When Kershaw Nanavaty took part in a department-store management training program more than 30 years ago, he couldn’t have known it would lead to him owning a fashion-distribution and -licensing company with enough worldwide reach to be called International Fashions. But thanks to a colleague in that training program—one whose father had an established import wholesale clothing business in Vancouver—Nanavaty found a way into an industry he’s come to love.
“When I was at the department-store level, working in menswear, fashion always interested me,” he says of his early days. “But it’s more the marketing and the selling part that I enjoy. That’s my passion in the business right now: handling negotiations, interactions with clients overseas … I leave designing to the designers.”
But creating brands for his designers at International Fashions is integral to Nanavaty’s role—and to that end, he’s developed two of them for which they also do all licensing and distribution. Kersh, introduced in 2006, caters to a younger, more contemporary customer, primarily with sweaters and T-shirts; nowadays the brand also includes blouses, dresses, pants, and a denim line. Two years later, Kersh was joined by Press, a slightly higher-end line designed with the cool, clean, contemporary customer in mind. “Both brands are well known for the quality and value we deliver to the consumer—that’s been our strength in the industry,” Nanavaty notes. “People are astonished by the quality we achieve at the prices we charge.”
He’s quick to credit his employees for most of the company’s accomplishments. Although it was “just him and an assistant” when International Fashions got started, in the mid- to late ’90s, Nanavaty’s company is now nearly 40 workers strong—several of whom have been a part of it for more than a decade. Due to this, Nanavaty suspects his management style has changed somewhat over time. “I think I used to be more of a micromanager,” he admits. “As we grew, I knew I had to learn to let go … but as we added the people we have now, I grew increasingly confident that I could do so.”
The result is what Nanavaty describes as a very open management style—one that encourages a regular exchange of ideas with senior management and discourages competition between the two brands. He’s quite satisfied with the approach. “I like to hire good, competent people and let them run the areas in which they are specialized,” he says.
And the various divisions of International Fashions continue to expand. Production-wise, the company has strong relationships with manufacturers and distributors throughout North America and Asia. It has recently added a production site in Vietnam, and it is looking to add sites in Cambodia and Peru, as well. On the retail end, the company now has customers in Europe and throughout Asia to add to its 3,000-plus retailer base in the US and Canada. Nanavaty cites saturation of the Canadian market in its decision to bring the Kersh and Press brands to more United States retailers, saying, “The independent base isn’t as strong as it used to be [in Canada]. The US was a natural for us. We knew no one else had the product for the price and quality we were offering.”
Still, Vancouver remains home base for Nanavaty’s business—and, especially given the myriad struggles for survival that have been witnessed in the economic free fall of the past few years, he is proud of what International Fashions brings to Canada’s fashion industry. “Every season since 2008, we’ve been growing tremendously,” he reports. “We’ve had bigger and better distribution, and we’re looking at some licensing opportunities for both brands, including overseas. I’d say we’re quite optimistic about our future.”