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Exclusivity & accessible pricing crack India’s niche designer fashion market

Aartivijay Gupta’s latest collection ‘The Line’ presented at Amazon India Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2018

A NIFT Mumbai graduate Aartivijay Gupta started her career at Globus in 2004, the place she credits for creating her strong base in retail and increasing her understanding of numbers.

As a young design graduate, kicking off her career at grass root retail-level, Globus taught Aartivijay everything that she applies to her business as a designer today. While learning how to crunch numbers and quickly adapt designs based on market reactions and working on large volumes, she realised that more than 70 per cent of the industry’s business comes from retail itself.

Attributing this experience as the sole driver for her decision to create a pret-only label, Aartivijay says, “I realised that this is much easier because to make one lehenga and find one customer who will pay 5-10 lakhs is not practical.” She adds that pret provides her with room to play around and a level of experimentation that you could never get away with in couture.

For instance, her collection for Spring 2018 toys with the idea of art school prints, starting with simple practice brush strokes and graduates toward paintings, eclectic sketches. This is not something you can do with couture.

“I cannot make a jacket with monkeys on it for 1 lakh but I can make a below 20K piece with a monkey print because I know that any middle or upper-middle class person can buy it,” the designer explains.

In pret, Aartivijay gets the freedom to go berserk with themes and when it comes to sales, she can often create commercial versions of runway styles for store consignments and international buyers.

The collection takes inspiration from the learning curve of an art student, starting from pencil strokes to full sketches.

The designer showed her first collection at Dubai Fashion Week and later applied to Lakme Fashion Week where she continued to show only pret collections. Her first buyer was Ogaan, who bought the entire collection. The owner told her that since everything is in the 12,000-15,000 bracket, it would sell very well with their clientele and it turned out to be true.

Aartivijay believes that her target market can be anyone from 16 to 60, someone who likes basic everyday comfort clothing or maybe someone who is looking for exclusivity but for everyday apparel.

The avant-gardist says when she started out, her goal customer was perhaps a well-travelled millennial but as she went around exhibiting her work, she realised that India is extremely fashion-forward. There is a big gap in the market and it is growing exponentially. She recalls a collection with miniature Mughal paintings that sold really well in places such as Kuwait, Middle East, Dubai and even at offbeat locations like Sri Lanka, Nairobi and Jakarta. This made her realise that if you are priced below US $ 100-200 then people are more willing to shop from you. “If it is innovative yet wearable and comes in a fabric that they can live and sleep in, then people will always buy from you,” she chimes in.

With a new brick and mortar store on Mumbai’s Peddar road, Aartivijay hopes to compete with the likes of Fabindia, Kala Niketan, Nalli Sarees and offer the locals a fresh take on Indian fashion that is far from traditional.