Sites to BE­HOLD

Keep your mouse at the ready be­cause there’s a new guard of en­trepreneurs all set to make cy­berspace more stylish

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAARSTYLE - By Bu­tool Ja­mal

Ev­ery once in a while, I need my fash­ion fix. It can come from a stroll through a mall, scour­ing a flea mar­ket, or ri­fling through the pages of my favourite fash­ion bi­ble. But when I have a moun­tain of dead­lines and a much-needed evening yoga class, I find in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion on a slew of lux­u­ri­ous online por­tals that have be­gun to change the way we ap­pre­ci­ate, shop, and learn about fash­ion and beauty. Think sites tak­ing lux­ury In­di­an­wear to the global mar­ket or bring­ing the best of Paris, New York, and Lon­don to In­dia. There are sub­scrip­tion-only beauty stores that will let you sam­ple be­fore you buy, and con­tent-based plat­forms that are ri­valling mag­a­zines. What’s more, they’re all just a click away.

A study by the In­ter­net & Mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia and KPMG last year said that In­dian e-com­merce was pro­jected to grow to ` 62,967 crores. And with fash­ion get­ting up to 40 per­cent of the in­vest­ments in online re­tail, go­ing dig­i­tal was the next step for en­tre­pre­neur Priya Sachdev. The owner of multi-de­signer store Kitsch, with out­lets in Mum­bai and New Delhi, she will de­but her online space Rock N Shop (www. rockn­ this month. Just like her Kitsch, the web­site will stock names like Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, Alice + Olivia, Alexan­der McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. “Online is the fu­ture of shop­ping, so it was the in­evitable next ver­ti­cal. On Rock N Shop, we can re­tail as many brands and prod­ucts as we want to with ease.”

“It’s not just about putting the best story out. It’s about find­ing that story which will get a lot of views,” says Priyanka Gill, ed­i­tor-in-chief of eStylista

Sim­i­larly, when friends Bharat Kapoor, 38, and Rishi Seth, 35, wanted to set up some­thing of their own, they knew they had to look online. Af­ter a bit of re­search, the duo de­cided that a sub­scrip­tion-based e-com­merce model was the way to go. And the prod­ucts that fit that plat­form the best? Per­fumes, cleansers, makeup re­movers, and serums. The re­sult is lux­ury beauty re­tail site My Envy Box (www.myen­vy­ that re­tails top-notch brands like Thalgo, L’Occitane, Ter­raké, and Phy­tomer, among the usual sus­pects. They are also the ex­clu­sive sell­ers of niche French botan­i­cal brand Em­i­nence Or­gan­ics. Beauty might seem an odd choice for the New Del­hibased duo, given that Kapoor worked at Ernst & Young and Seth was in the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor pre­vi­ously, “But we don’t re­ally look at it as beauty or not. What re­ally ex­cites us is the mar­ket­ing, build­ing the site, and our re­la­tion­ships with the brands.” But most im­por­tantly for them, “When done right, the reach of an online busi­ness can dwarf that of a tra­di­tional phys­i­cal re­tail en­ter­prise.”

It was this po­ten­tial that pushed 35-year-old Mo­hini Boparai to start Ex­clu­ As di­rec­tor of an ar­chi­tec­tural firm that worked with de­sign­ers and with her own line of clutches, Boparai was no stranger to fash­ion. Born in Nether­lands and based in New Delhi, she picked up on the In­dian di­as­pora’s nos­tal­gia for the coun­try’s op­u­lent em­broi­deries, in­tri­cate bead­work, and rich hues. “Three years ago, it was vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to get any­one to buy In­dian de­sign­ers online. Now, we have de­mand from all over the world. The In­ter­net, e-com­merce, blogs, and so­cial me­dia have played a huge role in chang­ing the aware­ness lev­els glob­ally.” The site is home to names like Ritu Ku­mar, Varun Bahl, and Pankaj & Nidhi among oth­ers, and Boparai says that most of her traf­fic comes from the United States. On this side of the At­lantic, for­mer as­sis­tant di­rec­tor and film ed­i­tor Aashni Shah found that, sur­pris­ingly, her big­gest clients are Bri­tish and French. At her Lon­don-based store and its online coun­ter­part Aashni + Co (www.aash­, Shah stocks a range of de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Man­ish Malhotra and Anamika

“When done right, the reach of an online busi­ness can dwarf that of a tra­di­tional phys­i­cal re­tail en­ter­prise,” say Bharat Kapoor and Rishi Seth of My Envy Box.

