Four of India’s leading designers– JJ Valaya, Ashish Soni, Manish Arora and Suneet Varma have partnered with Amazon Fashion to launch a line of affordable clothing called RIVER. The brand is now available to buy on the e-commerce site.
We caught up with the designers and Mayank Shivam, Director – Strategic Initiatives, Amazon Fashion India to find out more on the idea behind this collaboration and how it can be a game-changer in the industry.
Ashish, you have been part of the industry for more than 25 years. How is this different from your other associations?
Ashish: I have probably been part of every ready-to-wear experiment that has happened in the Indian fashion industry over the last 20 odd years. Till early 2000, there was nothing like ready to wear for us. Our industry was very small, majority of it was based around bridal clothing. It was only after 2000, when FDCI was born, that people started looking at easy, ready to wear kind of options.
There have been quite a few experiments, some successful, some not so much. If I had to look at them objectively and tell you what’s different here and what went wrong over the years, there are two key points I’d like to talk about. One being the backend. For instance, in all those experiments, all the products would be manufactured by the designers. We are not trained to manufacture products in bulk and at such price points, those are not our strengths. Our strength is design.
So, if you were to ask me to design a line of very interesting t-shirts, absolutely, it’s straight-up my alley. But if you were to tell me produce 100,000 pieces, no I cannot! These mistakes have happened in the past where it became the onus of the design team to manufacture it as well.
So, with RIVER, we’re working pretty much like the rest of the world does. We have manufacturing partners who take that load off of us. We work with a design team at DBS, and there is a range of manufacturers who are producing these goods for us. Therefore, ensuring great quality and being able to produce at those price points, that’s very key to all of this.
The other thing in the past was that there was no online player in those days and here we have the largest online player in the world as our partner in this. Beyond that, it was limited to 8 or 10 cities where we could have physically had brick and mortar stores. Amazon has changed shopping, today we are able to deliver across all pincodes in India. I couldn’t even imagine that someone would buy a shirt from me and have it delivered at their doorstep in 48 hours!
Redefining designer wear in an affordable format is tough for couturiers. How were you able to achieve this and also tell us about what the customers can expect from your collection?
Valaya: What do Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Jimmy Choo, Versace, Victor & Rolf, Lanvin and Kenzo have in common? The fact that they are all super-luxury brands which at some point of time collaborated with Swedish fast-fashion brand, H&M! … and I am happy to say that RIVER is at the forefront of a similar revolution in India! RIVER is India’s first-ever initiative where top high fashion brands have a design collaboration with a mainstream platform that is Amazon Fashion, in this case, to bring forth an accessible line bearing the distinct ethos’ of the four designers.
In our case, we have taken the spirit of my design DNA, which is steeped in royalty and applied it to a clean, modern “royal sport” line of separates, unlike anything we have done before. I’ve always felt that if we were ever offered an opportunity to design an accessible line for a larger audience, even if it’s for a limited period of time, the euphoria of having a significantly larger audience experience it first-hand would be amazing … RIVER at Amazon Fashion not only takes care of that feeling, it also provides the ideal virtual platform for all to connect with us on.
What do collaborations like these mean for the future of the fashion industry in our country?
Varma: The way we have joined forces, it is definitely going to be a way forward for many collaborations… coming together of creative minds, great strength of design, production and availability along with bandwidth to reach out to a sizable audience.
Furthermore, in the light of the current pandemic, people are not going to step out to shop in crowded spaces, so they will be buying sitting in the comfort and safety of their homes and at that point, there is nothing better than shopping on Amazon Fashion because of its country-wide reach.
For designers like me who wish to reach out to a larger audience and want to develop a line that can be sold to clients in every part of the country and not have to risk losing sales, collaborations of this nature are the best. In the future, I expect many such collaborations with designers and online retail space which is going to be an incredible growth pattern for us.
Designer wear is said to be catering to only a certain section of society. Do you feel it’s going to change with this collection?
Ashish: It’s not just been a desire but a dream that we should be able to reach out to as many people and markets as possible. That’s why when we come with that tag that oh you don’t make affordable products, it’s only for a certain audience, and RIVER changes that. It completely breaks that barrier for us. The first thing aside from great design is that it breaks that barrier with fantastic value. Every consumer today is looking for great value, so no one is really splurging out there. They really want to spend but they want value out of the purchase. RIVER as a product is great design with great value. In terms of distribution, what Amazon brings to the table, I am hoping it’s a game-changer.
Mayank, what are your future plans for Amazon fashion in reference to this launch? Will you be looking at more collaborations for the collection?
Mayank: We will continue investing in the fashion segment in India. For RIVER, this is Season 1 with four very celebrated designers, this is the start of a journey where we make designer wear more and more accessible, affordable and reachable to customers. We will continue to grow and scale this. Right now we are focusing on season 1, and the partnerships we have with each of the designers is to make sure it’s a big success.
We will also be listening closely to our customer feedback; we always listen to them and would want to know what they think we can do differently, and we will do that. For us, this launch is hope to artisans, karigars, embroiderers and weavers as well. There is a long list of people who make such collections happen and we want them to get the benefits as well. If this business scales, each of them somewhere will earn the rewards and we will be very proud that we could do that. We value such partnerships and we will continue investing in them.