Kimaya — India’s largest luxury fashion store — was launched in Hyderabad last month. Minal Khona talks to Pradeep and Neha Hirani, the founders of Kimaya about the philosophy behind the store and how its presence adds value to the wardrobes of the fashionistas in the city.
When Kimaya decided to launch its 16th store in the country, they chose Hyderabad. Having known Pradeep and Neha for the last two decades, I used to often wonder why they didn’t bring Kimaya to this city earlier. The A-listers here are certainly brand conscious and familiar with leading designers and their collections. So, the first thing that I asked Pradeep at the launch — which had all the fashion conscious ladies present at the store — was, what took you so long. His succinct reply was, “Location location.”
The name Kimaya means magic in Pushtu and Pradeep associates it with fashion by saying, “Magic has the quality of transformation. Similarly, when you wear something beautiful and luxurious, you look and feel beautiful yourself. Fashionable garments can transform your personality. So I thought the name Kimaya was apt for my store. And it has now caught on as a name, though I am quite sure none of the girls named Kimaya would be more than nine
Kimaya as a policy is usually located in an upmarket part of town, with a large window display showcasing their collections. The store has to be high on visibility, more that 4000 sq feet (the Hyderabad store on Road No. 2, Banjara Hills is currently the smallest at 3500 sq ft), preferably with ample parking. Luxurious interiors with attentive staff who can educate and guide a customer into making the right choice are
hallmarks of a Kimaya store.
The store was launched with chief guest Pinky Reddy ringing the gong and cutting the ribbon. Guests included Aparna Roddam, Shilpa Reddy, Manjula Narsa, Shalini Bhadruka, Archie and Jayant Paranji, Rohit Reddy, Neelima Reddy, Mona Parthasarthy, Sunila Eti, Mala Pasha, Meera Bhupal, Seema and Anil Kumar, Sunita Pillai, Preeti Reddy, Bani Ahuja, Raunak Yar Khan, Anand and Radhika Asrani. Designers like Ravita Mayor, Anand Kabra and Suhani Pittie were present as well.
Catching up with the Hiranis the next day, I wanted to know everything about Kimaya — its collections, clients and most importantly, the secret of its success. After all, not every multi-designer store can claim to have an average of five requests from Bollywood’s leading actresses — every single day of the year — for sourcing, either for a public appearance, a
movie or a TV show.
Kimaya’s clientele includes Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Dia Mirza, Rani Mukherjee, Kajol, Sushmita Sen, Shilpa Shetty, Shriya Saran, Asin, Kajal Aggarwal, Shruti Haasan, Trisha, Anushka Shetty, Nayantara, etc. At least one actress shops at one of the Kimaya stores every day — either for her personal wear or a public appearance.
So how did Kimaya come about and how did it get so successful? Pradeep, who has been in the fashion business for over 25 years, says, “The growth of Indian fashion can be traced back to the last decade. Before us, there were only four or five players in the country and there were two things common between all of them — they had been around for over 15 years and in that time they had seen zero growth, because their business model was not scalable! There existed a huge divide between the demand and supply of designer wear in the country. The aspirations were rising, so were the tastes and the means, but access was limited. Hence I started Kimaya in 2002 with the intention of filling this gaping void. Our aim was to bring the best of designer wear under one roof for the benefit and convenience of a discerning clientele.”
Kimaya holds the distinction of being the first Indian fashion house to receive ISO 9000 recognition. Franklin Templeton Private Equity Strategy has also made a foreign private equity investment in the company.
Today, Kimaya houses over 180 of the country’s top designers at their stores across cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai etc, with a store in Dubai as well. But these high priests of high fashion are not known for their humility, or a sense of unity with their own kind. Rivalry and insecurity run deep and secretiveness to prevent plagiarism creates a divide between them.
So how did most of the leading designers of the country agree to retail under one roof, I ask. Says Pradeep, “A designer’s success lies in making his/her creations have a wider reach and appeal to the right kind of audience. But a limited scale of operations restricts that reach. So they inevitably resort to multi-designer stores like ours, which gives them the right clientele and increases their exposure. Designing and selling are not part of the same coin, but two completely different coins — while designers usually focus their creative energies on creating exquisite designs, we offer the expertise to make their collection reach the customers. Designing is an art and retailing a science.”
This is also the model followed by international stores like Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Barney’s, 10 Corso Como, Anthropologie and Bergdorf Goodman. Pradeep explains further, “Everyone wants to wow their customers. Moreover, they also like to tap new clientele through cross-selling. A multi-brand outlet like Kimaya is frequented by everyone who wears designer brands so the designers get a chance to display their collection to a larger audience.”
