Alumni Spotlight: Anu Madan

2001 marketing grad starts business from suitcase

They don't teach this in marketing classes, but it worked.

Anu Madan walked into a salon/boutique in South Beach, Miami, with a suitcase full of her own fashion designs. The 2001 marketing graduate wanted to sell them.

The owner liked what she saw, and the rest is history. "I was nervous," Madan said. "I didn't know anything about this. Then, I got a call a week later and my first check. I worked my way around Miami Beach after that and kept finding new clients."

Now, she has a website and a list of clients from stores to hotels who are buying her Anukshah line, including the Greenbrier in West Virginia and the Westin Diplomat in Miami.

Her family is from New Delhi, India, but she was born in North Carolina and raised in Charleston, W.Va.

While earning her degree at WVU, Madan backpacked all over Europe and loved it. She even stayed in Barcelona, Spain, to become fluent in Spanish. After she graduated, Madan moved to Florida and started thinking about fashion.

"I was fascinated with fashion from the beginning," she said. "I always experimented with it growing up. I picked up pieces that were fashionable or different from the places I visited." So, she enrolled in fashion design at the Art institute of Fort Lauderdale and earned an associate's degree in 2004.

After graduating she sought practical knowledge of the business. She worked for various designers and manufacturers and learned the trade. "I started to grow my business and went into wholesale in 2008. I set up my business in Miami Beach, where I obtained my first clients by walking in with a suitcase and asking. From there everything grew. The line is in many boutiques, beach stores and hotels."

Anu Madan
Madan attends trade shows to look for new business, including this one in West Palm Beach.

A milestone was reached in 2005 with her first fashion show in South Beach. Now, Madan is keeping busy expanding to more hotel chains and cruise lines. It takes a lot of drive, she said. "When I was working on getting my first hotel client, I called the buyer and emailed for a month before getting an appointment. Then, I drove 100 miles in a storm to see that buyer, who ended up buying for a hotel chain," she said.

One of her greatest pleasures is seeing people wearing the Anukshah line of fashions. "I love seeing my clothes on people," she said. "I remember the first time I saw someone wearing my design and how happy I felt."

But keeping up with competition is a challenge. "I make resort wear and always have to be ahead of the game and see what my competitors are doing," she said.

Anu believes that many companies that make resort wear design for "skinny women."

"My goal in designing is to create a garment that is comfortable for the average woman who is not super skinny and wants to look nice. Many companies or brands target very thin girls, and the truth is, that is not the average woman size," she said.

Using bright-colored cotton, chiffon, and georgette (a sheer, lightweight, dull-finished crêpe) fabrics, she incorporates embellishments and hand embroidery with Indian influences into her designs.

"I love using bright colors due to the environment of Miami and the Caribbean," she said. "I love seeing the clothes on people, especially when they say how nice they feel in the clothes."