Interview with Sugandh, Founder of Gunas New York

by | Apr 18, 2022

The award-winning luxury vegan handbag brand Gunas New York was created in 2009 by Sugandh G. Agrawal after quitting her 7-year corporate career as an industrial designer at KitchenAid to start her own brand of cruelty-free fashion in New York. Her mission is strong and clear. Animals are NOT meant to be a part of fashion.

Since then she has created a true fashion success story with Gunas New York which was recognised over the past decade from the industry. Besides being featured in top global mainstream media outlets, Fashion college textbooks, TV shows and podcasts, Sugandh has won several titles by some prestigious names in the fashion and activism world.

Starting with a modest 8 piece collection of vegan leather bags made in NYC in order to “do things right”. She soon realised that she wasn’t able to maintain affordable prices so she pursued production in China. Uncomfortable with non-transparency and the working conditions in factories there, she decided to move the production in the heart of Seoul, South Korea which she personally visits every year. Working with a group of small artisan studios where one group cuts, the other sews and the next finishes the bags, Sugandh ensures her high quality standards and ethical work conditions are maintained. Her products are artisanal and support a dying art of hand-making quality fashion in Korea due to competition from China.

How would you describe your style?

My style is very eclectic, expressive, bold and colourful. I like a mix of clean geometry and complimentary organic designs. My style is anything but minimal and boring. I attribute a lot of this influence to my Indian heritage.

What are your favourite brands?

I admire the classic yet bold flavour of Tory Burch as she appeals to the masses. As a designer my all time idol is Alexander McQueen. His innovative, emotional and uncompromising designs continue to inspire me.

What would you like to see more of in vegan fashion?

I’d like to see more fun and less boring! Veganism in fashion is such a strong statement and yet most brands out there have a minimalist and plain aesthetic. I see GUNAS as a more daring and outspoken brand and enjoy highlighting this core essence through the designs.

When did you become vegan and why?

I became vegan in 2013 for ethical reasons. I’d been vegetarian since childhood and veganism was just a natural transition as I learned more about the industry and educated myself on this journey with GUNAS. I didn’t consume poultry or meat and discovering the horrors of the dairy industry and how it ultimately supports the meat industry made it easier for me to give up. I try my best to expand my ethical choices to all areas of life as much as possible be it fashion, food, beauty or travel.

What did you find hardest when you went vegan?

My biggest struggle when going vegan was finding cute fashion alternatives. Also as you educate yourself about the ingredients and raw materials you realise that pretty much 90% of the products we consume contain some form of animal byproducts. As far as food is concerned, I struggled with being out with family and friends and being in the minority always and having little to no options. But thankfully a lot has changed in these past 5-6 years and we now have several options available and every day new products are popping up to make life easier for vegans.

Why did you found Gunas New York?

I founded GUNAS as an attempt to turn around the fashion industry, make customers question their purchases and create an alternative and a cruelty-free option for high fashion lovers.

Where do you see your brand in five years?

I’m in the process of starting a new skin care line to compliment our existing fashion products. I hope to continue expanding our product offerings in both fashion and beauty in international markets.

What would you like to achieve with Gunas New York?

I’d like to establish Gunas New York as the go-to brand for all animal loving, tree hugging beautiful humans worldwide for their fashion and beauty needs.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’m inspired by many things. Mostly, my love for animals and nature. I draw inspiration from cool product trends, classic fashion icons and my travels around the globe.

If you weren’t running Gunas New York – what do you think you’d be doing instead?

If I weren’t running GUNAS, I’d be running a sustainable café up in the quaint hill stations in the Himalayas serving vegan foods to the locals and tourists and continuing to spread the message of leading a non-violent life.