An Interview With Pavan Bahl, Founder of Open Source Fashion

An Interview With Pavan Bahl, Founder of Open Source Fashion

When you think of people in fashion, you probably think of designers, bloggers, models, editors, and so forth. You might forget, though, that there are some awesome individuals whose mission is to bring all of us fashion folks together.

Meet Pavan Bahl: the founder of Open Source Fashion–a meetup community whose sole focus to to bring like-minded fashion innovators together–and the man behind one of our favorite meetup groups in NYC.

We caught up with Pavan to ask him a little bit about how he got to where he is, what’s next for OS Fashion, and what his retirement plans are (yeah, we went there). Read on:

Third Wave Fashion: How did you find yourself in this industry? What’s your background?

Pavan Bahl: So my background actually isn’t in fashion at all. I studied finance/marketing, then worked in banking–which I did for years. Really long hours, stressful stuff. So I decided to take a leave from that, and I started working on different business plans. Mostly what I wanted was to move to Austin, Texas, and open up a restaurant that was based on music and art. I attained a bank loan for 150k–just enough to start it up and all that good stuff. This was in ’08 when the market got really tight. Just as I was ready to leave, they decided to pull back–so I was like “oh, okay guess I’m staying in New York then.” After seven or eight months, I was selling pictures on the street, doing all sorts of random things. Then after a while, my dad asked me to join his company in the manufacturing industry.

TWF: Manufacturing in the fashion industry?

PB: No, machine components–mostly in India. Long story short, I went to India for business, and I ended up bringing back some sandals and as it turns out, people really seemed to like them. Open Source Fashion is a direct result of that.

TWF: So, Open Source Fashion was a direct result of sandals?

PB: Yes! It was conceptualized with a friend of mine who’s a designer. Back when I was trying to execute this sandal line, also known as House of Wahlia, I was very, very cold in the industry. I picked up a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, in which he writes about the power of relationships, and cultivating those relationships. Simultaneously, I started attending Yuli’s Fashion 2.0 meetups–and those events were picking up a lot of speed. It then hit me that there was a need for more of them. That’s where OS Fashion comes in; our 1st meetup was in March of 2011. Who would’ve guessed one trip to India would turn into this?

TWF: How did you go about building your community?

PB: I spammed the !@#$%^&* out of the industry! (laughter)

TWF: I’m going to quote you on that! But really, how’d you do it?

PB: Through Twitter, going to meetups, networking. Engaging in conversation through Twitter really did it though.

TWF: What area of fashion do you feel the majority of your community comes from?

PB: Mostly designers, about 30-40%, but it’s a wide array–which is exactly what I want.

TWF: What’s next for OS Fashion?

PB: I’ve seen a lot more interest in the past few months and I’m ready to harness this energy and see how I can turn it into something bigger than me. It’s still so early, so I’d rather not get into it as of yet. As you know, monetization is a tricky thing and the great thing about OS Fashion–and why I think it’s appreciated so much–is because it’s working to help people out without expecting anything in return. I can say this: I’m in an aggressive brainstorming phase, and something membership-wise is in the works.

TWF: What inspires you?

PB: Creativity, music, and art all the time.

TWF: Well, can you elaborate, please? (laughter)

PB: I mean, it’s anything; I kind of go with the weather. I’m a person with many different interests, and they all inspire me in all kinds of verticals.

TWF: What about fashion? Why the interest?

PB: Growing up I always enjoyed fashion, and just nice looking things. Recently, the industry as a whole is catching up with the rest of the world. Big minds are moving to fashion. That interests me…

TWF: What about fashion tech? Do you find yourself more partial to this industry?

PB: Well, OS Fashion is open to anyone that works in the business of fashion, or has a business that directly relates to the business of fashion–fashion tech included. We’ve nurtured a wide array of talented people so I’m not biased to any one area of fashion. I’m a connector–everyone’s welcomed.

TWF: What trend in fashion and tech excites you most right now?

PB: Social commerce is obviously huge right now. But I really like the correllation between Bonobos and Nordstrom… I have to admit, I love physical shopping–I actually prefer it. So anything that bridges those worlds is cool to me. Unless it’s Fab.com, and this is not a plug for them, I swear. I just really like what they’re doing, and the fact that it’s all emerging designers. It’s all about design for me.

TWF: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

PB: Chilling on a beach in Barcelona! (laughter) No, but really, I want OS Fashion to be a worldwide network. I’m currently talking to people in different cities–people in Bombay, and Miami. It’s all about leveraging these networks. I just want to provide more value of membership for fashion innovators.

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World domination and getting to kick it on a beach in Barcelona? Doesn’t sound half bad to us either. We love the energy that Pavan brings into the fashion industry; it’s the “what goes around, comes back around” theory. Do good to others, and they will do good unto you. That is OS Fashion, and the overall philosophy that Pavan Bahl brings to this thing known as “fashion.”

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.

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