As I strolled the streets of Montreal (during my short stint there), a patent brown bag screamed at me from the display window of a store. As I walked closer I noticed the logo was quite different, a picture of a boy and a girl. The style of the bag was unique, the texture was gorgeous, and the workmanship was flawless: The brand was Matt & Nat, and the bag was Vegan.
Inder Bedi, a South Asian born to Punjabi parents in England, founded the brand in Montreal upon completing his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Concordia University. Matt & Nat was born out of a business plan that Inder contrived for a class project, but has now expanded offering a footwear line and several accessories. It can be found across Canada and the US, and has recently broken into the European market. Inder recently took the time to chat with Sapna about why he chose to take this unique twist on fashion.
Sapna: What led to your foray into fashion designing and what made you choose to work with VEGAN products?
Inder: Matt & Nat was born out of a business plan that I had written for a class project while obtaining my bachelor’s degree at Concordia University. At that point I was contemplating taking the GMAT or the LSAT, never thought of getting into fashion. I am glad I took the chance.
I met a Greek Hare Krishna priest when I was eighteen, and he asked me to go vegetarian for 30 days. Once I did this, I started to enjoy it, and there was no looking back. Since then, I have tried to educate myself by researching vegetarianism, and am now a vegan. This aspect is incorporated into Matt & Nat, as well.
Sapna: What were some of the main hurdles you faced when you were trying to get the business off the ground? How did you handle them?
Inder: Starting out, money was the main factor. I got a full time job and poured all my money that I earned into the business. We manufactured our bags in Montreal. Once we were able to prove on paper that our business was viable, we started bringing investors on board. Next, we began to have our bags manufactured in the Orient to cut costs. We believed in ourselves and never gave up; hard work and resilience is very important. We have a great team – about seventeen hard working individuals whose goals are similar – to take Matt & Nat to the top in terms of growth and sales!
Sapna: You have just expanded to the European market, congratulations! How do you handle your success and remain grounded simultaneously?
Inder: Thanks! Success to me is a journey and not a definition. I have realized that it transcends ego. In my lifetime, I feel that there is so much for me to do for myself, the business, and for the world in general. Humility is very important, that’s how I have been raised. One stops growing as a person when they are no longer humble . Matt & Nat is known in Canada, but there are more grounds to be covered in global terms. This is an ongoing process and we (Matt & Nat) are in it for the long haul.
Sapna: Where do you see Matt & Nat in the future? Where do you want to take the company?
Inder: At the moment Matt & Nat is into manufacturing bags, shoes, and other accessories. I want this to become a lifestyle brand. I want to push the envelope and create clothing, belts, and other items. We had a great year in Canada in terms of sales; we need to continue to push the market aggressively in US, and break into the London fashion scene, which I believe holds the key to the European market.
We hit the trade shows, sometimes as many as thirty a year. We have had shows in Dubai, and we are now working with a PR firm as opposed to handling it ourselves. The next few years are crucial for us in order to become a household name. It’s an unpredictable future for us as we don’t know what’s in store for the company. One thing is for sure – there is lots of hard work ahead, and we will meet the challenges and have fun doing it.
Sapna: How has being South Asian help define who you are today? Is your heritage incorporated in to Matt & Nat? If so, how?
Inder: The biggest influence that my being South Asian has had on me is that it has helped cultivate values and a set of morals. The other little things that have come with it (mainly family influence) have helped shape who I am today. Being vegan has also played a big part in all this. Matt & Nat strives to represent the cultural mix that exists in Montreal, a little of everything.
Sapna: You brought Manny Kohli, four years after the conception of Matt & Nat, on board as a business partner. What was the reason behind this, and how has he helped?
Inder: Manny has an incredible business sense – the Midas touch. His experience in importing, sales, and finance has helped propel Matt & Nat to greater heights. He is definitely one of the best things that has happened to us.
Sapna: What advice would you give to upcoming designers?
Inder: One has to have a strong vision of what they want to achieve in order to pursue it. Try to be different and do not let it scare you. You have to stick by your goals and dreams, no matter what comes your way. This is the only way you can make things happen.
Sapna: What do these words (Strength, Love, Success, and Peace) mean to you?
Strength: Discipline – this is what makes me strong.
Love: My Family.
Success: When I am at peace.
Peace: When I achieve tranquility on a spiritual level.
Sapna: Parting words?
Inder: Choose to make a difference.
Learn more and support the cause at: www.mattandnat.com
– SWETHA AMRUTHUR