We made an interesting mix of people – models and non-models – wear the brand to see how they fit in with the brand’s international appeal and design. The garments are cutting-edge and non-traditional, marching ahead with unflinching confidence and clear vision. Flip over to read excerpts from an inter view with the man behind the brand (@theorem_official), Nitin Chawla, as he talks to us about starting out, staying strong and staying true.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY Theorem started in August 2013 with an impressive debut at the Gennext category at the coveted Lakme India Fashion week, Mumbai. It has been almost three years, but we still feel that we have just begun and there’s lot more to be done.
WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE YOUR BRAND ON Renzo Rosso would be a dream to dress up. The jeans genius as everyone knows him is the president of the OTB group. He is a true fashion entrepreneur, who has a strong fashion sense. Beneath his outsized personality and flamboyant style is an astute businessman, who seems to be driven more by instinct than carefully laid strategies. His effortless, easygoing and very comfortable style is visible in the clothes he wears. His core philosophy of ‘Being Stupid’ revolutionised the fashion industry. Rosso once said “Being stupid isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about feeling, it’s about taking risks, challenging convention, acting on instinct and following ones passion.” Being stupid means doing anything reasonable, people tell you not to do: be bold, be daring, push yourself to the limits, break the rules, follow your instinct and your hear t, do something because you like doing it and don’t worr y when people warn you about the consequences. He strongly believes in ‘not playing it safe’, and that is why I look up to him, which inspires me a lot.
OWNING A LABEL IS It is like raising a kid. I am very passionate about what I do, I feel happy about it. I feel satisfied when I work for my dream project which is my label. Ever y work/profession in this world, whatsoever it may be, goes through some good phases and at times there are hardships. For me, owning a label means learning something new each day, which is the best part, as I firmly believe that learning is a never-ending process. Also, one should be ready enough to face all sorts of situations. There are as such no pros and cons of owning a label. One should be passionate enough to do what they want to do and strive for the best.
FIVE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO START A LABEL
1. Patience is key.
2. Sort out the finances for a year, at least. Plans and ideas do not work the way you want them to.
3. Have a long tern vision and a design philosophy and do not change that every fortnight.
4. Be authentic and remain true to yourself.
5. Hard work is irreplaceable.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DESIGN IN 2017 AND WHICH FASHION WEEK WOULD YOU WANT TO SHOWCASE AT As of now my priorities are set i.e. designing collections for my label “Theorem”. We are also working out ways which support sustainable fashion, by recycling and up-cycling. We have contacted different sources such as exporters/manufacturers, who have dead stocks of textiles/fabrics, so the idea is to procure those fabrics and re-work them into up-to-date styles. I would love to show at Pitti Uomo. It is not actually a fashion week, but a trade fair especially for menswear and men.
WHICH PORTAL HAS BEEN MORE PROFITABLE IN 2016 Since we have a lot of loyal personal clients, the store sales are on the higher side as bespoke tailoring and customised fits play a vital role in it. Though online stores are also generating good business. To sum up percentage wise, our physical stores sales would be 65% and online would be 35%.
NEXT YEAR, WILL YOU PUSH YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE MORE OR YOUR STORE PRESENCE Online is booming and slowly picking up the pace. But still, there are people who prefer shopping at physical stores as they want to feel the fabric, get to know the fit before deciding. So, we would prefer balancing the online as well as physical store presence. Though one of the advantages of online presence is that one can connect to the global audience, which is good for the brand.
FOR A NEW DESIGNER WITH A VERY TIGHT BUDGET, HOW SHOULD THEY PLAN Investing is of utmost importance. A designer has to in any way invest in his/her collection. I strongly feel that initially designers should work to make their product the best; slowly and gradually working on ways to grow their business, as business is what would afford the creativity of the designer. They can participate at pop-up events and try a few exhibitions. This way they can measure the saleability of their product and they can improve from there. And later, after a break even in their venture, they can try to participate in fashion week.
PLACE THE FOLLOWING IN TERMS OF IMPORTANCE
Fashion Week Participation
Social Media Presence
TO START YOUR OWN LABEL OR WORK FOR A WELL ESTABLISHED BRAND? I have worked for a period of six years with export houses and designed for international brands. Personally, I think that every aspiring designer should work with an established designer or an emerging organisation, or someone not necessarily well established, before launching one’s own label. Learn from their mistakes, see what is their USP.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO UPCOMING DESIGNERS Brand image is the back bone of every player in the apparel industry, considering the amount of competition in this industry. One of the proofs would be the fact that consumers still buy the products from certain brands, even though many claim it uses bad fabrics, or the price is sometimes too high, and so on. Eventually they would still come back because of the image that they will get when they purchase the product. In other words, this ‘symbolic brand benefits’ do exist and it is important. A strong brand image created by these international brands that have huge budgets for such marketing campaigns proves to be one of the threats to new and upcoming designers. An upcoming designer can’t spend so much, until he/she finds an investor to keep up with the pace of all these business strategies.
PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR ‘Theorem’ as a label portrays story-telling and expression. The collections done in the past are a result of a story, inspired by my travels or may be a hypothetical one. I do not plan to go anywhere to draw or to find inspiration. I am inspired by my random personal life experiences anywhere and at any point of time. I then develop a story out of it and take it further. For example, I once travelled to London before my spring summer 2014 collection and while exploring the city I noticed a mechanic there and everything started from there. The collection was called ‘Urban Voyager’. The theme depicted an imaginative story of a London-based mechanic who gets lucky after winning a vacation to a resort destination. The juxtaposition of work-wear blending with resort wear was the inspiration.
NOT EVERY DESIGNER IS A GOOD STYLIST. DOES THAT MATTER A personal taste/style is something which reflects in a designer’s work. For example, I am a very detail oriented person. I love to dress in casual, androgynous yet carefree and comfortable clothes which in a way reflects in my work ethics. As a fashion designer, a good sense of style is very important as it is about self-marketing your product in the right manner. If a designer is not a good stylist then he should hire one, as styling creates a long lasting impact. A very fresh example is Vetements, whose stylist Lotta Volkova epitomizes the cool attitude of the brand. Volkova’s approach to styling at Vetements is unconventional, and she doesn’t just focus on the look of the clothes. At Vetements, she is involved both in casting and styling.
HOW MANY COLLECTIONS DO YOU CREATE IN A YEAR I make two collections in an year, Spring Summer and Autumn Winter.
WHAT ARE THE THREE THINGS INDIAN BRANDS SHOULD DO TO SEE MORE EVERYDAY PEOPLE WEAR THEIR LABEL Firstly, a designer wear mainly caters to a niche market, wherein details, skilled craftsmanship, bespoke tailoring, high fabric quality, high level product finish and high-end quality matters the most. This in turn increases the price of the product as all aspects are severely taken care of. I was at times asked by many of my clients to make something more affordable which they can wear on an everyday basis, basically more price effective pieces. This suggestion struck me and I started making a more price effective range beside my main range, which could cater to the purpose.
So basically 3 things which a designer should do are:
1. Start making a competitively priced range beside their main range.
2. Work out a range as per the demographics/geography, as that works well.
3. Make people more aware about the brand through different media.
WHICH INDIAN DESIGNER DO YOU THINK HAS MANAGED TO MAINTAIN PROGRESS? WHAT DO YOU THINK WORKED Rahul Mishra, the first woolmark prize winner from India. His hard work, talent and dedication has got him where he is.
NAME A BRAND WE SHOULD FEATURE IN OUR NEXT ISSUE Arjun Saluja.
Photographer Runvijay Paul