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DESIGNER OF THE DAY

Sugandh Agrawal

GUNAS

GUNAS® is a designer brand of bags for all Fashionistas and Vegan lovers who cares about the environment but do not want to compromise on style. Our bags are classy, chic and made to last. The collection includes duffels, messengers, totes and clutches. Custom hardware designed in-house adds to the uniqueness of our brand. GUNAS® redefines the world of Lifestyle accessories by seamlessly blending luxury with authenticity. It is our goal to provide you with a sustainable product that is free of PVC and other plasticizers that pose a threat to our environment. We hope you will enjoy our bags and make them a part of your collection for many years to come.
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Sugandh G. Agrawal didn't always plan on making sophisticated, cruelty-free handbags with a whimsical touch -- she entered grad school at Pratt Institute with the intention of earning her master's in design management to further her career in industrial design -- but, like so many New York transplants before her, she was lured into a world of dreamy fashion. "In the midst of all the beautiful labels, I couldn't help but fall in love," said Sugandh, who originally hails from India and now lives in Long Island City, Queens, with her husband and 1-year-old daughter. "Bags and shoes are my weakness." Just as her interest in the New York fashion scene was ramping up, Sugandh befriended a handbag designer who gave her an insider's perspective on the industry. "I got excited about creating my own line, [so] I started interning at a local boutique brand that was making bags purely out of exotic skins," recalled Sugandh, a vegetarian since age 12. "When I saw their stock room of leathers, I had my real “aha!” moment. I literally wanted to throw up. The people who work with [animal skins] are so ignorant about where it comes from, how it impacts the people and our environment, and just simply how cruel it is. My internship with that company lasted 10 days." But instead of turning away from the the handbag business altogether, Sugandh decided to change it. "I knew that there had to be more people out there who wanted a bag that was stylish and cruelty-free," she said. Her hunch was right. She founded GUNAS in 2008, and the label -- dedicated to making bags that respect animals, people, and the environment -- has garnered a celebrity following as well industry praise.

I started with a 100% vegan collection of unisex totes specifically for the vegan and vegetarian community. At that point all bags were made in New York city. The aesthetic was bold and edgy and a little too stark for the vegan community taste. I had to bring it down a notch and make the silhouettes simpler and more utilitarian. Also the price points were high so I shifted production to China. Here I struggled with keeping the production numbers manageable. Also the factory conditions back then were way below ethical standards. So I worked my way to start an artisan studio in India. I trained artisans hands on to produce bags on international quality standards. I now produce my bags in South Korea and India.

Sugandh studied Industrial Design from the Columbus College of Art & Design, OH with a minor in Interior design. She then worked with companies such as Victoria's Secret, Bosh & Siemens home appliances, KitchenAid, Whirlpool before moving to New York. In New York she pursued her Masters in Design management from Pratt Institute. During her thesis she developed the business plan for GUNAS.

My inspiration behind the brand are all the animals of the world. I want to show people that you can be fashionable without harming another living being. We live in times where technology has advanced so much. We don't need to use the skins of these beautiful creatures for our selfish needs. We can have style and quality without sacrificing their lives.

My design process involves researching new and innovative materials that can be used in place of leather and other animal by products. I also seek out fashion forward recycled or up-cycled fabrics that are on trend and something that my consumers will like. Every style begins with a rough hand sketch and goes onto tighter computer generated drawings and patterns for the factory. We then work on getting a perfect sample made before the bags finally go into production.

I'm working on currently raising funds to help take the brand to the next level. Creating an entire cruelty-free lifestyle store where people can come and shop for beautiful non-animal products is my dream.

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