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We want to create objects of desire, says Anamika Khanna on the Reliance deal

In an interview with Lounge, the designer and Reliance Brands Ltd's Darshan Mehta talk about their collaboration

Darshan Mehta and Anamika Khanna, along with models (in the back) wearing AK-OK.
Darshan Mehta and Anamika Khanna, along with models (in the back) wearing AK-OK. (Company handout)

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Reliance Brands Ltd (RBL) has joined hands with designer Anamika Khanna on a joint venture that will develop the AK-OK label.

RBL will take a 60% stake in the brand, with Khanna helming it as the creative director. RBL also has equity investments in couture brands Manish Malhotra and Raghavendra Rathore.

In an interview with Mint Lounge, RBL’s managing director and chief executive Darshan Mehta and Khanna talk about their vision for the brand, the process to create an “object of desire” and future plans. Edited excerpts:

Also read: How Manish Malhotra plans to work with Reliance

Anamika, how does it feel?

AK: I feel this nervous energy and excitement. And you know, a sense of feeling that you're going to finally be able to achieve this dream you always had. And that feeling is just incredible. I feel special and honoured.

Do you believe this support will give you more freedom to focus on the creative process?

AK: You know, it's not just that that somebody is out there to do the other stuff for you. That there is somebody out there not just helping you realise your dream, but also taking you to spaces you've never been before. That is the exciting part of being in this partnership. Of course, there is a relief that you are allowed to focus on your creative process and delve deeper and deeper into design. But at the same time, there is that bigger picture, which is coming to fruition.

What does AK-OK stand for?

AK: It is this beautiful space that we want to build, which will stand for something that's more meaningful, not just in terms of design, but beyond. We want to create objects of desire. I would like to request Darshan to answer this further. I think he will be able to answer better (laughs). 

Darshan: You know, Pooja, we think that it's not a flash in the pan but a trend of something more enduring. We are kind of removing a lot of clutter; we are in this Marie Kondo moment. In this whole concept of less is more, we want to surround ourselves with objects of desire. And desire creates power and power leads to an outcome.

So, our goal in this partnership is to create objects of desire. Take Apple, for instance. It has continued to create something powerful even after the death of Steve Jobs. By combining form and beauty, they have created an object of desire. We want to do that: create an object of desire, with a degree of consistency. 

For the West, Indian fashion has been largely restricted to bridal wear. Do you think by creating these objects of desire, the perspective can change?

DM: Absolutely. The product could sit in Japan and the customer wouldn't even realise it's made in India. Our clothes cater to a state of mind, which transcend age and geography.

That kitsch and colourful India the West is especially aware of is the touristy version. It's a global India.

Darshan, may I know what you are trying to build?

DM: More than 50% of luxury consumption comes out of Asia. We are trying to offer fashion made by Indians to the world. And I also think the world needs a bit of a respite from the China story. It needs a fresh story.

In terms logistics, how many stores are you planning to open?

DM: Honestly that's not our approach. The easiest thing would be to pick up the phone and talk to four mall owners and say I want space here, here and here. But that's a dinosaur way of thinking. The consumer has evolved; they have become more nomadic in their approach. We are more interested in finding a channel of outreach, rather than set up stores. 

Also read: Ritu Kumar takes couture beyond the metros


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