fashion industry has the power to serve as a voice for social change.

Fashion may appear to be a glamorous industry, but it requires a great deal of hard work; design is only a minor portion of the entire process. One must be determined to stay on the pitch. If you want to be a designer, you must work with others. However, if you want to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, you must be well-versed in business, people management, and design. You must believe wholeheartedly in your conviction.

Vrinda Gupta, Founder, Teal

Vrinda offers fashionistas and style-conscious women a way to ethically enjoy looking fabulous. Apart from being the founder of a full-fledged design firm, she also trains entrepreneurs who want to establish their own footwear brands.