Inspiration Through Perspiration
After sweating through an Indian wedding came a vow to make a drier traditional outfit

3RD PRIZE – GRADUATE/ALUMNI: HAATHI CLOTH

By Bob Woods

Weddings, beyond the betrothals, can be windows into different cultures, which is probably why so many films highlight them. Consider “The Godfather” (Italian), “The Deer Hunter” (Russian Orthodox), “The Joy Luck Club” (Chinese) and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

While his exposure was in person rather than at the movies, what Josh Fu (BSBA ’10) learned the first time he attended a traditional Indian wedding was enlightening, despite some discomfort. “About five minutes after putting a kurta on, I thought, ‘I’m going to make something better,’” Fu recalls. A kurta is a long, loose shirt worn by men at Indian weddings and other ceremonies. They’re often made from heavy, non-breathable materials; Fu’s experience was that guys get pretty sweaty in them, especially when the dancing starts.

“The men were soaked and uncomfortable,” he says. Otherwise, he thoroughly enjoyed the wedding (that of a fellow University of Miami alumnus). Soon after, though, he began pondering how to improve the kurta. “It was classic Silicon Valley startup thinking,” adds Fu, who in fact works for such a venture, though in technology, not apparel.

He found a pattern for making a kurta on YouTube and produced prototypes from breathable, wicking fabrics that draw sweat away from the skin, an effect popularized in athletic wear. “They had to mimic the look, weight and color of traditional kurtas,” Fu says. Dubbing his proposed startup Haathi Cloth, Fu submitted the idea in the Business Plan Competition and was chosen as a finalist. His dual majors at the School, international finance and marketing, came in handy. His assigned mentor, Jason Shuman (BBA ’13), is a past competition winner and currently a venture capitalist. “He’s read dozens of business plans, and we talked regularly to bounce around ideas,” Fu says.

Fu and some friends have field-tested his kurtas at subsequent Indian weddings, to rave reviews. Meanwhile, he’s in discussions with a “top New York designer,” he reveals, about test marketing his creations. He has already launched pre-orders on the website, and expects to start shipping around mid-August.

Spring 2017
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