Designer Amit Aggarwal often fondly recalls the time when he, as a student, would sparingly spend his pocket money to travel to south Mumbai's Fort area from his house in the suburbs to buy old fashion magazines.
That part of Mumbai introduced him to different architectural styles. Despite his love for the city, he then moved to Delhi to realise his dream of studying at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Mesmerised by the long, open roads of the Capital city and the freedom to live on his own, he decided to make Delhi his new home.
After over a decade, Aggarwal has returned to his hometown to open his first flagship store in Colaba. In an interview with Lounge, he shares how the pandemic and the demand for unique fashion encouraged him to open the store, and his future plans. Edited excerpts:
Why Mumbai now?
It was always on cards. I have been looking for a space for three-four years, but none spoke to me. I had an instant connection with this space because it was so close to the sea. The façade is a luxury I always imagined while I lived in the city because I grew up in a (typical) matchbox Mumbai home.
Mumbai will always be the mother who has given birth and housed millions of people who come to see her and makes them her own. This purity of elements (reflects in the store) of the sea and the wind means that there could be no hard edges; everything in the store is curved. There is concrete and sandy concrete furniture accents. The light installation is abstract and can be imagined as a floating pool of jellyfish, a million flowers blooming, or clouds floating. The city is kind of welcoming to any person, so we created mannequins with no skin tone; the amorphous state can make you think it’s your own face.
Delhi offers physical space. Mumbai gives you space in life, where every individual has pride in the space they would like to have.
How is a Mumbai shopper different from a Delhi counterpart?
Mumbai is a little more pared-down. Shoppers here look at multipurpose usage of an outfit. Delhi always loves to dress up for the smallest event. So the difference is more about the kind of product. As a brand, we do both products so it fits in both markets. Just access to Bollywood was never the purpose, or I would open a sample showroom instead.
But you are opening in the middle of a pandemic.
My will to open the store now became stronger as I saw that brands were increasing. People are now looking to buy something unique. The number of occasions to attend is dwindling, so more people want to dress distinct when they move out. There is an impetus towards detail today.
Your thoughts on the recent corporate partnerships of Indian couture labels?
It’s a healthy way of taking fashion seriously as it lends more gravitas to what we create. It will take time before associations flourish. It will work till there is a healthy understanding of what the brand ethos is, and they aren’t pushing it for numbers.
There could have been an association with our label, but personally, I have always had one concern, if someone is investing big bucks, will I be able to do justice? Fashion is beyond numbers, the nature of business is such that it cannot always be a smooth curve, and sometimes you overspend. My heart will always lie in creation and I wouldn’t want to compromise on that to amplify the numbers of the brand.
How has menswear worked for your brand?
While we launched it four years ago, it has never been in the forefront and the full range only hit the stores three months ago. Currently, womenswear is on a par with menswear. I think it’s because of the expansive range (the brand offers shirts, jackets, even kimonos) shoppers find it convenient to have everything under one roof. While many women would want to explore different brands, men are conservative shoppers and don’t mind shopping from a single brand. Also, options for menswear are not as elaborate as womenswear. So the initial surge could be because it’s a new collection, but I am very happy.
Has the pandemic changed the demand for designs?
People are going for more unique pieces and more customers are opting for multipurpose pieces, and not one big outfit that would just line their closet. New couture is high workmanship but not something that is weighing you down.
Plans for next year?
I am excited to do physical shows, but for now we will continue with our digital escapades, as they have challenged me in areas I never thought about. Six years ago, I didn’t know how to use hashtags. Now I do. But I miss the giggles with the models, the rush before the show, the fittings. Eventually, we would like to foray into distinct areas of design. It’s nothing concrete yet. We tried to do art pieces for the store, though it's an initial attempt. There are little details that I thought that somebody could walk inside the store and imagine it to be a part of their home. Mumbai is a city that pleasures me, and I will indulge more often.