Interviews by Akanksha Pandey. Photographs by Asad Sheikh. Styled by Sarah Rajkotwala.
Aseem Kapoor of the label Aseem Kapoor
Model: Shambhavi Dubey
You have more than 15 years of experience, why are you in the GenNext category?
Since the brand is only one and a half years old, we thought it’s the best fit. Currently, there’s no better platform in this country than GenNext. Irrespective of Pooja [Haldar; co-founder] and me being experienced, we thought it was better to follow due process and submit our work. I knew that this kind of mentorship and focus is not always accessible. So no matter how much experience you have, if your brand is new and falls into the GenNext category, I’d advise everyone to take this route.
What is the division of work between the two of you? Who is responsible for the vibrant colour story, the layering of print and embroidery?
The execution is divided between Pooja and I. She designs the silhouettes, and brings modernity and the punch to the brand while I take care of the prints and the embroidery. We work very well together because we both have very different strengths when it comes to design. I am more layered and over the top and she’s more minimal.
Do you have a particular direction in mind for your brand?
The best part was, when we were sketching and embarking on this journey, we had no clue where we were going to end up. But it was very clear that we are Indian, and I wanted to celebrate my background. I come from a humble Punjabi background. I wanted to touch upon these roots anyhow and when we started creating the products, all I tried to do was kind of zero in on what we like and that’s how we started evolving into this cool and trendy fusion wear brand, which people may also gravitate towards for Western occasions. So I will not put myself or the brand in any category. You can call it fusion and global probably for the sake of marketing or racks but otherwise we are just what we love. We do shirts and drape saris sometimes. We do skirts, blouses and dresses. It’s a mix of everything and not just one thing. And people are wearing them as both day and evening wear so it’s very difficult to put us in a box.
Tell us how you stand out as a brand?
I feel the vibrancy, the layering, the over-the-top nature and the way we style it just makes people smile. We travel for trunk shows and the moment they enter the booth, they become happy. And it’s not just about the colours, it’s the way we place our embroidery, it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s for everyone and the USPs are the colours and cuts for me. It’s how our garments make women feel. Our silhouettes compliment the wearers and let them celebrate their body types.
What does sustainability mean to you as a brand?
My primary aim is to ensure that we make entrepreneurs out of all the craftsmen who work with us — including our pattern masters or embroiderers — instead of merely hiring them. We pay much more to get the same work done but it helps them to scale their businesses, they start feeling like entrepreneurs and they take responsibility for their own work. They can decide how much they want to earn. And obviously we strive towards zero wastage. We try to make smaller products — like accessories and headbands — with our leftover raw materials. We use every inch of our fabrics. The working conditions in the office are top-notch.
Where do you see your brand in the next five years?
We have started with womenswear but soon we are going to get into different design categories. And hopefully in five years, we will have launched multiple stores that will have various sections: home, menswear, womenswear. I see us taking a very strong stand on sustainability and giving back to society as soon as possible. Not just in terms of paying our people right but also what we can do for society.
How do you see Indian fashion evolving in the future?
I feel design is the one aspect that’s going to take us all forward. Within India, design and fashion are evolving very fast, thanks to all the corporates investing in design. It really pushed the designers to become entrepreneurs. In five years or so, designers will be better placed to scale and become global brands. We’re going to see multiple global brands coming out of India which has never happened because of either lack of clarity or funds. But with the entry of giant corporations into the scene, fashion is going to keep growing at a very fast pace.