Days after he displayed his demi-couture line at Mumbai fashion store, Atosa, earlier this month, designer Nikhil Thampi announced the launch of his first-ever pret collection on fashion portal exclusively.com. While the former, Alchemy, comprised a line of bridal wear innovations with Thampi’s trademark flourishes, with moulded saris, cut-out sheath-style kurtas, sheer capes and glam cholis taking centre stage, the latter is a 30-piece collection with practical shapes, crowd-pleasing colours and signature touches.
This move also marks a shift in Thampi’s retail plan, addressing a dichotomy that his four-year-old label has faced in recent times. “When we first launched in 2011, my philosophy was that demand should be high, supply should be less. The exclusivity angle was very important, where clients were driving down from Pune to shop at our label,” he recalls. And with Bollywood’s best, including names such as Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Sonakshi Sinha and Shilpa Shetty, regularly donning his creations for red carpet appearances, gaining traction and a fan following hasn’t been all too hard for Thampi.
But with eventual expansion plans and the need for commercial success, the move towards a pret line was imperative. “A client once told me that my clothes were very aspirational. But not everyone could buy them right away. That stuck with me and I decided that instead of just focussing on a niche clientele, I could also create something which would appeal to the masses,” he says.
It’s ironic that Thampi has chosen to shed his “exclusive” image with exclusively.com, with a collection of “trans-seasonal clothes in easier, wearable silhouettes”. The ’60s may have been a constant source of inspiration, but it hasn’t been a theme that Thampi has explored before on the fashion week ramp. “This venture gave me the opportunity to play with ’60s inspired shapes — boxy dresses, skater skirts, — and I also managed to test the waters with bright pop colours, something I’ve not done before,” he says. Apart from the line of Mondrian-esque colour blocked ensembles, there’s a collection of signature dual-toned sheath dresses with leather accents and a range of colourful maxi dresses, apt for the upcoming holiday season. The “sales-oriented” collection saw Thampi dealing with parameters like comfort, body-flattering silhouettes and maintaining low price points (Rs 8,000 onwards). The marginal downside? Thampi couldn’t do what he does best — “take an existing silhouette and give it my own innovative twist. My need to be experimental had to be curbed,” he admits. And much like international designers like Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, who confess to taking design leads from their teeming social media following, Thampi, too, says that his 62.7k Instagram followers are teaching him a thing or two. “A Bollywood celebrity wearing your clothes is definitely the biggest endorsement there is. But I’ve learnt that a Sonakshi Sinha wearing my outfit gets me more responses and sales orders than a Deepika Padukone looking fabulous in my creation. Deepika is definitely aspirational, but Sonakshi is someone every girl can relate to. When we do clothes for her, they know we can make something to flatter their figures too,” says Thampi. Going forward, he is keeping a close eye on collaborative ventures. He just launched a jewellery line with Jet Gems and is expanding his presence in tier-II cities, starting with Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Pune. “Now that we have expanded operations and got logistics into place, it’s time to give retail a big push,” says Thampi.