Robert Vadra is a busy man. Apart from being the country’s most famous son-in-law — he is married to Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi — he is realising his fashion dreams.
Carefully inspecting his collection of costume jewellery, ladies’ handbags, belts and slippers on display at his stall at the Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair at Greater Noida, where we meet him, Vadra exudes a diligent demeanour. “I am very particular about the presentation of my products”, he explains.
Vadra has been participating in the export fair for more than a decade now, and feels nostalgic about the place. His company, Artex, exports fashion accessories to countries in Europe and the US. The line has an unmistakable Indian touch to it — there are technicolour bags with sequin work and
packed in matching bags, apart from leather belts and chunky bangles.
Vadra, who is known for his keen sense of fashion, says that he likes providing creative inputs to the designs. Elaborating on his business, Vadra says, “My family was in the handicraft business for more than five decades, but around 12 years ago, I decided to branch out on my own.” Recalling his initial days of struggle, he says, “Those were different days.
I remember I would be hobnobbing with the country’s' most elite in the evenings while my days were spent sweating and walking in the bylanes of Chawri Bazaar, looking for materials for my products.”
But did he really need to rough it out on his own? “I could have got a royal treatment but I chose against it. I got pushed out of stores abroad when I was trying to promote my products. I travelled all over the world and would often only get to display my stuff on the ground for 20 minutes.
But, slowly, things got better and business stabilised.” Talking about his now flourishing export business, he says, “I am glad I did the groundwork. “Last year,” he adds, "we came up with this innovative product, the soleless sandals; they were a huge hit globally.”
Since his company caters to women's accessories, does he take wife Priyanka’s inputs, too? “Initially, she would discuss designs but now that things are settled, we just talk about it as any family would.”
Vadra is also famous in the country’s fashion circles not only for his savvy style, but also for his front-row attendance at shows. He admits, “I am interested in fashion. I have friends in the industry like Ashish (Soni), Rohit Bal and JJ (Valaya). I don't get to shop in India as much as I want to.
I shop abroad, and not necessarily at designer boutiques. I love smaller labels, and I believe, if you’re fit, even a rag looks good on you.” Vadra's fitness fetish is well known. He reveals that he worked hard to trim down from a 36 inch waistline to 29 inches now.
So does that make him a control freak? “I guess I am”, he smiles. “With my kids, too, he says, I like a disciplinarian attitude." I tell them not to come to the breakfast table straight from their beds with their hair undone or shirts untucked.” But there are things that he does to make his kids happy.
“While I know my kids will never see the life like I did, in the gullies of Old Delhi, we keep them close to reality. I have travelled with Miraya and Rehaan all over the world, and our most memorable holiday was last year, when we went to the Wagah border.
We are planning another trip to show the kids whole of India from North to South.” Recently, there were reports on how their kids enjoyed CWG from non-VIP seats. “We try to keep security at distance.
At the Games, when one of the athletes from Indonesia won gold and their national anthem played in the background, Miraya stood in rapt attention. I admired that she believes in respecting the anthem even though it's not of her land.
That's the kind of upbringing Priyanka and I aim to instill in our kids.”