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Meet Sarena Udani of PajamaSutra in San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarena Udani.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I always knew I wanted to make things. I grew up fascinated with art and design, and studied design as an undergrad at UCLA and later product design as an MFA at Stanford. Neither of those degrees was in fashion, though, which was a bit of a challenge when I started the line. I really had to reach out to mentors in the fashion industry for advice, and am so grateful for their help. Before PajamaSutra, I designed a one-season collection of formal Indian clothing. The entire line sold out (mostly thanks to friends and family) and I learned that, again, I needed to niche down. There were so many designers to compete within that space, and my line wasn’t really bringing anything new to the table. I fell in love with garment design and manufacturing though, and I thought that loungewear would be a fun way to still work with the color and patterns from India and offer something new that wasn’t done well yet.

When I first launched PajamaSutra, it was a traditional fashion line with sales reps and wholesale accounts, and without a specific target market. I’ve realized since then, however, that if you try to be everything to everyone, then you’re really nothing to no one. I needed to niche down and really narrow the focus dramatically. I chose South Asian women, specifically brides-to-be, and it has been a complete game-changer for the brand. There was plenty of competition in terms of loungewear brands, but not one of them catered to that market…which I found interesting since 100% of them were sourcing their fabrics and manufacturing from India. I felt like the South Asian bride was looking for a loungewear brand that understood what it was like to have two cultures. That’s what PajamaSutra is – a brand with a foot in each culture, speaking directly to those of us who had that same experience growing up as I did. The other big change since we last spoke is the addition of the gift boxes! Our gift boxes are a business within a business…with the loungewear, I am a designer/manufacturer, and with the gift boxes, I’m a buyer/retailer. It’s fun to switch roles and wear different hats, and keeps me on my toes!

Has it been a smooth road?
My biggest struggle has been not thinking big enough. I would approve a production run without being fully ready with trims, for example, thinking that at the current pace of orders, I can easily add the trims later myself. Big, big mistake. I had a huge wave of orders come in after working with a well-known content creator, and I just wasn’t ready to fulfill at that scale. I would wake up at 4:30 am every day to add the trims – all work that could have been eliminated with a little bit of planning. The order pace has steadily increased since then, and I’m still paying for that earlier decision with my time. Setting yourself up to scale and thinking much bigger than you can ever imagine automatically forces you to streamline your process. For each production run since then, I’ve made sure each label, button, and trim is ready before starting. When you think small, you can give each order 45 minutes to an hour to prep, pack, and ship. But when your business has grown bigger than you planned for, you need a new, streamlined, lean way of getting things done, and that includes hiring and delegating.

Looking back, I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the most precious resource I have in my business is time, not money. Money can be replaced with more…it comes and goes. Time is a finite resource. I look for ways to buy back my time whenever possible – I order my groceries, I have help around the house, I use time-saving apps…it’s so worth it.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with PajamaSutra – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
From the beginning, the message and essence of the brand has been “lounge like a goddess.” As women, we tend to push ourselves really, really hard to succeed in everything we do, taking care of everything and everyone else…and it’s exhausting. We need to take time for ourselves and not feel an ounce of guilt about it. That’s a simple message, and it’s so powerful. Especially for moms! Take care of yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for your children. “Lounge Like A Goddess” is really about self-care. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

When we noticed that our robes were being purchased in multiples by brides as gifts for their bridesmaids, the idea of gift boxes was born. Our gift boxes are now a full-fledged business within a business and feature products made by other small businesses owned by mostly women. The relationships with each brand has blossomed into a friendship, and boxes end up being more than the sum of its parts. It’s not a coincidence that most of the items we curate have a South Asian essence – we know exactly who our target customer is, and she’s looking for a modern, high-quality gift with a nod to tradition, and curated with love. That’s PajamaSutra.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the energy of LA! We’ve lived in the Westside, then Sherman Oaks and in the South Bay for a while, and each place had it’s own personality and vibe. What do I like least? I definitely don’t miss the traffic!

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Image Credit:
Brown Girl Magazine, Kamini Ramdeen, House of Naveda, Life Iz Photography, Bleu Dog Photography, Dave Austria and Erik Eilers

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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