Fashion is changing.
India is emerging as the next front runner in luxury fashion retail with Indian designers spearheading the accessible fashion movement. Designers are moving away from the razzmatazz associated with fashion weeks and the crème-de-la-crème to focus on a larger audience through various domestic and international retailers.
During Lakmé Fashion Week Winter Festive 2017, AO/FFT had the opportunity to catch up with the founders of Aza, Dr. Alka Nishar and her daughter, Devangi Nishar Parekh.
Together, they took us through their business strategy, designer vetting process and selection procedure, while emphasising the role that buyers are playing in propagating this business.
As India of the late 80s and 90s was gently transforming into a country with a voice of its own in terms of fashion and design, notable talent started arising to fill in a void that had previously been dominated by the West. People started becoming more aware and fashion conscious, willing to shell out a few extras for a coveted product. As the demand spiked, so did the need for a unified space that could house the country’s leading designer pieces. This is where and when Aza was born.
In an attempt to provide a one-stop-shop solution for brides and their families, Aza opened its door in 2005, with an enviable line-up of India-based designers. Since then, the brand has evolved not only as a luxury fashion retail space but also as a platform for emerging designers to showcase their work.
In fact, many of the leading names of the industry today like Rahul Mishra and Nachiket Brave launched their first collection at Aza.
“To enable a more engaging shopping experience, Aza was one of the first stores in the country to introduce the concept of Fashion Consultants, who would assist customers in their purchasing process. Through this concept, emphasis is laid on selection of an outfit based on the kind which would be suitable for a particular occasion depending upon the particular body type or skin colour. This in itself provides a more personal and seamless experience to the customer.” Devangi Nishar Parekh told Apparel Resources
Over a span of 12 years, Aza has evolved from a brick-and-mortar space to a more far-reaching online platform through azafashions.com, thereby expanding its customer base to not only the domestic market, but also the international segment through the world of e-commerce. The digital expansion was made possible once Alka’s daughter Devangi Parekh, joined AZA after graduating in entrepreneurship from Cornell University and an MBA from Wharton. Using her knowledge base to Aza’s advantage, she introduced the digital strategy that opened international avenues for the India-based company. The company reported a growth that continues to exceed 25 per cent on a monthly basis.
“We have a very strong merchandising team that works season to season screening designers who would be included on our list.” Devangi credits the success of its brand to this rigorous selection process. “We evaluate the key pieces pertaining to specific seasons and events based on the demographics and income bracket being catered to, with a keen bend towards aesthetics.”
Design curation is a defining factor that differentiates luxury e-commerce from e-commerce, the latter targeting mass fashion. What draws – and eventually, retains – a particular clientele to such products is the essence of aesthetics that have been selected among a pool of others, to only view the best.
In fact, to be a part of the Aza’s curated edit, designers need to have a strong identity in terms of techniques and details. Their brand should be truly unique to be recognised among a sea of contenders.
Trends are subjective to age, cultural preferences and location; as something that would perform well in the Indian subcontinent, won’t necessarily be that big a hit in places like US, Canada or UK.
Aza is quite cognizant about this and hence, changes if any, are incorporated in terms of colour, sleeve variation and fabric implementation specific to different regions.
One of the preferred avenues for retailers to scout for new and emerging design talent are the fashion weeks held in India; namely, Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) and Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW) that showcase twice a year. These fashion weeks are known for introducing sure shot winning trends of the year such as 2D design interventions, thread work layered with crochet on top of a fabric, and French knots.
For ages, people have been confined to the thresholds of embroidery, sequins and crystals but there has been an evident shift now towards experimental design. The audience is now demanding a change in the way bridalwear is perceived. A fusion of Indian and western influences with respect to cuts, details and silhouettes has observed a dramatic increase. In the traditional sense, a play of handloom fabrics and weaves has bought the heritage fabric back as a fashion statement.
“It’s about how differently you treat a particular fabric that any other designer can procure from the market and apply onto it, innovative methodologies innate to a particular designer.” Dr. Alka Nishar | Founder, Aza
For any retailer, it is essential to expand into categories along with expanding its retail presence to ensure commercial success and perform well within the industry. Aza has taken giant leaps forward with this focus and taken a keen interest in curating its menswear segment.
Gone are the days when menswear and womenswear were compartmentalized with distinct features. Today’s day and age demands for aesthetics that balance out both. Men are no longer limiting themselves to basic fits but are instead, venturing out to experiment with colour, silhouettes and textures.
Designers such as Kunal Rawal and Antar-Agni are combining the best of masculine and feminine influences to channel in the emerging demand for such changes in the menswear segment.