Khanna. “When I’m choos­ing de­sign­ers, I look for a strong aes­thetic. I am not look­ing for a white shirt or a black pants. There has to be an el­e­ment of be­ing In­dian that can add a con­tem­po­rary twist to your look when com­bined with western sil­hou­ettes.” But what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween what she keeps on shelves and what goes online? “I don’t ex­pect brides to shop online. Buy­ing cou­ture is more of an ex­pe­ri­ence. Online is more of a vol­umes game with quick turn­around, so it’s ready-to-wear that gar­ners the most in­ter­est.” Sachdev agrees, “Thanks to the In­ter­net, more In­dian de­sign­ers are of­fer­ing prêt be­low ` 25,000.”

While my wal­let breathes a sigh of relief, street style blogs all over the world are al­ready a tes­ta­ment to the in­creased democrati­sa­tion of fash­ion. Log on and you’ll see a flurry of ta­lented new crit­ics, stylists, and pho­tog­ra­phers, who, thanks to the In­ter­net, get to sit front row at fash­ion week. By press­ing the right but­tons, en­trepreneurs like Kapoor and Seth of My Envy Box are get­ting the chance to bring their busi­ness savvy to a new, wel­com­ing sphere. For Priyanka Gill, ed­i­tor-in-chief of eStylista, it was thanks to the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the In­ter­net that she made her first for­ays into fash­ion. Her CEO, Nam­rata Bostrom, a for­mer man­age­ment con­sul­tant, had a shared in­ter­est in an­gel in­vest­ing, tech­nol­ogy start-ups, and fash­ion. Bring­ing it all to­gether, they trans­formed what started out as Gill’s per­sonal blog into a voice for other stylish in­flu­encers. “We are all about ex­pe­ri­enced con­tent. In­stead of jour­nal­ists telling the reader what they should do, we get real life­style lead­ers to set the agenda,” says Gill. And she means al­pha women. From their base in Lon­don, the duo scouted out con­trib­u­tors like jew­ellery de­signer Farah Khan Ali, hote­lier and som­me­lier Aish­warya Nair, and Kalyani Chawla, vice-pres­i­dent, Dior In­dia. While tra­di­tional mag­a­zines are as­pi­ra­tional—their pages filled with elab­o­rate fash­ion spreads, beau­ti­ful mod­els, and cov­etable cou­ture—Gill ad­mits that eStylista is about the num­bers. “We are al­most a data com­pany. We ob­sess about an­a­lyt­ics and traf­fic num­bers. It’s not just about putting the best story out. It’s about find­ing that story which will get a lot of views.”

But even if they want to stay solely in cy­berspace, th­ese young risk-tak­ers of­ten find that they do need to make their pres­ence felt in the real world. “So­cial me­dia and Google are key pro­mo­tion tools, but we also de­pend on word of mouth,” says Seth. Sachdev plans on a se­ries of pop-up shops to cel­e­brate the launch of her site, while Gill’s eStylista col­lab­o­rated with Mum­bai’s multi-de­signer store Bungalow 8, auc­tion house Christie’s, and de­signer Masaba Gupta for a slew of glam­orous events last year.

For projects such as th­ese, the chal­lenge lies in be­ing able to build a strong iden­tity: One that will sup­port them in new mar­kets and help them weather a world where pic­tures on In­sta­gram or Twit­ter can do as much to pro­mote the brand as a stellar new cam­paign. As for me, I’m sim­ply en­joy­ing brows­ing through my favourite site that prom­ises that my new Pankaj & Nidhi dress will be here in time for the weekend. Some­one pass the cof­fee please.

eStylista’s Priyanka Gill and Nam­rata Bostrom

My Envy Box’s Bharat Kapoor and Rishi Seth

Ex­clu­’s Mo­hini Boparai

Rock N Shop’s Priya Sachdev

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