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Mukesh Khosla

Leading Indian designers are fast learning how to use their fame and fortune to become lifestyle brands instead of just names in fashion circles.

The Indian fashion scene is undergoing a new and exciting makeover. Leading designers, taking a leaf from their western counterparts, are investing huge sums of money into diverse fields in a bid to become brands instead of just names in the fashion world.

Designers like Rohit Bal, J.J.Valaya, Raghvendra Rathore, Ravi Bajaj, Wendall Rodericks and many more are busy advancing their parallel businesses that may not necessarily have anything to do with haute couture.

Though it may be a complete departure from fashions these designers are displaying excellent entrepreneurial skills in their new businesses. As Rodericks explains, " The diversification gives you the confidence that if your designs stop clicking there is something else equally lucrative waiting for your full time attention."

Rathoreís Les Chocolats de Jodhpur

Take for instance leading designer Raghvendra Rathore. Besides creating trendy, retro-inspired clothes for the likes of Selfridges of London, this scion of the royal family of Jodhpur is manufacturing chocolates for the high premium food market. Les Chocolats de Jodhpur, which is one of the first Indian designer chocolates, are being marketed through exclusive outlets in all big cities. Rathore, a graduate from the prestigious Parsonís College of New York says thereís export demand as well and test marketing in some European cities have yielded good results.

Whatís the reason behind the shift? " It is an investment for the future. Such concepts are very popular in the west and India too is following suit. But I am not going to stop at chocolates, I want the Rathore brand to expand into a complete range of lifestyle ideas."

Rohit Bal - designing jewellery watches for Titan

So would Rohit Bal, the poster boy of Indian fashion industry who has ventured into accessories and has designed the latest solid gold jewellery watches from Titan. Called the Nebula Rohit Bal Collection these watches represent a fusion of the intricate art of the past with contemporary precision technology. The collection, says Bal, is a flamboyant style statement, designed to complement a premium wardrobe. Adds Bijou Kurien COO (Watches) Titan Industries Ltd., "Rohit Balís creations reflect grandeur and glamour. The collection blends luxury time-wear with designer label, to create an irresistible offering for the Indian customer." Says Bal, " I donít want to limit myself only to designing clothes thatís why I have started to experiment. This new watch collection reflects the rich artistic heritage of India. These 18-carat watches are pieces of art worn on the wrist---classic and modern."

Rohit Bal may be new to accessories but another leading designer Ravi Bajaj, is an old hand at it. Along with his exquisite couture, Bajaj has on offer everything from ties and belts to shoes and undergarments. Says he, "As long as the diversification is in a related area it is natural and positive progression. However if it is in an untested field then it could be detrimental to growth."

Ravi Bajajís Fashion CafťÖLike fashions, food is part of lifestyle

But thatís exactly what Bajaj has gone and done. He has opened Fashion Cafť at his three-storyed showroom in Delhiís upmarket Greater Kailash where heíll be dishing out more than just his range of fashion wear. Says Bajaj, " Food is part of lifestyle just as fashion is and this offers me an opportunity to provide my clients a place for unwinding after shopping. Iíve set it up to increase the foot falls and my brand extension."

When designer Bina Ramani opened her Tamarind Court near Delhiís Qutub Minar little did she realize that eateries would catch the fancy of designers in a big way. The shutting down of Ramaniís restaurant after the murder of model Jessica Lal has not dampened designersí desire to open restaurants.

Designer J J Valaya Cafe Ella has been doing booming business serving South European cuisine and blues music at his lifestyle store in a Chattarpur farm on the outskirts of Delhi. Apart from food and fashionable clothes, Valaya has on offer a whole range of luxury products which include home furnishings, furniture, textiles, tapestries and fabrics.

Leading couturier Wedall Rodricks who first put out a line of minimalist jewellery now owns the swank Aubergine, in the Goan village of Arpora. " This is the first cigar bar of India," says the proud designer who is also busy setting up a museum of Goa's costume history in collaboration with the Portugese organization, Fundacao Oriente.

From setting up a museum to writing is but a small step on the culture path. If Rodricks is busy cataloguing Goan costume history, Mumbai-based designer Payal Jain has penned a book Fashion Studies specifically for the students of Class XI, who have opted for fashion-designing course as a part of their CBSE curriculum.

"I authored the book when the CBSE introduced fashion designing as a subject and there wasnít any text book. So I took it up as a challenge," says Payal who will soon be writing another book for Class XII. " Itís a lot of hard work. It took me five months to write the first one. I took it up as a challenge. Writing can be very rewarding."

Not just writing even hosting TV shows is a rewarding diversion. The trend started in 1997 with Suneet Varma's Style Gurus on Star Plus that claimed to bridge the east-west divide in fashions. A number of designers have followed suit. Manish Malhotra is hosting a show on Zoom channel. Rohit Bal and Malini Ramani have gone a step further taking a shot at the silver screen with cameoís in Boom and Hum Tum respectively

The reason why these designers are working hard at their alternate professions is not far to seek. These established designers are fast learning how to use their fame and fortune to get ahead and become lifestyle brands instead of just names in fashion circles."

After all, if Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Calvin Klien and Valentino can do it in the West, whatís stopping Raghavendra Rathore, Rohit Bal, J.J. Valaya, Wedall Rodricks, Ravi Bajaj and others from becoming brand names in India!



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