This week, we’re thrilled to introduce our readers to Swati Argade; an incredible businesswoman, style maven, mother, and designer. Swati is the founder of Bhoomki, an ethical fashion boutique in Park Slope that tops our list of places to shop in Brooklyn. While running one of Fifth Ave’s most innovative stores, Swati finds time to design her own line, source the best of sustainable fashion, and promote the work of local brands like Soko! We couldn’t be more excited to have our first exclusive Holiday Trunk Show hosted by Bhoomki this Tuesday, December 16, from 5-8 PM.
Let’s start with a little background. Where are you from?
My parents immigrated to the USA from India in the 1960s. I was born in Michigan where we lived until I was 11 years old. Then our family moved to North Carolina where I also attended college. I moved to New York City shortly after graduation.
What is your experience in the fashion industry?
I started designing and wholesaling my womenswear collections in 2003, and pretty much learned the business on the job. I make my collections from traditional Indian handmade textiles as well as environmentally friendly fabrics like organic cotton, Cupro and upcycled materials. I designed my line for eight years eponymously before launching the Bhoomki brand in 2011, a few months before our daughter was born.
What inspired you to start Bhoomki?
The Swati Argade collections focused primarily on clothing from Indian artisan fabrics, but I wanted to expand my focus to include artisan fabrics from all over the world, as well as ecologically sustainable textiles. Collaborations with artisans and other designers provided me with some of the most inspiring experiences of my career. I wanted the brand to be less about me, and my name, and more about a philosophy geared towards partnership and the planet. In fact, Bhoomki means “Belonging to Mother Earth” in Sanskrit and Hindi.
We opened Bhoomki Boutique in October 2012, because we saw a need for an ethical fashion venue on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. Residents from some of the most artistically and intellectually progressive neighborhoods (Park Slope, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, etc) in the United States reliably come to this shopping thoroughfare to shop. I wanted to curate the best of the best of sustainable fashion and use the shop as a laboratory for my design work. It’s truly wonderful and gratifying to test out new styles and to receive feedback from my customers on a regular basis. It’s hard to experience this when you only wholesale your line.
Can you tell us a little about the design process?
It always starts with the cloth. Fabric speaks to me, and I listen. It has a history and voice, and I try to figure out how I can best articulate a fabric’s fall, and what sort of everyday context a dress or top can provide for it to speak. These days, I focus on simple and classic shapes that are easy to wear, and always try to imagine the venue where my client will wear it: work, weekend, home, events, etc.
What does a typical day look like?
My day starts with the sound of my child’s sweet voice around 6:30am. I focus on her in the mornings, head to my studio mid-morning for several hours, and spend a portion of the afternoon at the shop. This is a busy time of year for us at the boutique with the holidays upon us, and it’s a great time to meet new customers looking for the perfect gift on the avenue, and to share our shop’s ethical fashion message with them. After the holidays, I am looking forward to getting back to the studio.
Who is Bhoomki for? Could you describe a typical Bhoomki client?
The Bhoomki client is a thinking woman with a passion for the earth and its people. We base our product choices equally on style AND our mission of environmental and social responsibility. Brooklyn is one of the most international cities in the world, so our customer base is very diverse. But our customers are generally professional women in the age bracket of 28-55 who care about the trickle down effect of their clothing choices, who also need to look stylish and put together in their everyday life.
What is your personal style?
Since I am a mother and a businesswoman, it has to be simple, quick and easy. My style is so different depending on the season. During the winter, my everyday base layer is a long-sleeve black tee-shirt, skinny jeans or black leggings and a good pair of boots with a medium heel. I layer with a chunky sweater or tunic. I try to keep my color template neutral (grey, black, navy) and accessorize with a strong necklace – like a Soko piece - and a good leather cuff or a stack of my signature Bhoomki silver bangles. I am always wearing something handmade, and my clothes are ethically made. In the spring and summer, it’s all about easy, comfortable dresses with great prints that look chic and distinctive. I always accessorize with statement necklaces and I’m enjoying the current post-feminist fashion moment with all of the focus on boxy shapes. The girls get it, but the guys don’t.
Who is your style icon?
I am often asked this, and as much as I rack my brain, I don’t have a style icon so to speak. I just try to be authentically me! If I have any muses, they are the women in my life: my twin sister, my daughter, my girlfriends, and the amazing city I live in.
Favorite Piece from Soko?
That is a hard one, because there are so many! But my favorite collection is the Kenya Collection, and two of my faves are the Coco Necklace and the Leather and Brass Appliqué necklace. Great statement pieces!
Do you have any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs or anyone interested in running their own boutique?
I could write pages on this. But first and foremost, you need a strong stomach for risk, the ups and downs of the business can get to some. Some months are very busy and others are not. If you plan to open a store, make sure you find a great location with heavy foot traffic to keep the cash flowing. Figure out who your customer is, and try to keep your overhead as low as possible.
Inspired? Meet Swati in person and check out Bhoomki at our Holiday Trunk Show, December 17, 5-8PM. Hope to see you there!