You don’t need to be best friends with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to share her wardrobe. Thanks to Mumbai-based website, indianhangar.com, your bridal trousseau can come straight from the sets of Jodhaa Akbar.
Started by shopping aficionado, Mallika Singhania, the website offers Bollywood freaks a chance to get big budget costume designers like Neeta Lulla to design garments almost identical to those worn by our leading ladies on screen. Rai’s Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar looks feature prominently on the website and as Singhania explains, "People are still crazy about the clothes in Devdas. I think it’s the combination of Aishwarya Rai and the clothing that create this lasting effect."
Clients can browse the website and select the star looks they want copied. And instead of getting a cheap imitation, Singhania arranges for the original designer to recreate a customised ensemble.
“A lot depends on the client’s budget too,” Singhania admits. “If they cannot afford to get the exact replica, the designer will make adjustments to suit your pockets.” The pampering can even extend to telephonic interactions between the designer and the client. While the recently launched website hasn’t had any official orders yet, Singhania is excited about the response it has generated. “Kareena Kapoor is very popular; we have lots of people asking for her short kurtis from Jab We Met,” reveals Singhania. “Our NRI audience is big, and they don’t have many occasions to wear opulent Indian garments. That’s why Kareena’s casual look works well.”
While online shopping is still a niche concept in India, Singhania explains her decision to customise her website. “NRIs are even more obsessed with Bollywood than we are. And designers are very excited to explore new avenues to sell, especially internationally.”
With big designer names like Neeta Lulla already onboard, Singhania is also in talks with other Bollywood stalwarts — Manish Malhotra and Vikram Phadnis. She has realised that the ethnic wardrobes like ones worn by Preity Zinta in Veer Zara or Rani Mukherjee in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna have maximum appeal. “I’ve been flooded with requests for Priyanka Chopra’s Desi girl look from Dostana. When we get that sari, I think it will be a hot seller. Strangely, despite being a popular star, we haven’t had any requests for Katrina Kaif’s looks yet,” she reveals.
Designer discounts online
If the word ‘sale’ makes you light up like a Christmas party, here’s the juiciest deal for you. Hail the era of online discount shopping. From designer bags to expensive perfumes, your best buy is just a click away.
99labels.com, a Delhi-based project started by three friends, mimics the European bestseller, vente-prive.com. Operational since December last year, the website is based on the concept of event sales, where different labels are put online for a few days, during which members can make their purchases. Since most sites are restricted to members only, you need to sign up or be recommended by a friend to access the deals. A sale on Ritu Kumar garments is currently online, the designer’s second outing on the site. Marketing manager Sarika Grover explains that big designer names work better online. “Ritu Kumar is a big name and sells well. Our Rocky S bags were a hit too.”
High-end brands like Mango and Hidesign are available for anywhere between 30-60 per cent off. “We were surprised by the response because everyone warned us that the Indian market was not yet ready. Yet some lines have even been sold out. Since it’s a members-only website, we have serious shoppers signing up,” she remarks. Payments are made through credit cards and delivery takes upto 14 days. The stock may be a season old, or a slow-moving product that the brand wants to sell off. Particular brands also route sale merchandise through these online stores. Fashionandyou.com is another discount website that offers customers mid-level brands like Forever 21 alongside designer names like Gaurav Gupta and Satya Paul.
Exact sizes of the products can be measured on the size chart and since every product has a zoom view, buyers can check out design details as well. Members get email notifications on the exact time that the sale begins and the percentage of discount. Accessories are very popular, and the discount percentages on the perfumes ensure that most are sold out within a few hours.
CEO Pearl Uppal insists that clothes and apparel do equally well on her site, adding that perfumes from Burberry, Davidoff and Hugo Boss are also bestsellers. Mumbai and Delhi are hotspots of e-commerce, while smaller towns look for brands that are not available in local stores. “We accept returns on shoes and apparel,” she admits. “But this happens very rarely and mostly because the garments don’t fit.”
Multi-designer stores now online
Any fashion snob will tell that net-a-porter.com changed the dynamics of luxury fashion. Starting small as a multi-designer online store, the website grew into a behemoth that was eventually bought by jewellery maker Richemont at a value of $533 million. Following suit are Indian stores like firstrow.in and rangavenue.com.
Travelling in style
Radhika Dhawan launched her travel boutique, First Row, taking designer names to smaller towns like Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, which had the money but no forums. By holding exhibitions where she would recreate a store atmosphere, Dhawan was able to introduce small town India to the luxuries of designer wear. “Designers don’t accompany us but select what they want to sell, based on the market and what they think will sell there.” After many successful exhibitions, Dhawan hit upon the idea of opening an online boutique. Her website already carries news from the fashion world along with exhibition updates, and very soon, will offer viewers a chance to buy designer garments at special online rates.
Her repertoire will include popular names like Shantanu and Nikhil, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Narendra Kumar Ahmed. “Designers like Siddarth Tytler do well in the North because of the bling factor,” she reveals. With her online store to go live shortly, Dhawan has big aspirations. “We want to take this brand global, so we are giving designers time to figure out which collection they want to put online,” she reveals. Mallika Singhania of indianhangar.com says that the key to making e-commerce profitable is to make the site attractive. “When I was starting out, I realised that most websites don’t pay attention to photography. Good photographs always encourage buyers.”
Website rangavenue.com features names like Lina Tipnis, Raakesh Agarwal, Geisha Designs and Narendra Kumar and has their current collections up for sale. Tipnis’ Trompe l’oeil collection is priced in dollars, making it very obvious who the main buyers are. While the website features saris, there is nothing listed under that section yet. Interestingly, washing instructions for each garment are shown alongside. Delivery here takes around 35 days.
The fact that Indian designers don’t have fixed sizes like their international counterparts becomes another problem. Singhania says, “Abroad, sizes are fixed. So even though we do include a size chart alongside every garment, there are issues with certain fits. Trust is important when shopping online because the buyer cannot touch or feel the product.”
Design labels move beyond the studio
Small towns and NRI audiences make for a large chunk of the Indian designer’s market. But lack of availability has prevented many brands from becoming market leaders. One of India’s most prolific designers, Neeta Lulla officially launched her online store last month, to target her NRI clientele.
Managed by her son Siddarth, the online store aims to take the brand global. “It’s been operational for about a month and we’ve already had about 200 customer visits a day,” informs Siddarth who’s been keeping track of the site. The website ensures a delivery within 14 days, and he breaks down the process, saying, “Once you give the order online, we check the stock for the right size and immediately send it across. The courier usually takes about three days to reach.” While the prêt line is fast moving, those interested in bridal couture or diffusion can even get their looks custom made.
Made to measure
“They email us with colour preferences, sizes and other details and we respond with sketches to get started. The entire process takes about a month,” Siddarth reveals. Designer Nitin Bal Chauhan also has showcases his garments online, but is still in the process of setting up a payment provision. “We have plenty of clients online,” he reveals. “People can buy online, but they need to make the payment by cheque or cash. By the end of this year we should have our online payment sorted out.” Chauhan sends customers a test fit first, after which the final garment is delivered. Delivery takes about 14 days. Varsha Bhavnani of Bandra-based store, Vinegar, has copied her boutique format online, even offering customers styling tips and make-over consultations. While clothes cannot be bought online, each garment is displayed with size and design details.