Designer Amit Aggarwal is often fondly remembered when, as a student, he sparingly spent his pocket money to travel to the Fort area in south Mumbai from his house in the suburbs to buy old fashion magazines.
This part of Mumbai introduced him to different architectural styles. Despite his love for the city, he traveled to Delhi to fulfill his dream of studying at the National Institute of Fashion and Design. Mesmerized by the capital’s long open roads and the freedom to live on his own, he decided to make Delhi his new home.
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After more than a decade, Aggarwal returned to his hometown to open his first flagship store in Colaba. In an interview with Salon, he shares how the pandemic and the demand for unique fashion encouraged him to open the store, and his future plans. Edited excerpts:
Why Bombay now?
It was still on the cards. I had been looking for a space for three to four years, but none spoke to me. I had an instant connection with this space because it was so close to the sea. The facade is a luxury that I always imagined when I lived in town because I grew up in a (typical) club house. matches in Mumbai.
Mumbai will always be the mother who gave birth and sheltered millions of people who come to see and make them their own. This purity of the elements (reflected in the store) of the sea and the wind means that there could be no hard edges; everything in the store is curved. There are furniture accents in concrete and sand concrete. The light installation is abstract and can be imagined as a floating pool of jellyfish, a million blooming flowers or floating clouds. The city is quite welcoming to anyone, so we created models with no skin color; the amorphous state can make you think it’s your own face.
Delhi offers physical space. Mumbai offers you a space in life, where each individual is proud of the space they would like to have.
How is a Mumbai buyer different from a Delhi buyer?
Mumbai is a little more uncluttered. Buyers here take a look at the versatile use of an outfit. Delhi always likes to dress up for the smallest event. The difference therefore lies more in the type of product. As a brand, we manufacture both products to suit both markets. Mere access to Bollywood was never the goal, or I would rather open a sample showroom.
But you open in the middle of a pandemic.
My drive to open the store has now grown stronger as I saw the brands multiply. People are now looking to buy something unique. The number of occasions to attend is decreasing, so more people want to dress distinctly when they move. There is an impetus to retail today.
Your opinion on the recent corporate partnerships of Indian couture brands?
It’s a healthy way to take fashion seriously because it makes what we create more serious. It will take time for associations to flourish. This will work until there is a good understanding of the ethics of the brand, and they don’t push the numbers.
There could have been an association with our label, but personally, I have always had a problem, if someone invests large sums, can I do it justice? Fashion is beyond numbers, the nature of business is such that it can’t always be a smooth curve, and sometimes you overspend. My heart will always be in creation and I wouldn’t want to compromise on that to amplify the brand’s numbers.
How has menswear worked for your brand?
While we launched it four years ago, it has never been prominent and the full line only hit stores three months ago. Currently, women’s fashion is comparable to men’s fashion. I think it’s because of the wide range (the brand has shirts, jackets, even kimonos) that buyers find it convenient to have everything under one roof. While many women would like to explore different brands, men are conservative buyers and don’t hesitate to buy just one brand. Also, the options for men’s clothing are not as elaborate as they are for women’s clothing. So the initial push might be because it’s a new collection, but I’m very happy.
Has the pandemic changed the demand for designs?
People are opting for more unique pieces and more and more customers are opting for versatile pieces, not a fancy outfit that would just fill their wardrobe. New couture is high quality workmanship but not something that weighs you down.
Any plans for next year?
I’m excited to do physical shows, but for now we’ll be continuing our digital escapades, as they have challenged me in areas I never thought of. Six years ago, I didn’t know how to use hashtags. Now yes. But the giggles with the models, the rush before the show, the fittings I miss. Finally, we would like to delve into distinct areas of design. It is still nothing concrete. We have tried to do some artwork for the store, although it is a first attempt. There are little details that I thought someone might walk into the store and imagine was part of their house. Mumbai is a city that I like, and I will do it more often.
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