The Indian fashion scene in the late ’80s wasn’t as thriving as it is now. Three years after the first National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) opened in New Delhi in 1986, entrepreneur and now designer Kavita Bhartia decided to open a store that would showcase collections by multiple designers. “Unlike today, where you have back-to-back fashion weeks, those days there weren’t many places a designer could exhibit his or her work,” reminisces Bhartia. And thus began the journey of Ogaan. This month, the store, which now has multiple branches, both in Delhi and Mumbai, turned 25. “When I look back, I feel we really have come a long way,” says Bhartia.
The story of Ogaan, in many ways, mirrors the growth of Indian fashion. From housing a handful of designers back then, today Ogaan stocks an eclectic mix of close to 50 labels and the list is growing. The opening show in 1989 saw collections by designers such as Rohit Bal and the late Rohit Khosla, both of whom had also just started out. “The idea was to bring designers together under one roof and showcase the variety in Indian design and craft,” says Bhartia, who went on to make this her success mantra.
Apart from leading Indian designers including Tarun Tahiliani, Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Rajesh Pratap Singh, all of whom sold their first collections at Ogaan, Bhartia has been conscious to make space for new talent as well. It reflects in the line-up of designers invited to be a part of an exhibition (it concluded on November 16) to commemorate Ogaan’s 25th anniversary at their flagship store in Hauz Khas Village. On display alongside the likes of Tahiliani, Pratap and Abraham & Thakore, were Ruchika Sachdeva (Bodice), Nikasha Tawadey and Aneeth Arora (Pero) to name a few — with each designer putting together a special collection for the exhibit. “Since it was a celebration of this journey in fashion, we asked them to make a collection that reflected their unique sensibility as a brand,” explains Bhartia, whose own collection (she turned designer in 2000) was also a part of the line-up.
“It’s never been easy juggling the two profiles as both areas demand attention,” admits the designer, who is now readying to share responsibilities with her daughter, Aashti Bhartia. “It’s been good to look at Ogaan through a younger person’s point of view. She has already brought about changes in the way the stores look and feel,” she admits. There have been various challenges in the last 25 years and Bhartia has made some notes for the future. “I feel Indian designers will have to look at mass production in the future as there will be a global demand for their clothes. Also the competition in the multi-brand outlet space is increasing and the only way to ace that is by being consistent and quality conscious,” says Bhartia. Plans to start an online store are also in the pipeline. Here’s to the next 25, we say.