Every urban Indian bride-to-be has, at some point, probably imagined herself in a Rohit Bal creation. The use of Japanese Shibori tie-dye, intricate detailing in the form of Bal’s signature lotus-and-peacock motifs and the regal touch added by Victorian collars and Elizabeth corsets are things that these dreams were made of. However, for many, affording a creation from the label may have seemed a distant thought until last week.
In a bid to reach out to the masses, Bal has tied up with Jabong, an e-retail platform, and launched an exclusive pret collection for it. Though he may not be new to such tie-ups — Bal also retails a separate collection for Biba — this one would be one of his first partnerships with an online retailer. “I am doing today what a lot of my contemporaries will do in the future. If I am reading the market correctly, India is all about numbers. And this is the only way I can reach out to the numbers who would want to wear my label,” says Bal, who launched his collection recently at Lower Parel, Mumbai.
The exclusive collection, which is priced upwards of Rs 5,999, comprises ready-to-wear dresses, salwaar-kameez, anarkalis, angarakhas and lehengas with blouse in pure fabrics such as silk, chanderi and georgette. “If I keep following my design philosophy, then no matter which company or retail brand I partner with, the customer will get a product they identify with,” says Bal, who has retained the flavour of his signature designs with the use of Indian techniques such as block printing, tie-dye and embroideries on shades of white, cream and almond.
How does one maintain the delicate balance between creating a beautiful garment yet making it affordable? “When you are producing 5,000 or 10,000 pieces of every design, the price drops drastically. This works from the economic point of view and that’s how large retailers can afford to make beautiful garments,” adds Bal, who has earlier witnessed the success of this model through his partnership with other retail organisations. Through a string of upcoming collaborations, Bal is attempting to address perceptions of people who consider designer wear to be unaffordable. “I want to break that myth. I want to tell people that you can buy beautiful things for a great price,” says Bal.
At 52, his hands are full with collaborations — he recently designed a line of lighters for Zippo, apart from working on his two book projects. One of them is a semi-autobiographical book that explores his world of fashion and another is a photo-heavy book on the subject. “It is fashion through my eyes in the last 25 years. But God alone knows when will I finish it, I can’t take off to Mykonos and write a book. I have to pay my bills too,” he laughs.
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With his eyes set on opening 20 more couture stores across the country, Bal understands the importance of brick-and-mortar stores. “People come to my store to buy something special and my store will continue to cater to them,” he adds.
As always, Bal has a finger on the pulse of his buyers. He understands that Indians like to touch and feel everything they buy and that retail buying is all about comfort. However, he also believes that online buying is the future. “We are hoping that women don’t have to keep dreaming of buying that designer lehenga for weddings.”