Swimming in unchartered waters
Apr 05 2012, 12:59 | By CNBC-TV18
Shivan and Narresh
Image: SME Mentor
At a time when Indian designer labels focussed mainly on trousseau and wedding wear, the duo of Shivan and Narresh have carved the niche in the unchartered territory of swimwear. Launched in 2008 at Canne in France with an investment of just Rs 1.5 lakh, Shivan and Narresh decided to test the waters in India at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer Resort 2010. Since then, their flagship store in the middle of Delhi�s latest fashion hub Haus Khas Village has become a favorite with women. The only swimsuit branded India to manufacture stitch free services in swimwear, the duo have also made a mark internationally with their bold, confident and clean designs. Another highlight of the duo's label is the lycra saree teamed up with a bikini specially for the Indian women.
Initially, we thought we probably would be targeting the young. But as and when we started making collections, we realized that it's the confidence issue we are quite literally tackling with all the women and the clients we have. So slowly these women who are married, who have kids, have body issues. From thereon, the target client has always been above 35. We are right now looking at two tier and three tier cities. Initially, we had no idea that there would be potential clients for us but there is a huge potential there. They all have got their farmhouses, there are swimming pools in place and if they have to regret, they regret around themselves and realize that it�s not really to the world but to themselves," said Shivan Bhatiya, head designer, Shivan & Narresh.
Narresh Kukreja, creative director, Shivan & Narresh, believes there is immense potential for growth along the Indian coastline. The fact that we have such a huge coastline, I think India is blessed geographically to have it all - from beaches to mountains. So holiday, as a concept, is something that is only now started to be explored. I think a lot more Indians are actually travelling domestically as much as they are travelling abroad.
On offer is made to measure customize swimsuit service in the price range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000. The duo have divided their collection into two parts; first, the ready to wear line, and second, the exclusive handcrafted line that skillfully executed by their team of 24 workmen at the village itself. The only Indian swimwear brand to be stocked across Taj Hotel, Palaces and Resort and The Leela Group, Shivan and Narresh generate revenues through sales at flagship stores in Delhi and through high-end boutiques and shows. But selling swimwear in a market like India has not been easy.
It is one of the biggest challenges to make them understand that if previously they used to bathe in blouses and these are bikinis, honestly there is not much of a difference and to really bring it out of the closet and make them understand that a swimsuit in a wardrobe is as must as having a black dress. Distribution was a big challenge; even participating in Fashion Week did not really mean that you would start getting business from the first season because retailers when they would walk-in, they did not know how do you sell swimwear in India because they are used to selling bridal or Indian wear," explained Kukreja.
Sizing then was a third challenge. He added, "When we came back we knew that we had to get the Indian body type right. If we followed the standardized UK or European sizing, we would not get the fit right. Challenge after that was to get the right raw material. None of the Indian mills manufacture swimwear fabrics; even if they do it's not really something that we could have used because we were talking about niche brand.
So they decided to import their fabric from Italy which they claim is resistant to ultraviolet rays and is stain-free and that's why theirs is the brand of choice for the Kingfisher Calendar and the Pantaloons Femina Miss India as the official swimwear partner since 2010. Growing 400 percent year on year, Shivan and Narresh are now looking at growing into the swim, resort, cruise, safari and ski domains to become the first luxury holiday wear brand in India.
Revealing the duo's expansion plans, Kukreja said, "We are looking at opening the next store in Bombay, the deadline for which is by the end of this year. Apart from that, we are planning to be online; the deadline for which we are looking at in the coming four months. People should be able to buy swimwear for the first time in India online. I think soon after, we would follow the same model with other metropolitan cities as well. So we can talk about Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad to begin with. Followed by holiday destinations, whether it's Kerala or Goa, these would also remain high on the target map for opening outlets.
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