It has been a tumultuous seven years for D2C start up FS Life, formerly Fable Street. After a good start in 2016 focussed on Western work wear for women with a USP of catering to all body types, a pivot was necessitated in the middle of its growth journey due to the pandemic, when people stopped going to work.

“It was very hard for us as we were completely focussed on work wear,” says founder Ayushi Gudwani. “We had to transition. We changed ourselves to service different needs of consumers, and that’s why we sustained and did well,” she says. So Fable Street, which was purely focussed on Western work wear, started offering occasion wear, day wear and so on, sewing up new products and experimenting a lot.

New Threads

Having tided over that crisis, FS Life, which now has an annualised run rate of ₹150 crore, and a year ago received a pre-series B round of ₹50 crore from Fireside Ventures, is stitching together an aggressive expansion plan. It’s going offline this month with three retail stores for the Fable Street brand in Pune and Mumbai. It has already threaded its way into two new segments — Indian wear and jewellery — with two new brands. While its first brand, Fable Street, will stay true to its USP of Western wear, Pinkfort is a modern spin on traditional Indian clothing — the kurta sets are re-imagined, there are dresses, co-ord sets and more. March offers sterling silver and semi precious jewellery.

“During the journey of building growth, we realised that accessorising is integral. Jewellery is a space with a lot of unmet needs as our customers were craving minimal and high quality pieces,” explains Gudwani.

The former Mckinsey executive, who traversed the familiar engineering-MBA route (she is an IIM-Calcutta silver medallist), ventured into entrepreneurship when she spotted the gap in women’s wear. She wasn’t able to find well-fitted Western wear for herself.

“Globally, in most countries, the share of women’s wear to overall apparel sales is higher than men’s wear. But in India it is men’s wear that contributes more. Women as a core TG (target group) is underserviced,” she says. A fact that is surprising to hear since the popular perception is that women are more dress and fashion focussed.

“The good part is that more and more brands centric to solving for women — and not just in apparel — have emerged in the last ten years,” says Gudwani, who is clear that in all its expansions, the company will stay firmly focussed on its core goal of solving problems for women, since there are several unmet needs and the opportunity is huge.

Eye on the needle

A recent Bain and Company report says that digital disruptor brands are projected to outpace India’s online fashion market growth with 35 per cent annual growth, to reach $10 billion by FY28 from its current size of $2.4 billion.

While that is encouraging news for D2C brands, the competition is intensifying. With two big players Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail and Reliance Retail Ventures in the fashion fray, gobbling up several brands big and small, how will FS Life hold up?

Gudwani seems unfazed by the competition, and the ongoing consolidation. “While there is a lot of clutter, especially as barriers to entry have come down, very few brands will be able to scale up,” she says.

“Being in the industry for seven years, and scaling to the growth we have achieved, we have clearly realised that brands are built only if there is clear coherence on servicing a customer need. As long as your product stays relevant from a consumer point of view, and the brand association is great, you will win in the long term,” says Gudwani.

She says that in her experience, women are very loyal customers if their needs are met . “Men will go and experiment here and there, but women are sticky,” she says.

All three FS Life brands are following a classic playbook. Building their own websites, driving sales through them with aggressive social media marketing on Instagram, Facebook and so on, and then moving on to marketplaces like Myntra. And, finally going offline. “An omni-channel approach is necessary,” says Gudwani. Mall activations, touchpoint marketing and use of digital to drive consumers to stores will all be done.

On digital, more than influencer marketing, Gudwani says the focus on self content creation has helped FS Life. “Self creation allows us to control the content, and the brand voice,” she says. Clearly Gudwani has it all sewed up.

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