Post-pandemic retail means more e-commerce platforms. This week, we review three newly launched fashion and design stores
JJ Valaya was possibly one of the first Indian designers with a website back in the day. So the relaunch of his e-commerce platform last week brought with it high expectations. For now, these are met with gorgeous photographs (mostly by Valaya) and memories with a three-decade timeline. And the option of stocking up soon on luxury interiors — tapestry, carpets, furniture and designer tiles. But first, there are his couture lehengas (price on request) and sherwanis as well as gilets, jackets and the new Valaya Phoenix belts (₹9,900).
Valaya regulars will be happy to take stock of the Tabriz collection, which celebrates mystical Persia. And his saris (₹1,24,500) and dresses with the trademark black and white chevron print borrowed from Rajasthani architecture. Jhalamand House, his cotton and linen menswear collection where black shirts and kurtas come with ivory piping, has also been highlighted. “Maximum traction is coming in the form of appointments, with 203 enquiries in five days,” says Valaya, always a stickler for detail. “Jhalamand House has had great response, as well as the accessories (check out the compact safa selection, at ₹15,000 each),” he adds. With more than 900 subscribers to the newsletter already, the e-store comes just in time for post-pandemic weddings. And Couture Week (September 18), where Valaya will be participating as usual.
Up next: The launch of the pret version of Valaya’s popular ‘made to order’ Alika jacket. IKA is reversible and offers a choice of colour, print, embroidery and piping. Clients can book 30-minute online appointments for customisation.
(Clockwise from top left) Srila Chatterjee and collections from the Baro website
Srila Chatterjee, co-founder of now defunct Mumbai lifestyle store, Baro, has a large camphor chest in her home. “Friends and family call it my present box. They often raid it because I store all the things I bought that I thought were lovely [but not necessarily needed],” she says.
Her week-old online venture, Baro Market, is an extension of this present box. The site is simple, laid out in a grid format that is easy to navigate. As we scroll through the brands — 58 vendors (a mix of designers, craftspeople and artisans) showcasing everything from clothing and home décor to edibles and pet accessories — there are plenty of discoveries. A pen and quill brooch by Absynthe Design shares space with upcycled cushion covers and crop tops from Kolkata-based Sienna. Other pages reveal handmade soaps by Kaisori (with packaging featuring original artwork by miniature artists inspired by the Chitrashala in Ajmer’s Bundi Fort), Shola art from West Bengal, pickles from Shillar House (that empowers women from the local community), and much more.
With each item chosen by Chatterjee, 56 — who enjoys “working with small designers who believe in small-batch, unique things” — the virtual marketplace’s USP is its sensible pricing and the stories behind the products. “I believe if there aren’t stories attached to things, they don’t mean anything,” says Chatterjee, who used to run the production house, Highlight Films, before opening Baro in 2017. “To help spread these tales, there is a lot of blog writing on the site.” They are also working on small videos, where customers can watch the artisans in conversation.
The new website doesn’t yet show up on searches (“Google takes a while to register [new sites]; we are working with them”), but in the meantime they are tweaking the design and adding more vendors. “We built this really quickly, in just under two months. So we have a lot more layering to do,” says Chatterjee. Over time, she hopes to have curated pop-up stores and, when the time is right, go brick-and-mortar again with Baro Market stores. “I don’t think anyone knows how things will pan out. So it is important to know that you have to keep adapting.”
Up next: Expect a special bazaar with Goa-based Rangeela’s home products. “We will also launch Padukas, who work with Maharashtra’s Worli tribe to make wonderful products out of scrap fabric, such as toys, jackets and quilts.”
Soaps at ₹300 and artwork upwards of ₹1 lakh
(Clockwise from bottom left) Ahaanaa and Tina Malhotra, collections from Lovebirds, Suket Dhir and Divyam
“When the lockdown was first announced, everything we knew about retail was turned on its head,” says Ahaanaa Malhotra. The 22-year-old daughter of Atul and Tina Malhotra of multi-brand designer boutique Evoluzione spearheaded their e-commerce move, joining brother Arnav (who curated a menswear edit last year) and sister Ananya (a jewellery designer) in the family business. The result is a minimalist site that went live in late August.
Evoluzione is the latest multi-brand fashion store to go online during the pandemic, following Le Mill and Ensemble. Known for their bespoke and bridal wear, the Evo Edits reflect those categories. Featured designers include IRL bestsellers like Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi and Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna with brands like Bodice, Lovebirds and Kshitij Jalori for everyday wear. Sneha Arora and Koai have entry-level options in the ₹5,700 to ₹7,500 range. While the ‘price on request’ format continues for some occasion wear, the selection is wide ranging, from saris to co-ord sets. The menswear section has considerably fewer designers, but the usual suspects like Rajesh Pratap Singh and Rohit Bal share space with young brands like Countrymade.
Interestingly, a tidy collection of wellness products, like Indian borage honey from Pahadi Local or a spiced candle from Bombay Perfumery, have been added to the list. And styling gets a fillip with jewellery from Out House and Isharya, and men’s oxfords from Bridlen. The site may have a few niggles — the designers’ names for the garments are not immediately visible, for example — but Ahaanaa explains that it is a precursor of a “more modern, sophisticated site that will be launched at the end of the year”. And when you do fill up your shopping cart, you will be happy to know that payment options include current favourites like Paytm and UPI.
Up next: Athleisure and loungewear brands will be added to the site, and the online pantry will soon be stocked with gourmet brands.