Rashmi Modi On The Challenges Of Creating A Homegrown Luxe Bag Label
To break into the fashion segment is quite a Herculean task, with too many pros and cons to weigh. To be honest, it becomes an even more challenging task when the domain you choose is not generally associated with India. This stands extremely true for handbag manufacture. While truth is that most of the international brands have manufacturing units in our country, and other luxury fashion houses source both material and talent for their own brand from here. Whether or not one knows this, as customers we’re bound to pick up an international brand as opposed to an Indian one. Designer Rashmi Modi decided to break this very habit of the Indian bag buyer through her creativity. Her namesake brand is not just original but has designs that are at par with any international luxury label. We got in touch with the bag designer to know more about how she started and what her vision for the label is. Excerpts…
1. Give us an insight on the brand’s ethos.
We believe in designing products that are original, functional, and of supreme quality… proudly handcrafted in India.
2. Conceptualising and creating the Rashmi Modi brand — can you give us a brief on how that came about.
So, it was in London when I was a freelance handbag designer for a buying house, and I was doing my Masters simultaneously, that I felt it very unjustified that we Indians design and manufacture for International brands and they get all the recognition and money. Karigars, the real heroes, earn nothing, and we, as designers, are not respected. That’s when I decided that I want a brand of my own that is Made in India and I would take it internationally.
I started with a very small workshop in Kolkata, with just one freelance Master and one karigar. At that point it was very experimental, creating a few designs and testing their feasibility. No major set-up, no major investment. With just Facebook as my marketing channel and myself as the naïve marketing person, I started to receive a few orders, and would then repeat orders from same people. It was astonishing that women were ready to shop bags with high-end prices from a new premium designer just because of pictures of Facebook. Moreover, I was surprised when these tasteful clients loved the originality of my designs and good quality at such affordable price. From then, there was no looking back.
3. How much of the brand’s aesthetic is a reflection of you?
Well, the labels aesthetic is a very close reflection of me as my designs are from my inspirations, which are things that I like and find artistic. It’s my own thoughts, and my creativity applied in a form, hence its a complete translation of my taste – minimal, timeless and dreamy.
4. Do you work keeping in mind the trends of the bag industry season after season?
We keep looking into trends as in what’s new in the world of fashion globally. However, when we start designing, it’s more of an organic process which may or may be influenced by fashion trends.
5. When it comes to seeking inspiration, where do you start?
Actually, inspiration never stops to start. For any creative person, inspired creativity is a natural pattern of thinking. So sometimes my inspiration comes from when I travel, or a dress I saw someone wearing, or a sketch. For instance, my Feather collection was inspired by when I was reading a fairytale to my niece. There is no definite source of inspiration for me. I just make it a point to make a note of my inspiration before I forget it through the daily chores.
6. Take us through the process of the construction of an RM bag.
Someone recently asked me, how true is this — 75% to 80% of the process of creating a leather handbag is handcrafted? Well, this is a truth. Leather, unlike any other textile, needs more handwork off the machine than on the machine. The process starts with hand-cutting of the leather parts using the prepared Pharma with exact stitching margins required. Then the edges are skived to make them thin for stitching, with both the hand as well as machine, as per requirement. Once all the parts are ready after skiving, the master directs hand cutting and pasting of at least five to six kinds of interlining according to the part under process and to result in a specific structure of the handbag. In between as well as at the end of this process, edge colours are applied by hand as required so as to finish the raw edges of the leather. Finally, when all individual parts are ready, they are stitched using a machine. Additionally, an important part of the construction is folding of edges or cutting edges which have to be 100% accurate to result in a good quality finish. Do note that there is no room for error while dealing with leather. No wrong stitch or a wrong cut can be undone in leather, then that part goes for waste. Hence, the karigar has to be very experienced, patient and focussed.
7. Breaking into the luxury segment mustn’t have been easy. Tell us about the challenges you had to overcome.
The major challenge was and still is to win customer’s confidence for the brand considering it’s an Indian brand in the handbag industry. Handbags are a fashion item used to off your social status. So in India, a majority prefer to go for international brands.
8. Obviously quality affects the price point of any product. Given you make luxe handcrafted bags, does it get difficult to put a price tag on it considering you’d also want to make the products accessible?
Quality definitely results in a higher price, and therefore to make the bags accessible as of now, my own margins are really low and I shall try my best to stick to this. Additionally, since I am the manufacturer and the retailer, I skip a huge middle man margin that generally adds to the retail price.
9. How would you define your line?
My label is contemporary and my designs can be defined as timeless and sophisticated fashion with complete utility.
10. Are you working on your next collection? If so, what’s it about.
We are about to finish our SS17 collection, which again expresses chic drama, dreams, and creativity. The colours are really beautiful, that’s something I really spend my time on deciding. It also includes an extension of our Feather collection, with new shapes and colours of our classic Loafer, Rhythm, and Fringe.