Sarena Udani: Turning Luxury Loungewear into A Successful Brand

Untitled design

We’ve been fans of mother of three, Sarena Udani since we first launched in 2011. Her philosophy on loungewear has garnered her international attention with her PajamaSutra robes and lounge sets finding their spots in the Emmy gifting lounge and most recently in Miss Universe competition in 2017 and 2018.  Love your me time? Want to hang out in your PJ’s but also feel like a goddess while you do it? Pajama Sutra is your answer for all things luxury.

In honour of Mother’s Day and South Asian Heritage Month, we’re also giving away three, count’em, 3 Mother’s Day Gift Boxes to honour our readers this month.   Read Sarena’s interview below and answer the question in our giveaway guidelines below to qualify to win your very own Mother’s Day gift box!

Congrats to our winners!  Pallika Patel,  Sheila Kuchibhatla and Namrata Kapoor!

Bloom Mother’s Day gift Box

Where does the name Pajamasutra come from?
It’s kind of a long story: I was born a “PJ.” The name I was given at birth is Pooja, and my last name started with a “J”. It sounds hard to believe now, but back in the eighties in the SF bay area, I was one of very, very few South Asians in my hometown of Sunnyvale, and I was teased about my name in school. Determined to fit in, I changed my name to “Sarena” when I started at a new school….without telling my parents. They found out later and were surprisingly supportive. The name stuck, and I’m so glad that as a nine-year-old, I picked something I could live with as an adult!  I think sometimes about what it must have felt like for my parents to see their child struggle to fit in and want to change her name. I try to imagine how I would feel if one my kids wanted to change their name…I would feel a deep sense of sadness. But they went with it, and that’s not the only time they encouraged me to follow my own path!
To add to all the name confusion, my last name changed to “Udani” when I got married – so I went from “PJ” to “SU”
When I thought of a name for the business, I knew I wanted “Pajama” somewhere in it. I always loved that the word “Pajama” has its roots in South Asia and has been adopted in languages around the world. The duality of cultures has always been a theme in my life – from my name to my business. “Sutra,” means thread or teachings. “PajamaSutra” also a cheeky rhyme-reference to the “Kama Sutra” which I thought was fun and seemed to make people smile…and was a great conversation starter. I chose that name in 2007 and still love it, over ten years later!

Photo Credit: PajamaSutra

 

We featured you in 2011 on our site, how has your company grown since then, what trends in buying are you seeing?

Back then, the business 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!

What inspired you to launch Pajamsutra?
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 colour and patterns from India and offer something new that wasn’t done well yet.
Pajamasutra was part of the Emmy gifting suites a few years ago, what was that experience like?
As a new business just starting our the exposure was nice to have and led to a few opportunities afterwards, which was great. I think most product-based businesses are approached for a gift-bag type sponsorship at some point, and you just have to make the call…some are worth it, and others overpromise and underdeliver. The most meaningful and significant sponsorship I’ve done, however, has been the Miss Universe competition for both 2017 and 2018.

PajamaSutra At MissUniverse

How is the fabric you use critical to the comfort of your loungewear?
The pieces are designed to drape and fall a certain way for a certain fabric weight. A flannel, for example, wouldn’t work with our silhouettes. It has to be cotton voile.
The fabric is block-printed and handmade by artisans in Jaipur, India. No machines, no electricity, no dye waste overflowing into rivers, none of that…we’re supporting an ancient art form that’s dwindling down to a few who have been working this way for centuries. It’s more expensive, and takes longer than machine printed fabrics, but so worth it.
Celebrating all women was important to the philosophy of pajamasutra, can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yes! This is so important. 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! Please 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.
How are the mother’s day gift boxes unique? what can we see in them? what is your fav gift box?
Our Mother’s Day gift boxes – and all our gift boxes – feature products made by small businesses owned by women…and I think most are also South Asian. The relationships with each brand has blossomed into friendships, and I think each gift set carries all that positive sisterhood energy! The boxes end up being more than the sum of its parts. My favourite from the Mother’s Day collection is the “Chai and Chill” box – I love how fun it is!

Masalamommas Giveaway Mother’s day gift Box Gold and Chai

Sarena Udani Giftbox
What challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur?  
As a female entrepreneur, the biggest challenge is that I have three full-time jobs, and not enough time. I have three young kids, so being a mom is a full-time job on its own. Then there’s a house to take care of…and third, the business. My husband is a neurosurgeon and works long hours, but he can leave
the house in the morning, work all day long, and come home when he’s done. I can’t start working until the kids have eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and dropped off in the morning for school…which puts me at 9:30 am to start my workday.
Sarena Udani
My youngest is in preschool so I pick him up by noon, so that’s less than three hours of uninterrupted, kid-free time for my business.
The rest of the day is spent in and out of the car, playing chauffeur and referee, making snacks and kissing boo-boos.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything…but it’s hard. I sometimes feel envious of others who have a full day of consecutive hours to work on their businesses, but I remember how amazing it is to be able to see my kids during the day as much as I do. The truth is that the work tends to expand to the amount of space you give it. I accomplish the same, if not more when I’m under time pressure, so it’s working for now. Someday the kids will be grown up and out of the house, and I will miss every second of this, even though it feels so hard right now.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned?

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. For example, before I found my current manufacturer,  I was so reluctant to have my pieces manufactured over budget that I made the worst decision. I had orders to fulfill, and I chose to sew the pieces myself.
Yes, I saved a lot of money. But I was sewing around the clock..it was awful. I learned a big, big lesson. Now, 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. The upside from that experience? I learned exactly what my sewing contractors experience is like and I appreciate their work so much more. I don’t push them, and I make sure they’re paid well. That’s also why our price points are where they are…to me, It’s important in a world of “fast fashion” that our pieces are made with care and intention to last.
If you’d like to order your own LoungeWear, order today online to receive by Mother’s Day! 
**subject to location of delivery**

 WANT TO LOUNGE LIKE A GODDESS? HERE’S HOW YOU CAN WITH THIS GIVEAWAY!

DETAILS:

**Giveaway open to US and Canada readers only and entries will be accepted until Tuesday, May 7th at 12 Midnight EST. Not open to current or past writers/contributors of Masalamommas.com. Please note: Prizes as listed only and Sizes and styles cannot be changed.

***Contest is also on our instagram page.

3 Mother’s day boxes from PajamaSutra:

Bloom Gift box size M/L  or  S/M

Gold and Chai size M/L

To Enter you Must:

  • Like @masalamommas on Instagram and tag a mom you love (mandatory for entry)
  • Like @pajamasutra on Instagram (mandatory for entry)
  • Bonus Entry: Answer this question in the comments section below: Where does Sarena Udani say ‘Pajama’ has its roots from? Hint: see the interview above!
  • 3 random winners will be drawn on May 8th via Random.org. Contest closes at 12 midnight EST on May 7th. Winners will be announced here and on Instagram and notified via email once confirmed.

 


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There are 12 comments

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  1. Jihan Cote

    Love this!
    Sarena’s name was a Pooja originally and her maiden name started with a “J”. (PJ.)
    Also the name Pajama Sutra gives a little cute reference to Kama Sutra. It’s so fun and original.

  2. joy

    She always loved that the word “Pajama” , which hasits roots in South Asia and has been adopted in languages around the world.


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