How I started a sustainable activewear brand that rejects fast fashion production methods

havah brand profile feature image
havah brand founder image
Dharmesh Suraj Bali (founder)
Founded: July 2020
No of employees: 2
Location: UK

Dharmesh is the founder of Havah Trends, an activewear brand that’s dedicated to saving the planet by rejecting fast fashion production methods, hand making each order as it’s placed. Dharmesh also aims to turn activewear into something women are proud to wear every day, using signature prints designed by global artists. 

Despite the challenges of 2020, Dharmesh is feeling positive about the future of the business and has plans to find alternative ways of growth. The business has also signed a contract with a new company to offset its carbon footprint. We chat to Dharmesh to find out more.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

I’m Dharmesh and I’m the founder of Havah Trends. Havah is a fashion science brand dedicated to saving our planet. We are an online boutique selling designer activewear sustainably handmade for the modern woman who doesn’t compromise on quality, comfort and performance. We are based in London, UK but we sell primarily to the USA, UK and Europe.

Our activewear are perfect for all types of activities including yoga, dancing, gym, etc. They’re also great to go out with since our signature prints are limited edition and are made by designers and artists around the world. We get a lot of awesome feedback from customers who love the exclusive prints and how they are vibrant and stand-out.

For me this is actually what I wanted to stand against; dull and boring leggings. My goal is to show women that they can be fashionable in activewear and look good in them wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. I find a lot of activewear brands lacking in terms of fashion and I wanted to tackle that head on.

havah activewear image

Another thing I wanted the brand to stand against is fast fashion. All our products are sustainably handmade to order. The problem with selling fine clothing or activewear like we do, is you can’t overproduce because if they don’t sell, you need to find a way to get rid of it without devaluing your luxury brand.

Luxury brands often burn their stock to avoid this and I didn’t want to do this. That’s why all our fine activewear are sustainably handmade to order. We also take the responsibility to recycle our activewear by offering a lifetime product warranty. We are also working with several grassroot organisations to help us offset our carbon footprint.


BRAND IDEA - how did you come up with the idea for Havah?

I originally started the business as an activewear brand for dancing, being one of my hobbies, but my passion for creating something good for the environment and our planet was stronger than my love of dancing. It all started when I was researching fashion and came across a documentary about fast fashion called the “The True Cost” which opened my eyes to the atrocities of fast fashion. So I wanted to do something good and create a brand that makes a stand against fast fashion.

Also when you think of fashion, it's not every day you think of activewear. Style tends to invoke feelings of innovation and high class that don't usually translate to being active or comfortable. We often associate activewear with being comfortable, and our appearance takes a back seat to the functionality. At Havah, we are looking to fix that by creating fashionable and practical activewear. The idea is to make a line of activewear that can function both as attire for sports and everyday life.


BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched Havah.

For me it was all about starting up with how I can make my leggings stand out. I invested a lot of money for finding the right supplier and right product fit for what I wanted to create. I had a lot of money go into Facebook ads and Google ads as marketing costs. I also used my brand ambassadors who I call Havah stars who are actually World and European dance champions to promote the brand and they are featured all over the website and our promotional materials.

havah clothing brand image

The most memorable and proudest moment came when we were featured in Yahoo! as a brand “fixing fast fashion” followed by London Daily Post and several others who mentioned us as a brand “challenging the big brands into sustainable fashion” and a brand “leading a sustainable activewear revolution”. For Havah this was the start of something beautiful to help women look beautiful in sustainable activewear while keeping the planet beautiful.


ONLINE STORE SETUP - what are your top 2 tips for successful Ecommerce store setup.

  1. Be prepared for the costs of marketing with Facebook Ads and Google Ads. They are not as cheap as you think!
  2. Know your ideal customer as this will help you fine tune your marketing message but be prepared to switch to what the market wants you to become

CUSTOMER RETENTION - what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

Customer happiness is a priority. We’re always proud of how we treat the customer and I’m happy to say our customers are always happy with the product and service they get from Havah.

We’re currently working on setting up and automating customer retention systems using Klaviyo.


SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.

  1. Be passionate about your product and your mission. People have always said they see how much I’m passionate and love what I’m doing. How can I not be when it’s about saving the planet and giving humanity a second chance! Follow us on Instagram @havahtrends and see what I mean by being passionate about your products and mission.
  2. I promote everyday on Instagram which gets automatically promoted to Facebook too. Those 2 are the easiest to start with.


BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has Havah changed and evolved?

It is changing a lot and at a fast pace. I can’t even keep up and I have even started writing documentation of processes so that I can delegate some tasks. Currently working on automation possibilities within the business and I’m also looking at other avenues of promotion to bring in more customers.


MANAGING CHANGE - what are the top 2 tips you’d suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.

  1. In a business, there will always be obstacles. Be ready to adapt to changes. Legislation can affect your business as well. For example, not so long ago Brexit was threatening my business however I had a plan B should things get worse. Luckily that didn't but the lesson is to risk mitigate and have a backup plan.
  2. Treating your customers like a human being will help you go further than you think !


FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is Havah doing today and what does the future look like?

Since launch, and the challenges 2020 posed, business has been slow. In the beginning, several hiccups forced me to pause my marketing investment which took a toll. I am finding myself having to look at alternative ways for growth which I’m finding bizarrely more exciting because of the challenges it presents.

I’ve recently signed a contract with a company who will help Havah offset its carbon footprint. So in the next few weeks, we will be selling carbon-neutral products. Definitely this company will keep growing with time as we’ve only received good feedback for what we’re doing and we are always improving on things that we can improve on based on customer feedback and where I want to take the company.


ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting Havah?

This is my 3rd e-commerce venture. My first 2 didn’t go well and I’ve learned from those mistakes. Don’t expect your first business to be a hit and even if you’re a hit keep going and find that next business venture and improve on what went wrong. Our strength has never been in never falling but getting up every time we fall.

There are days when things will not go your way, and when it will get tougher than you can handle. If it gets to this stage, this means you do not have balance between your business and your personal life. Working is important but relaxing and enjoying our precious life is equally important. A major learning for me has been to find the balance between working and not working.


ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?

Trello is my life saver. I get stressed when I have emails clogging up my inbox. So I move them to Trello with an actionable task list so that I keep my cool.

See what ecommerce tools other founders are using.


SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller - It helped me a lot to filter out noise in my marketing message.


INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?

My close friends and my girlfriend. They didn’t like my previous business ideas but this one they loved it. That’s how I knew I was onto a winner.


FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

It’s going to be a bumpy road! Strap yourself and enjoy the journey however long it takes. This is the story of how you will change the world or someone’s life!


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