We’ve been longtime champions of Delhi-based designer Manish Arora. As a top name among Indian fashion designers, he is at once a national treasure and widely regarded as one of the most innovative designers on the planet. Arora shows his collections in Paris, collaborates with numerous consumer brands and, in many ways, serves as a de facto ambassador for Indian style. For part 3 of our New Empire Builders series, we chatted with Arora, who explained to us how the business of his brand is not a Bollywood story.
JC Report: Tell us about the ownership structure of your company.
Manish Arora: We are a growing company and we hope one day to become a strong international brand. We believe in great design and breaking the boundaries in fashion and to constantly evolve. Our company is a Private Limited company with me and my business partner as equal share holders. I design while he manages the business and finances.
JCR: Tell us all of the different projects of your fashion kingdom?
MA: First and most important is our main label Manish Arora, which we show twice a year in Paris. Besides that we have our ongoing collaborative lines like Fish Fry for Reebok and Manish Arora eyewear with Inspecs, we present a new range each season for these two lines as well. Besides these I have designed limited edition collections of make-up for MAC, watches for Swatch and Nivea Soft Packaging.
JCR: What are the core aesthetic values of your brand that will stay the ?course as it develops?
MA: Great design, excellent workmanship and nurturing and build on our creative partnerships.
JCR: Is the core of your empire building in the selling of clothes?
MA: Yes, essentially that is our main focus. At the same time, we are trying to grow by diversifying into different lines like eyewear, sportswear, bags and shoes.
JCR: How do the new emerging empires differ from existing fashion empires?
MA: Today things can happen very fast and a fashion brand or a luxury brand can be built in a span of 10-15 years, whereas earlier—in the case of existing fashion empires—it took them several decades to become what they are today.
JCR: Do you have a business role model?
MA: We are the first and only Indian fashion brand, which has an international presence—we have really our own learning and philosophy to follow in building an international fashion brand. We are not sure if we can follow a role model, but we also want to make sure that we ourselves run a successful and a highly profitable business.
JCR: In what regions are you focusing your business development efforts on, and why?
MA: At this point in time my main collection is retailing with over 75 stockists worldwide, the strongest markets being Europe, the Middle East and Japan. We have not made a conscious effort to concentrate on any one particular region but I would like to see more of my clothes selling in the US.
JCR: How is the economy impacting your business?
MA: Fortunately it hasn’t really affected us directly yet, and we hope that does not change in the near future.
JCR: How do you plan to stay the course?
MA: We plan to keep doing what we do and are always keen on expanding into new markets should new buyers be willing to take us on. That would be the only challenge given the present economic climate.
JCR: Are you methodical in your business development planning? Or is the new empire building method about seizing opportunities as they come?
MA: I don’t think it is that we are methodical, but we do constantly keep ourselves aware of what might be a potential opportunity and we don’t wait for it to come to us. We’re go-getters!
JCR: How are you innovating in order to reach new customers?
MA: I always strive for my collections to be accessible to buyers with varying tastes. While some like the more avant-garde pieces, I have a large number of buyers that retail the more commercial styles.
JCR: How is the face of consumption changing?
MA: I feel people are getting more adventurous and gravitating toward designers who offer something unique and new.
JCR: What role does the celebrity factor currently play in exposing your ?brand? And in the future?
MA: I think celebrity exposure is very valuable, especially in today’s times. It really puts you out there front and center—I don’t see that changing in the near future.
JCR: Is your idea of building an empire envisioning your brand in existence 50 years from now?
MA: Our idea is to envision it five years from now at the moment—until that time we hope to grow our main line into newer markets, continue to grow our second lines and collaborate and diversify into different product categories. I am sure if we can successfully continue to do what we are good at then the brand’s existence will continue more than 50 years from now.
JCR: How does new media figure into your empire building efforts?
MA: Media plays an important role. I think it is important for consumers and people in general to understand what we are doing. I value my relationship with the media as I feel they have played an important role in building an awareness for my work.