A “buy back” scheme to foster sustainability, a new brand S&N, and a line aptly titled “Hope” brings in the much needed light!
By Asmita Aggarwal
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality, and the brothers Shantanu and Nikhil, who started almost 16 years ago, seemed to have embraced this sentiment.
The fundamental brand values are now to forge a more inclusive and conversational relationship with consumers, thereby focusing on art, creativity and collaborations. In the lockdown, they kick-started a unique series of “ The fraternity talks with Shantanu and Nikhil” on Instagram with India’s top four couturiers including Manish Malhotra, and Rahul Mishra, to find logical thinking solutions to fight the pandemic for the industry at large.
Recovering revenues, rebuilding operations and rethinking the organisation became important calls to action on the back of the most important critical resources – employees, customers and other key stakeholders. “We as a brand, in the last four years have embarked on this emotional journey of being more patriotic-chic, sartorial and gender fluid in our design ethos that strongly marries heritage and spunk with doses of compassion,” says Nikhil.
Forward thinking is the keyword for the brand, hence, came the launch of the new bridge to luxury contemporary Indian occasion wear brand S&N by Shantanu and Nikhil. It has two brick and mortar stores in the heart of Delhi, besides adding a fully functional e-commerce website to go the online way, taken during and post the lockdown. “On the couture side of business, we are digging deep into our archives of classic signature Shantanu & Nikhil looks and giving it a re-invented feel through pleasing textures and embroideries…. also, there is this press for acceleration towards digitisation as that’s where the fashion world is heading post the pandemic. Putting together an organically driven end-to-end value chain integrated e-commerce platform wasn’t an easy task in these times of lockdown but our creative marketing team through day-in and day-out virtual meetings with the Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Ltd, our strategic joint venture partner’s technical and supply chain logistics teams were able to do the impossible,” says Shantanu.
They have a platform where SAP integrated data and technology talk to each other in its quest to bring consumers closer to the brand and its overall experience as an omni-channel network. They would continue to evolve around this vertical by further introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to make the consumer experience even more nuanced.
“Today, both Nikhil and I stand with a similar childlike excitement of having to see our first flagship store of our new brand in DLF Promenade, and our second store in DLF Avenue, Delhi opened in August. For us, it was just like how we felt when we opened our first Shantanu & Nikhil store some 16 years ago,” says Shantanu.
This time the central emotion to the collection is ‘Hope’, a message for the world, a way to leave behind the uncertainty and sorrow that gripped us. With this they celebrate a new world, completing 20 years. “We are reinterpreting our classics, bringing back the opulence of our journey with new sustainable practices put into place. We are taking pride in our artisans, and their hand craftsmanship. This season, we revisit a lot of metallic embroidery, goth, applique and the classic zardozi all creating neo luxe bridal looks,” explains Nikhil.
Hope is the message and the collection is an emotional representation of the strength they need to leave behind that melancholy and fight on. The metallic influence throughout the collection is symbolic of this very strength and power. The gold and sheen done in hand woven silks and brocades represent a beacon of hope. The abundance of fluidic drapes created through light fabrics like georgettes and chiffons work in tandem to create a sense of positivity and ease, which is much needed at a time like this.
In this pandemic, one thing is very clear that design will become a lot more precious, sustainable and valuable. The duo has always been strong advocates of anti-trend couture, where the focus is on neo-shapes, silhouettes, minimalism, and of course, the wearer. The brides of today are looking at timeless and classic vintage with hints of contemporary lightness. India has always been a country of celebrations, and there is nothing more celebratory than an Indian wedding, So, in that subtext no matter what the situation, they feel bridal couture as a market will stand on its feet sooner than we imagine.
“Post-covid there is a strong possibility of a deep discount consumer mindset setting in. Hence, we will have to find innovative ways to negate the same. Gaining back the trust and enthusiasm of a cash strapped consumer will be our key objective, thereby quickly getting them back to paying full price for a quality product. With the launch of our bridge to luxury contemporary Indian occasion wear brand S&N, we are best poised to demarcate our couture offerings through Shantanu and Nikhil specifically for brides and grooms, whilst S&N could become a natural playground for trousseau needs specific to attendees and friends & families,” says Nikhil.
While Europe and the West have always seen fantasy through the eyes of haute couture, Indian couture, on the other hand, is a lot more logical, functional as it primarily resonates with Indian weddings and festivities. The intensity of these celebrations mellow down for this year, but occasions in our part of the world will always be rejoiced once we get back to normalcy. “As a brand we have always focused on the cocktail side of wedding celebrations and that’s exactly what we are showcasing at ICW 2020,” they add.
The film was shot at The Roseate hotels and resorts, Delhi this time. As there is always an architectural undercurrent in the collections and, the anti-trend aesthetics of The Roseate added to the collection, structure, linearity, and signature. “The surreal architecture went well with our contemporary sense of aesthetic and the decadence of our collection; truly brought to the centerstage the glitz and glam,” says Shantanu. Newer times call for newer actions, with the blurring lines between technology & fashion in the new normal, it felt fitting to be going ‘phy-gtal’. It was an exciting and unusual experience and it felt great to be a part of an ecosystem that is constantly innovating and connecting with larger audiences.
Whilst couture is in some sort of a danger zone and may take some time to bounce back, bridge-to-luxury brand vessels with accessibility and affordability as key focal points could have the last laugh in an Indian retail scenario. “There has always been a sense of nationalism in our clothes and S&N, as our new bridge to luxury brand does just that with its strong story-telling of heritage meeting spunk,” says Nikhil.
In an effort to be adequately sustainable across the supply chain, they have embarked on a journey towards becoming a sustainable brand with our programme- ‘The Buy Back’. “This is our effort to create a circular ecosystem with our customers where we Re-love, Re-own & Re-use by buying back their old Shantanu & Nikhil pieces. While the customers get rewarded with credit notes for practicing responsible consumerism, we implement design thinking and create a new ensemble out of the old,” concludes Shantanu.