Designer Arpita Mehta recently opened her first flagship store in Khar, in the heart of Mumbai. The store, which exudes an old-world charm, has been designed by architect Ravi Vazirani and is replete with heirloom furniture and exquisite silverware. But, what led to the opening of a store amid the pandemic that has impacted the fashion industry in a devastating manner?
In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, Mehta, who has an affluent clientele, including the likes of actors Kiara Advani, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor Khan, talks about this and much more.
Opening a flagship store amid coronavirus
To answer the question everyone has been asking — why open a store now? — Mehta says: “There was never a doubt about opening a store. We were done with almost 80 per cent of the work and had planned to launch in May. But the pandemic hit and we had to take a pause. However, we resumed work as soon as the situation permitted.”
But with brands and designers ditching brick and mortar and opting for online businesses, does it not scare her? “The experience of walking into a store and being able to touch and feel a garment is unparalleled. For us, to be able to interact with the client to understand their needs, and the physical interaction, add to the overall experience of shopping couture.”
Making the consumer experience worthwhile
Having said that, the store launch coincided with the launch of an e-commerce site, which she feels is an “added bonus” to her label. “We are constantly working towards making the shopping experience as seamless as possible.”
“We launched our e-commerce site so that people could shop from the comfort of their homes. But we also wanted to give people the joy of shopping in a physical store — and that’s how the store came into being,” says the designer, adding that all safety protocols are being strictly followed.
Staying relevant in the current times
Sharing her vision of a physical store, Mehta says: “The most important thing was to visualise the final look of the store and what we wanted our customers to feel when they entered. This involved understanding the mood of your brand and trying to co-relate it with the aesthetic of the store.”
But the pandemic did force her to tweak her initial vision even as the resolve stayed strong. “We’ve also tried to offer pieces that can be styled and re-styled differently for various occasions, especially small intimate ones. Also keeping Covid-19 in mind, for now, we offer video call appointments to some of our clients” — a decision, she says, was taken later.
Finding your ground in such trying times
“I’m glad I’ve been able to incorporate my signature style into my work and that has been my biggest strength to survive this time,” shares Mehta, adding that one’s niche sense of style is “the one thing that separates you from the rest of the world and helps create a strong brand identity”.
She also says that “having a strong base and a setup goes a long way; but this requires your core team to be rock solid”.