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Couturiers turn into corporates

Mumbai, July 24: Their names are not as recognisable as their foreign counterparts, but with Indian designers it’s still the problem of plenty.

Their creations are selling so much that they need help — infrastructure, financial support and a few practical brains to get rid of the paperwork. No wonder they are going corporate with a vengeance. Every Indian designer worth his name, who has more on his hand than he can handle from his studio, has floated his or her own company or is into a corporate alliance, and those who haven’t are keen to join the bandwagon.

The reason behind couturiers going corporate is clear — the designer is spared the burden of worrying about bulk orders and broadening margins, which are taken care of by professionals.

Leading designer Rohit Bal has started a separate company for his prêt line — Balance Apparel. It is a full-fledged corporate entity replete with a CEO, Sam Joseph, and proposes to have a board of directors. Balance Apparel is looking for investment in the range of Rs 5-8 crore for a minority shareholding from a corporate entity and expertise of retail distribution of designer-wear is welcome.

Another heavyweight J.J. Vallaya, who has two labels, J.J. Valaya for his couture and Studio Valaya for prêt, recently engaged Ernst and Young as consultants to take care of his firms’ figures.

Designer Narendra Kumar has tied up with the Banswara group to launch his label ‘Chai’.

Another addition to the lot, Calcutta’s Kiran Uttam Ghosh. Ghosh — who says she often has to meet buyers till 10.30pm — has floated a company to handle her overseas business.

The move towards corporatisation started some time ago, with a company like designer Satya Paul’s Genesis Colours. Genesis Colours, set up two years ago, has three partners with clear job-definitions — Puneet Nanda, Paul’s son as chief designer, who looks after the creative side, Sanjay Kapoor, who looks after the business and Jyoti Narula looking after other operations. It has worked wonders, with the business doubling every year since the company was set up, says Nanda.

This is a trend that the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), too, is actively encouraging. The FDCI, the organiser of the India Fashion Week, is an independent industry body.

“The fashion scene has seen a lot of organic growth, with so many retail stores and designers’ complexes coming up all over the country,” FDCI executive director Vinod Kaul said.

“But we want to initiate major growth through corporatisation. Corporates can bring to the designers investments and marketing sense.”

Industry finds marketing as necessary as investments to propel Indian designers to the international scene.

The effects are already showing. Says Anirudh Deshmukh of Be: the Raymonds’ seven-store retail chain for designerwear: “We now interact more with designers’ business managers than we did two years ago, when we started.”

The fashion week’s blue-eyed boy, Calcutta’s Sabyasachi Mukherjee, says he is on the verge of a very big corporate tie-up. “Then I can catch up with sleep and travel and not be troubled by paperwork,” he grins.

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