What is the selection process followed for garments and accessories, given that there are so many to choose from? Neha, who is the Managing Director of the company says, “All the collections are carefully edited and selected on the basis of the previous year’s feedback received from clients. The garments are displayed according to an internal system developed by us, over the years of analysing customer buying patterns, consisting of various parameters in order to ease navigation in the store. Each garment is given due importance.” Kimaya has, since its inception, changed the way designerwear is sold in the country. Besides, its processes have become industry benchmarks followed by other ateliers and stores.
What with India’s varied climate and differing tastes of fashionistas across cities, how are the designs and trends decided upon? Does weather play a role because as most naysayers of fashion will tell you, India doesn’t have spring or autumn. Collections according to seasons are often misnomers. Neha says, “India’s fashion requirements are divided due to the topography and the climatic conditions, as well as cultural differences and aspirations. While Delhi has harsh winters and people there need woollens and knits; Mumbai or Chennai remain warmer so mixed fabrics continue to do well there. But during the festive season, from August to December, the needs of fashionistas nationwide are common.
“What also helps is that most Kimaya customers are regular patrons who have been shopping here for years. We understand their buying patterns really well, so we order the stocks accordingly.”
As invitees to the London, Milan, Paris and New York fashion weeks, the Hiranis also have a handle on international trends and are able to reflect that in their stores. They are also the single largest buyers at all the fashion weeks held across the country.
Recently, Tarun Tahiliani, who retails at Kimaya, launched his own store in Hyderabad. How then, does a collection from a designer at his own store differ from that of the one at Kimaya, I wonder. And do the prices vary? Pradeep explains how it works. “From our years of experience in retail, we have decoded the customer buying pattern in great detail. We, more than any designer, know what sells, what doesn’t and why. We make suggestions to designers to alter certain designs in terms of silhouettes or embellishments, and such pieces are not available even at the designer’s own stores. So the pieces that have been tweaked according to our recommendations are exclusive to our clients. As for the pricing, it is the same and at times, even lesser than the prices at the designer’s signature store.”
The diversity that Indians display in their culture often extends to their personal tastes in garments, accessories like shoes, bags and jewellery — all of which are available at Kimaya. Who are the most popular designers, whose collections appeal to people from all over the country, I ask. Pradeep reveals, “Consumers from different cities respond differently to designers and their collections. Therefore, it is difficult to name designers who work across cities.”
But studying patterns at Kimaya has revealed that “Clients from smaller cities prefer designers specialising in traditional ethnic wear compared to the ones from metros. They also prefer bigger names to more innovative designs. Veterans like Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani and JJ Valaya are most popular for their exquisite ethnic designs, while Shantanu & Nikhil, Gaurav Gupta, Gauri & Nanika are revered for their modern twists.
“Then, there are designers with a strong Bollywood connect like Neeta Lulla, Rocky S and Anamika Khanna whose designs are worn by the crème de la crème of Bollywood and hence very popular. Having said that, designers with contemporary and edgy designs, like Ranna Gill, Falguni and Shane Peacock, Anshu Arora Sen and Manish Arora are increasingly becoming popular. While designers like Abraham and Thakore, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Namrata Joshipura and Wendell Rodricks are a must-have for comfort wear. And the younger crop of designers like Pankaj and Nidhi, Rahul Mishra, Masaba, Amit Aggarwal, Dhruv-Pallavi, Ankur and Priyanka Modi, Paras and Shalini are the current favourites,” says Pradeep.
Given the huge role that Kimaya plays in the business of haute couture, as a brand extension, is forecasting fashion trends part of Kimaya’s growing popularity I ask Pradeep. He says, “Being the country’s largest fashion house, we take it upon ourselves to have our own trend forecasts — which essentially imbibe the essence of the quintessential Indian woman, her moods, her attitude and her preferences. These observations are shared with the designers, who keep them in mind while planning their collections. So at the risk of sounding pompous, yes, we do our bit to create trends in the country.”
And can a customer expect to see similar creations in a Kimaya store in Hyderabad as she would in Mumbai? Surprisingly, the answer to that is no. Says Pradeep, “We treat each store as an unique entity. Every store does its own buying from the designers in accordance to customer requirements and suggestions.”
With a loyal client list and more stores being launched across the country, Kimaya it seems, will continue to work its magic on the fashion conscious for a long time to come.