KAS New York: A dreamer's journey from Finance to Fashion
Growing up in New York in the 80s and 90s reading about how Investment Bankers were the Masters of Universe, choosing the profession was the obvious choice for Kirat S. Anand. So from an early age, Anand carved out his career path. He went to Leonard Stern School of Business, New York University, where he double majored in Finance and Information Systems.
While in college, Anand worked for top financial firms like Morgan Stanley and Forbes for about 4 years. During his final year in college, Anand bagged an offer from JPMorgan’s Investment Banking Department. Anand was elated with the fact that he would now be a banker for life, but destiny had something else in store for him – it wasn't Finance, it was Fashion.
Born to entrepreneurial parents Sabby and Chani Anand, who are self-taught designers and merchants, Kirat’s childhood memories paints a canvas of fabrics, designs, prints and profit & loss. Kirat soon realized that fashion and enterprising instincts are sown within him from day one.
Venturing into the world of entrepreneurship came natural to him. Kirat finally decided to quit his banking job to follow his heart. So In 2006, Kirat along with his mother founded KAS, his private design label in New York. His namesake label stands for multi-cultural mix, which symbolises a confident, sophisticated and free-spirited urban woman. He has just launched his e-commerce store in 2014.
With 3 designers on-board, KAS manufactures products in India and retails globally to high-end retails outlets, International boutiques, and global luxury resorts such as Anthropologie, Saks, Aishti, Four Seasons, Taj, Ritz Carlton etc. In 2008, The International Design Awards nominated KAS and Kirat for Fashion Designer of the year in their Prêt-a-Porter category. In 2009, he created a capsule kids collection, KAS KIDTURE, for Saks and Malia Obama wore a KAS outfit at the Inaugural Concert.
During his free time, Kirat loves to travel, watch sports and spend time with his wife and best friend Ishveen Anand. His work always hints of Indian heritage and craft, and represents both sides of the world, as an Indian American. Entrepreneur India interacts with Kirat S. Anand to know more about his life and entrepreneurial journey:
Give us a brief view about your family history and the important role they played in keeping your entrepreneurial spirit alive?
Each family member has played a key role. My wife, Ishveen Anand, is also an entrepreneur. She has her own successful startup, OpenSponsorship.com, but she always makes time for me to discuss strategy and ways to implement them. Having her as a soundboard has mitigated a lot of the challenges created by being a single founder.
My younger brother, Vir Anand, is a trader at SIG. He is a quantitative genius and fortunately for me, he is my biggest well-wisher, which is all the motivation an elder sibling needs. And my parents, Sabby and Chani Anand, are the ultimate entrepreneurs. They are a real life example of the American dream, migrating to the States with only $8 in hand. For me, they both have been my mentors – my mother as a designer and artist, and my father for his fearless vision and business acumen.
You are a well-known fashion designer. How your educational background and professional career helped you excel in running KAS New York?
Unlike most of my contemporaries or industry icons who graduate from Parsons or Central St. Martin, I went to Stern, NYU. So I had to learn about the crafting, draping and detailing through practical experiences on the job. Having said that, I wouldn’t like to change my education or my post graduation experience at JPMorgan because Stern trained me for the real world by layering the foundation and at JPMorgan, I refined them.
What challenges did you face initially and how did you overcome the same?
How much time do you have? Haha…that’s what is wonderful about this industry. It keeps you on your toes. You are only as good as your last season, your last delivery or your last style. One of my friends, who started out with me in finance, always jokes with me that I have chosen a very difficult industry. But I wouldn’t want it any other way and fortunately for me the easiest part of KAS New York is the fashion, the challenges are in the operations and logistics.
What’s the best part of your career transition from Finance to Fashion?
The best part is the design process. I love bringing concepts to conceptualization. Working with creative buyers that challenge me to push my boundaries and craft silhouettes and styles make KAS New York woman look and feel fabulous.
Who’s your inspiration/role model behind you achieving such a great feat?
Art, travel, culture, nature, innovation in the industry, historical designers and Indian hand craftsall play a role in my thinking process. But at the end of the day, my constant driving force is our woman and my accounts. I love seeing her wearing KAS New York and enjoying life. And there is no greater happiness for our team than our clients/partners being successful with the brand. As for role models, I don’t have to look far, my mother, Sabby Anand, is the hardest and most creative person I have ever come across and all my success can be credited to her.
Give us a view of how a typical day of yours starts and ends.
I have very different days. It totally depends if I am in my New York or New Delhi office, or if I am wearing my Designer or Founder hat. When I am in New York, there will be more of focus on sales, marketing and social media vs. when I am in Delhi, where I am concentrating on designing and production process. The only consistent thing is there is no such thing as a typical day at KAS New York. If I have to define myself in a sentence, I would say, I am a Dreamer, Designer and Doer.
What kind of homework/thought process goes behind designing a collection?
Always know your woman, your market, your clients, and your limitations, and then work on pushing those limits. I don’t look at what my competitors are doing because I feel that is done already and we need to move forward. But I do loosely apply the McKinsey 80/20 rule. So if I know my clients are having success with a certain look, we find a new way to offer that for next season.
How do you keep your Indian tradition and culture intact in your work?
My work always has hints of my heritage and craft. I am very proud to represent both sides of the pond, as an Indian American.
One tip that you would like to convey to emerging fashion entrepreneurs in India.
Perseverance and learn how to partner with your clients.