regular-article-logo Tuesday, 03 October 2023

Saritoria is all about pre-loved fashion

Shehlina Soomro and Pernia Qureshi on the value of re-wear and resale and more

Anannya Sarkar Published 09.08.21, 01:23 AM


It is safe to say in 2021 that nobody is ignorant about the many benefits of sustainability in every aspect of our lives as we battle rising temperatures and melting glaciers. A circular economy, therefore, is not just the wise thing to pursue but is also a prudent business decision to make as awareness grows about the value of re-wear and resale, especially in fashion. Shehlina Soomro, Omar Soomro and Pernia Qureshi have come forward with a curated virtual experience of shopping pre-loved “luxury” fashion by a mix of South Asian designer labels such as Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna, Anita Dongre and more. Called Saritoria, the website allows users to both buy and sell pre-loved items for and from their closets, with the team offering vetting, authentication and concierge services. In a chat, Shehlina and Pernia tell us more:

What led to the creation of Saritoria? How do you go about curating and sourcing for it?


Shehlina Soomro: The idea for Saritoria really came from a personal need as a consumer. I’ve been trying to buy second-hand for my western clothes for years and even look to second-hand for other parts of my life like furnishings for my home. I was amazed that there was no trustworthy platform where I could buy and sell my eastern wear.

Given that climate change is going to impact South Asia disproportionately from other parts of the world, we need to take ownership as a community and reconsider our choices. There has been a lot of talk around building back better after the pandemic and we wanted to create Saritoria as a solution to empower the 1.8 billion South Asians as well as the diaspora community to join the circular economy. Given that 85 per cent of textiles ultimately end up in landfills or are incinerated, it was amazing and also shocking to discover that, unlike for western brands, there was no easily accessible solution to extend the life of the garments and so the idea for Saritoria was born.

After researching online and finding nothing, I thought there must be a need for this, so I spoke to family, friends and friends of friends to see if this would be really something that people would be interested in. And before we knew it, we had our first selection of outfits. Now, the team at Saritoria is getting calls from women all over the world to list items. The concierge team filters them for brand and condition before they can go on the site. Any individual who owns a South Asian luxury couture garment that deserves a second life, can sell on our platform.

Saritoria really aims to be as accessible as possible to both local Indians and the NRI market. Initially, the site has been launched in India and the UK. Our goal is to democratise fashion and so we really want consumers to feel that there will always be something for them on Saritoria, either as a buyer or as a seller.

Shehlina Soomro

Shehlina Soomro

Pernia Qureshi

Pernia Qureshi

Do you think that despite the global push towards mindful consumption, there still might be hesitation about the consumption of pre-loved items in the luxury sector?

Shehlina: We already do it without thinking with luxury cars, watches and precious stones so why not luxury clothing? Honestly, wearing pre-loved is so core to our South Asian culture — we pass things along to cousins and family friends all the time. It’s not really that much of a jump psychologically to take the next step to a curated platform like Saritoria, where everything is checked for you before giving it the Saritoria seal.

Our Saritoria seal is a confirmation that a product has been through our rigorous process of authentication and quality control. This means that our customers should never get a surprise and can trust that we’ve done the vetting for them. Sharing from our experience since launch, the hesitancy hasn’t been there. We’ve had buyers and sellers across generations. It’s been pretty amazing to see in the short period since the launch of the brand, how broad the consumer base has been. It’s been great to have young women listing items on behalf of both themselves and their mothers as well as seeing mothers shop for themselves and their grown-up daughters. The geographical reach within and outside of India has also been overwhelmingly positive — we’ve had enquiries from San Francisco to Melbourne from the diaspora community and orders and listings from Patiala to Tamil Nadu within India.

What is the USP of Saritoria?

Pernia Qureshi: To be honest, I think the first point that will excite our audience is the price of designer clothing and the fact that they can make money on Saritoria. I really do see that as the initial pull. Sustainability is a great by-product of what we are doing here. The best way to educate people about a sustainable business is to give them many more reasons to join the platform and then simultaneously educate them on why it is a good practice for the environment as well. Beyond sustainability, the USP of shopping with Saritoria is that you are often finding one-of-a-kind pieces that won’t be available in the market. For instance, there was a phase that Abu-Sandeep (Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla) were using a lot of this beautiful mint green in their collections, which is not really available now in their stores. However, we have a stunning mint green lehnga from them, which is very signature Abu-Sandeep, on the site.

Another reason why people who can afford designer wear will shop from us is because no one wants to pay these crazy prices every single time they need a new outfit or have an occasion. There are so many events in a year where you need clothes and it doesn’t make sense to invest heavily every single time. This way you can build a designer wardrobe and at the same time be cost conscious. No matter how well off the shopper, everyone enjoys a good deal.

Shehlina: In 2021, we have so many options as a consumer. However, often being conscious comes at a cost. This is why Saritoria is such a wonderful concept — you get to be conscious and save money without compromising on quality!

Is it difficult to promote the idea of pre-loved couture through the virtual world, considering how tactile fashion is?

Pernia: The days of feeling concerned that our audience would prefer to touch and feel the fashion they are buying are over. This is something I thought about when I launched Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop many years ago. Today, there are so many players in the market and many buy designer fashion online, it has become a norm now. Ten years ago, Flipkart, Myntra and Pop-Up Shop were educating the Indian audience about what it means to shop online and its benefits.

In this day and age, it’s a very different story. Fashion has become a category that is consumed very well online. The new aspect that Saritoria is introducing is the buying and selling of pre-loved fashion. We are taking great efforts to showcase pre-loved fashion as the future of retail by educating the Indian audience about how this is an amazing way to build a designer wardrobe without breaking the bank and saving the planet at the same time.

What is Saritoria planning to do to win the hearts of its users?

Pernia: I think the best way to win the hearts of our audience is just to be ourselves and stick to our vision. We are a business that is dedicated to benefiting everyone that buys and sells with us. Once you become a part of the Saritoria community, you are family! We have excellent customer care, interesting and unique features like bidding and our ever-so-helpful concierge service. A beautiful website is just a given and an even better app is in the making.

Pictures courtesy: Saritoria

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