About Kaabia & Sasha Grewal : A passion for jewellery and desire for the unorthodox is what brought sisters Kaabia and Sasha Grewal together to launch Outhouse in 2012. Guided by a sophisticated yet dramatic sensibility, the duo combine unique elements with inventive design to create their collections. Outhouse is now one of the leading bridge-to-luxury jewellery house in the country. In a short span of 6 years, Outhouse has done 4 shows at Lakme Fashion week, countless exhibits, been facilitated as the winners of the Vogue Fashion Fund 2015 and to top it all, both the founders have been featured in the prestigious Forbes India 30 under 30 list 2016. The brand is fancied and worn by some of the biggest fashion icons such as Kim Kardashian, Cardi B, Priyanka Chopra, Nicky Minaj, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Kareena Kapoor to name a few.
Tell us a little about the idea and major impetus behind starting Outhouse Jewellery?
They say nothing can drive your dreams like passion, and that held true for us when it came to Outhouse. As sisters who are aspiring jewellery designers and eventual co-founders, we were strongly driven to start an enterprise such as Outhouse because of our mutual love and passion for jewellery. It was definitely a challenging process, and it’s just as rewarding. Kaabia and Sasha developed a love for jewellery at a young age during several visits to the jewellers with their mother. They grew up to pursue that love with degrees in jewellery design and manufacturing from the Indian Institute of Gems and Jewellery, after which Sasha got recruited as a head designer at a design house. She went on to design for the high street fashion brand –Topshop in London. Meanwhile, Kaabia continued her passion in jewellery and went to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in New York to pursue her interest in gemology after which she interned with jewellery design maverick Eddie Borgo.
“It all started out as hobby designing jewellery for ourselves and our close friends, and doing a few exhibitions until it became a full time business.”
2. What’s on your vision board for 2020?
For 2020, we’ve had to toss out the entire play book and start from scratch just like all other businesses. We’re restructuring our brand for the new normal, being more mindful about the way we conduct our business and looking at more Sustainable ways of operating our business . We’re moving towards sustainable development and finding more and more ways to repurpose our existing inventory of raw materials to create new designs. Outhouse has also partnered with PETA as we inculcate veganism into our brand. We’ve always condemned the use of animal skin for designs and we’re inventing ways in which Outhouse Bags could be produced using vegan and sustainable products. We’re looking to do a sustainable program within the organization and strategizing for the coming year keeping in mind all the lessons 2020 has brought for us.
3. What inspired your interest in jewellery designing?
Our love affair with all things sparkle and jewellery started when we were kids. Like most places, we accompanied our mother to the jeweller – which was our favourite destination as we’d look at everything with a mesmerised eye. Growing up, this love for jewellery turned into a driving force for us to explore our creative senses – scoring straight As in our arts curriculum while eventually moving on to pursue fine jewellery and design manufacturing and trained in industrial design from IIGJ. While Sasha pursued designing jewellery for high street brands like Topshop and River Island after her degree, Kaabia pursued her interest in Gemology from GIA, New York and interned with jewellery design maverick Edie Borgo. It was a chain reaction, one interest leading to another and today, here we are.
4. You started Outhouse Jewellery in your mid- twenties. What was one thing you wish you knew when you started?
Our goals were majorly passion driven as jewellery designers and moving to start a whole business was the next best step. However, as an organic and homegrown brand, having knowledge of in-depth business variables and a projection of a realistic 5 or 10 year business plan was something we wish knew more strongly but it’s a learning process and with each day you add something new to your pool of knowledge for business. Hence we really have no regrets as in many ways nothing can beat on the job training .
5. Do you remember the first piece of jewellery you created? How has the industry changed since the?
The first ever collection we created at Outhouse was Leone d’Oro. While there were many key players in the jewellery industry back when we started, the general mindset towards aesthetic value over precious metals was a strange concept. Outhouse’s brand narrative has always been that of creating pieces that are conversation starters – what goes behind making a piece of jewellery and its unique storytelling. These attributes for a brand were quite foreign in the Indian Market and we’ve brought about a gradual change in it. It takes the right brand strategy to become an aspirational brand, and for the market to start resonating with design and not metal value. Outhouse pieces are an experience and a storytelling, and it took a while but the industry has accepted and loved everything we do; and we do it with love. We have also opened a New Segment in the Jewellery Industry which was very “ Value “ driven breaking the old traditional mindset also setting new economic parameters in creating employment .
6. Is there a lifestyle change that you still hope to make, but have so far found hard to do?
Finding a work-life balance is something we all struggle with, and that is a lifestyle change we’re trying to bring about. In this day and age, given our circumstances, it’s highly essential to find and make time for yourself – and that only happens when you have a disciplined routine.
7. We know that in today’s opinion-overloaded existence, it’s impossible to please everyone, including ourselves. What’s the most common criticism you find yourself facing? How do you deal with it?
As designers and purveyors of more than just jewellery, but experience too, we love to receive constructive criticism. It enables us to do better and be our best selves. One common critique we’ve received was that our pieces were heavy to wear, something we made active changes for and worked our very best towards it.
8. What’s next for Outhouse jewellery?
This year, we’re taking the time to strengthen our e-commerce and online business. At Outhouse, we want to have a more streamlined way of working among our teams and have a stronger, efficient internal structure. Having said that, design wise, we are developing ways to diversify into more product categories and actively work in a sustainable manner. Having partnered with PETA, we are also working on stronger collections for our bags which will also be vegan.
9. How do you think retail will change for jewellery in the months ahead?
Like every field of business, the jewellery industry has also taken a hit because of the current situation of the world. That being said, we are constantly evolving and improving ways to be able to create and produce in the new world – what’s going to be our new normal. This period has made us all realise the importance of living sustainably, of indulging mindfully and taking care of the environment around us. Retail is also going to reflect the same attributes as people are now focusing on quality instead of quantity – which is great for our environment. Local businesses and artisans are gaining recognition and support and that’s wonderful. All Stores will need to Explore more Interactive and Newer ways of shopping like virtual try-ons, Augmented realit, pre booking appointments for in-store and Home Shopping. Also maintaining good customer relationships will be the key going forward.
10. Tips for aspiring jewellery designers
There are two things we’d like to stress upon, that are fundamental in your work as a designer: consistency and persistence. While you follow your passions, it is also incredibly important to be consistent with everything you do. You won’t see results and rewards coming your way right away. It takes patience, it takes being persistent and it sure does take commercial knowledge, too. Having a technical education of your field, along with relevant training will strengthen your passions to guide your path. Don’t be defeated, instead, learn and evolve.