The love of leather prompted Dilip Kapur to establish his brand overseas in 1978. India did not get a chance to see his creations until 2000, and Kapur has now built a loyal customer base that grows stronger by the day, and by the Instagram post. The brand recently launched a new store in Mumbai’s upmarket High Street Phoenix mall, along with a glitzy new collection they call Tender Is The Night.
Retaining a presence in around 24 countries across the globe, Hidesign knows its leather, and Kapur knows the importance of the material in the premium market. “Leather by itself denotes luxury everywhere you go,” he says. “There are similarities of what is considered luxury worldwide, but there are some differences in the sensibilities. The longer a culture has known leather, the more its people appreciate it in its most natural form,” he adds. And, every Hidesign collection is different from the other, in terms of styles and influences, from the Wild West to the Masai Mara. Reflecting culture is vital for the brand.
A range that stands apart from the others, in terms of raw luxury, is their Atelier collection that features leathers like ostrich and deer. The handbags are also lined with suede on the inside. “Ostrich, in itself, is a luxurious leather. People love how it is tactile and has all these little textures,” Kapur says. He believes Hidesign is the only brand in India that makes ostrich leather bags.
The basics of Hidesign, however, have always remained the same; very natural, always handcrafted, and always ecologically friendly. Of course, as people’s lives keep changing, so does their general direction. The brand started out crafting bags only for men, more than four decades ago. “Then, when women started going to work, we started producing bags for women. Or, when men started to become more casual, we started making bags that were less like briefcases and more like crossbodies,” Kapur explains. And while he believes the store is where his brand and experience are built, e-commerce and social media are definitely the way forward. More and more people that buy Hidesign are following them on social media, and the brand has adapted accordingly. “The social media customer is a lot more aware of glamour, evening, and fashion, which is what our new collection Tender Is The Night is about,” he says.
This is not to say that the company’s design philosophy centres around clout. Unlike most brands, Hidesign is not a trend follower. “We never think of a bag as being fast fashion. Even if a woman buys ten bags a year, we always think she buys Hidesign as something which is a companion to her, something that she lives with and grows fond of. You will not see a colour on our floor that we know is only going to be there for a year,” says Kapur. Further, no handbag on display can be said to have a concept already done by another brand. And the main reason for this is the importance of the stories behind each collection, and each product. The Wild West collection, for instance, was inspired by a Hidesign distributor in the United States whose family, based in the Southwest, sells directly to cowboys themselves. Interacting with such people make for authentically designed collections, adding great value to the products.
Sustainability has recently become mainstream in fashion world. But Hidesign has been following a sustainable path long before the word was even uttered in the space. From the get-go, they used vegetable dyes to tan their leather, even though it takes much longer than the chemical process. “I live in Auroville and I’ve planted forests, so there’s no way I’m going to use something that kills trees and plants,” Kapur says.
The new store on the ground floor of High Street Phoenix’s Grand West Zone also takes notes from Kapur’s home. To design the space, he wanted someone who understands ‘young India’, and Ayaz Basrai of The Busride Design Studio was his man. “Ayaz spent a lot of time thinking about what Hidesign actually is, and he finally came to the conclusion that it’s about the fact that I come from Pondicherry,” Kapur says, pointing to the ornate ceiling medallion that has the perfect proportions of French and Indian styles which is what Pondicherry embodies. The store also reflects Kapur’s affinity towards natural and minimalistic design, seen in the solid brass rack frames custom-designed by Basrai for the store.
Hidesign is also changing its in-store processes, owing to the equivocation of luxury with personalisation. “We want to do a product that is you. Your lifestyle, individualised for you,” Kapur says. The new stores, hence, enable customers to be guided through the process of choosing shapes, colours, leathers, linings, buckles for their own handbags. And at the end of the day, isn’t luxury really about possessing something that you can say is truly you?