Chic Interview: Priyadarshini Rao on Mineral, seasonless fashion and more

Fashion designer Priyadarshini Rao and her husband Jaydeep Shetty have a new baby—Mineral. This ready-to-wear label made its runway debut at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2011, and bids goodbye to fashion seasons (its tag line is “no more seasons”). The focus is on bringing postmodern, versatile and stylish fashion to Indian women. Priyadarshini Rao at LFW SR 2011

Priyadarshini Rao talks to Speaking Chic about Mineral, seasonless fashion and the Indian fashion scene.

What’s the story behind the Mineral concept?
I’ve seen the evolution in the Indian fashion industry over the past 15 years, and even though retail has become significant, Indian designers are largely focussing on wedding, trousseau and bridal wear. There is a pressing need for affordable, good-looking fashion, for both impulse and pre-meditated purchases. The brands that have come in from foreign countries focus on western wear for Indian women. Indian women do like to wear good, sophisticated clothing, but not necessarily spend Rs 5000-10,000 per outfit. At Mineral, we realise this, and address this need.

What’s the idea behind “no more seasons” at Mineral?
We’ve become used to the idea of fashion seasons, though in Indian cities like Mumbai seasons don’t matter, and don’t make sense to people. Hence the idea behind seasonless fashion, though this doesn’t mean that the clothes in the stores won’t change. Our mission is to provide something classic and stylish that will last beyond six months. We focus on a great product, that is wash- and heat-friendly, and will be cherished for a few years.

What has been your key learning from your earlier retail experience with Shoppers’ Stop and Sepia?
There is a lot of learning everytime you do something new. In Shoppers’ Stop, I realised that unless you give your 100 percent, you can’t do well. At that time [2008-09], it was tough to sell clothes in the price range Rs 3000-6000. I worked on Sepia in its formative year; it started well and people related to it. I’m in charge of product and will not dilute quality—will raise it like my own child. With Jaydeep’s 18 years of retail experience, we know which way we want to go, though we know that mistakes do happen.

How is Mineral different from your eponymous label?
Priyadarshini Rao is clearly a different product from Mineral, and I’ve pushed it to the level of luxury pret. It’s got my aesthetics and signature, with a lot of fusion wear and the garments are priced between Rs 10,000 and 15,000. A woman may buy a “Priyadarshini Rao” product three to four times a year, for special occasions, even as she buys Mineral 10, maybe 20 times, a year.

Who is the Mineral woman?Mineral by Priadarshini Rao at LFW SR 2011
She is a working woman trying to balance her home and office. She’s well-read, connected and travelled. While she’s not too much into fashion, she wants stylish clothing and looks for garments to wear to meetings and other places without needing to change thrice a day. The woman who comes to Mineral to buy understands what looks good on her, and often buys 3-4 garments at a time.

Which brands do you consider competition?
The competition is tough now with some Indian brands. In terms of quality I’d consider brands like Vero Moda, Esprit and Tommy Hilfiger as competition. While Zara concentrates on fast fashion, and Mango is kind of high fashion, Mineral is more about core fashion such as a linen shirt.

What are the challenges you face at Mineral, considering it’s a new venture?
We have our own design team and we produce smaller lots, which makes production more expensive. Our design team is always on its toes, and keep their fingers on the pulse of the Mineral customer. Luckily, the team is deeply committed and involved in the product, and we realise how important it is to keep things moving, and to keep customers coming. We introduce 15-20% change to our collection every 6-8 weeks.

Mineral’s flagship store is at Infiniti Mall, Malad (Mumbai). Also available at select Central and Shoppers’ Stop stores. Prices range from Rs 800-2500.

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