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E-fashion

Couture clicks

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Loved the crisp white cotton kurta and khadi pallazos with the black and gold frill jacket that Masaba Gupta showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer 2012 but don't know how to get it? Is the thought of shipping the stunning origami leaf throne by furniture designer Gunjan Gupta to your house being constructed in Naukuchiatal daunting? Fret no more. A few clicks of the mouse and you could own that Masaba creation or the Gupta chair.

Online shopping is not a new concept in India but till now most e-commerce either stuck with well-known mass market brands or foreign labels, offered at discounted rates. Few wanted to bet on Indian designers, especially the emerging.

But now a new set of fashion portals like perniaspopupshop. com and www. designemporia. in are giving Indian design and fashion a leg up and introducing them to a whole new clientele. Even Kimaya, which showcases the best in Indian fashion, now retails online at the same prices that they offer in their stores.

Pernia Qureshi, famous as the stylist behind Sonam Kapoor's Aisha look, launched perniaspopupshop. com, which ships to more than 200 countries, in April.

"The whole point of the site is to showcase Indian talent globally, " says Delhi-based Pernia. "Indian designers have so much talent but no exposure. I want to make high quality Indian design and fashion available to the rest of the world. Today, a Japanese girl could log on and check out creations by Atsu, James Ferreira and Nachiket Barve and they would be just as good and edgy as international designers. "

Less than two months after the website launched, the portal has 31 designers onboard selling everything from established labels like Shivan & Narresh (luxury beachwear) to emerging names like Hyderabad-based Anand Kabra. With a focus on affordable luxury, all pieces are within the Rs 3, 000-3, 00, 000 range and shipping within India is free. The fact that each look is curated by Pernia herself has meant that the designers are assured of a final product that is in sync with their label and image. Barve, who has trained with Michael Kors in Paris and dressed many of tinsel town's celebs, is one of the latest to come on board. For the eight-seasons-old veteran, who retails in most top-end designer boutiques, making his clothes available online was a simple decision. "Fashion has to be democratic, " he begins, adding, "It has to transcend barriers of age, race, size so why not distance? Someone sitting in Ladakh or someone who doesn't have the time to go to 10 shops before buying an outfit can now do so sitting at home. Websites like this are only expanding the lexicon of Indian design. " For Pradeep Hirani, the man behind multi-brand store Kimaya, the reach of the digital world was difficult to ignore. However, he wanted to keep in mind Indians' preferance for the 'touch-feel-try ' factor while buying fashion. "Indians are still quite circumspect when it comes to buying high-value fashion merchandise online. So we've taken extra care to ensure the buying process isn't disturbed by any such factors, " says Hirani. To ensure the online shopping process remains just as enjoyable as it is offline, customers doubtful of online transactions have the option of paying at a Kimaya store closest to them. There's a 100 per cent refund policy and customers in New Delhi and Mumbai can even have a dress delivered to them to try before they choose to buy it online.

Surbhi Gupta Tanga is a trained architect and was redecorating her brother's house when she hit a roadblock. She couldn't source most Indian designers' work, even though there were a lot that caught her eye. That set her thinking and so she joined forces with her IT expert husband Raman M Tanga and the two went about setting up designemporia. in, which showcases bright emerging talent like Pranav Mishra and Shyama Shetty alongside established names like Kavita Bhartia and Gunjan Gupta. So while you could shop for beautiful chunky jewellery, kitschy shoes and slinky clutches, you could also shop for lamps and furniture.

"I think Indian design has hit a purple patch, " says Tanga. "You see the local and global intermingling. Young designers are working with traditional craftsmen. There's international focus on Indian design but there's no organised forum for designers to display and sell their work. "

Being a part of the industry has helped Surbhi understand the needs of the designers who are happiest designing and creating rather than luring customers. So they created a system at designemporia where all the designer has to do is create.

This model shows a lot of promise, according to Anand and Anuj Ambalal, furniture designers from Ahmedabad. Earlier, all they had were the few orders that came their way but ever since they signed up with the Tangas, they've been flooded with enquiries and a tie-up with a London store is in the offing. "They take care of everything from logistics and e-commerce which is a great blessing for a designer. All I have to do is design my stuff and produce it, " explains Anuj, who ironically quit his job as a financial consultant to start designing.

Designemporia, at present, has 35 designers on board and ever since the website was officially launched on April 1, has dealt with largely global shipments.

Most e-commerce portals are made for mass consumption and so old stock and outdated looks abound. Both perniaspopupshop and designemporia are keen to avoid such pitfalls. "We're focussed on curating seasonal looks. I'm not going to assume that my customer is stupid. There are already too many websites putting up bad clothing at discounted rates. I personally choose every piece of clothing and jewellery and I want to offer it at a price that is irresistible, " says Pernia.

While Pernia works like a standard shop, buying at cost price and selling at retail price to make money, designemporia. in works on a very different model. Each designer has his/ her own microsite and it's the designer who decides what to sell and how much to charge for it.

The portal just handles the order processing and makes sure the product reaches the customer. "It's like being in a mall and each designer has their own shop. We've just reduced the headache of delivery and payment, " explains Surbhi. The website earns money from the joining fees of Rs 25, 000 that every designer has to pay and from the 15-30 per cent commissions on objects sold.

The Tangas don't like to call their project an e-commerce website. Instead, it's a platform to promote the finest talent in India and treat design like a collectible. "We want to be the Google search for Indian designers, " says Surbhi.

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