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Summer sling

Here’s what happens behind the scenes of a reputed leather bag manufacturing brand.
By Jigna P | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 03, 2010 02:25 PM IST

At Hidesign’s office in Pondicherry, the moist smell of wooden interiors and the whiff from the fresh leather bags displayed around the room is fused well. Lead designer Alberto Ciaschini and president of Hidesign, Dilip Kapur speak about the new collection and their association over the years. Milan-based Ciaschini has come down especially to coordinate a new line of bags for the brand. An exhilarating tour of the factory follows.

Europe meets Asia
Having designed for Giorgio Armani, Loewe and Padla Frani, Ciaschini shook hands with Hidesign in 2004. Since then he has designed for nine seasons for the brand. Kapur brought in Ciaschini for two reasons: One was bringing in the luxury element to the designs and the other — image-building. “In India, working with designers is looked at as short term endeavor. But with Hidesign we needed continuity,” says Kapur.

So how has the collaboration taken shape? Kapur feels, “When two cultures merge, it always takes time. Alberto’s European matured sensibility of design combined with my knowledge of Asian customer requirements has worked tremendously well.”

Ciaschini seconds him, “season after season, the understanding has grown and now I am really comfortable. The system of working has improved and so has the quality of leather.”

New collection
Clean forms, revived colours, softer and rounded shapes, combination of two colours, combination of leathers and a tinge of glamour characterise the Spring-Summer 2010 collection.

This includes bags for women and men. “The Indian woman is becoming more accustomed to fashion, career oriented and
one who needs a good functional bag. And the Asian customer wants glamour, but not hard glamour like a Dolce and Gabbana,” reasons Kapur.

Not machine centric
A tour of the Hidesign factory in Pondicherry and we can never dispel a handmade bag as just another piece of arm candy anymore. For starters, though the process of making bags is not rocket science — what we witnessed was plain, ecological and traditional — combining the best skills and sensibilities and it calls for talent. There were mostly female artisans at the factory and each one was handed a particular responsibility. Some women, we learn, were involved in the same activity for over 20 years.

So, here’s how it’s done: First, the selection of leather for each bag has to be decided upon. Next is the cutting process. Each piece is hand-cut by a small cutter. Note: There has to be the least amount of wastage of leather. While one person glues the different parts together, another one stitches the bag on a traditional sewing machine. Parts like handles, leather add-ons and buckles prepared by different artisans are then assembled on to the bag.

Each artisan is allotted work in numbers and thus at the end of the day, every individual knows the number of bags s/he created that day.

Still, the emphasis has to be on quality rather than on quantity, if has to be worth its salt.

Hidesign activities take place in eco-friendly brick buildings constructed by Californian architect Ray Meeker. These stand amidst a green farm-like landscape, decorated with sculptures. An unconventional factory setup, it’s pleasant to see how a well-known brand has managed to continue with age old ways of working in today’s automated world.

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