The coming together aims to explore untried interpretations of India's crafts and textiles that take the story of the country's artisanal culture beyond existing ideas in couture and fashion. The Ritu Kumar business includes four fashion brand portfolios which cumulatively retail out of 151 points of sales globally. While the brands retain the core Ritu Kumar design DNA of embroidery, artisanal crafts and prints, each has a distinct brand definition.
The partnership aims to highlight India's re-emerging role in the international couture industry, through parallel tracks of sustenance and innovation. The goal is to reinterpret age-old designs, motifs and patterns that nest under the vast repository of crafts for modern accessories, stylish, textile-rich clothes and distinct couture from India.
"This very optimistic collaboration will further the work I started in researching and reviving India's textile history and wealth while highlighting our design ability. It's a story that needs to be told again. Once upon a time, India had 57 pert cent of the world's GDP dependent only on its textiles," said Ritu Kumar, the founder of India's oldest fashion house.
Isha Ambani, Director, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, said, "Very few countries can match the sophistication, style and originality of design, especially in printing and painting of textiles and weaves, found in India. We are delighted to partner with Ritu Kumar, who possesses strong brand recognition, potential for scale, and innovation in fashion and retail - all key ingredients to build a complete lifestyle brand. Together, we want to build a robust platform and customer ecosystem for our native textiles and crafts - both in India and across the world - so that our crafts receive the honor and recognition they deserve in international couture."
IANSlife caught up with Amrish Kumar, CEO, Ritika Private Limited, and Darshan Mehta, Managing Director and CEO, RBL, to get all the details.
Q: Was this acquisition a long time coming and when did it all happen?
Darshan Mehta: We are both in the business and the Ritu Kumar brand needs no introduction, but it took all of six months to see us coming together.
Q: The Ritu Kumar portfolio of brands has many labels under it from pret to couture to home, what do you feel RRVL brings to the table for a house which already has a legacy and is firmly established?
Darshan Mehta: There are many things of value we can add to a partnership without overwhelming or changing the course of what Ritu Kumar stands for. Real estate, technology, supply chain, talent pool, I can go on and on... this doesn't mean the current organisation doesn't already have it, it does, but I think partnerships are about creating respectful additions.
We have traversed this journey with other brands and we have demonstrated how without changing the course of that brand in many ways we have accelerated it, sometimes staying two steps behind and sometimes two steps ahead but being good partners. Beyond finances there is a lot we can bring to the table, and given that we have such a large and beautiful portfolio, there are lots of synergies that accrue.
Q: Amrish, from your point of view, what do you feel about the partnership?
Amrish Kumar: From our point of view a partnership like this enables us to dream big, it enables us to access more than just resources, but access the thinking of people in the industry who we wouldn't otherwise have been able to do, like Darshan and his teams, this opens up the scope, and our way of thinking significantly. Of course we have our own ambitions which we have nurtured over decades and in this case two generations, but we are at an interesting point in our lives where the brand has huge amount of potential to unlock and we needed to find the right partner who can help us do that... and often lateral thinking comes from having other people on the table, to add to everything else Darshan said, I feel that's a key point.
Q: Brick and mortar is now back in the limelight with less e-commerce, keeping this in mind can we expect an on-ground expansion across the labels?
Darshan Mehta: There isn't less of e-commerce, whatever has happened in the digital space, can be viewed in terms of pace of growth may have slowed down a bit in terms of percentage, but it is still only growing. I believe there is a lot of room for growth in this space because in India, people with both purchasing power and aspiration is vast, as in they are spread across the length and breadth of the country. Hence digital commerce provides access and reach to new customers and out of necessity they are accustomed to e-commerce. We have also launched distance selling which is doing dramatically well, selling through zoom and video chats. Of course, nothing will replace the theatre and drama and all the experience and storytelling that happens in brick-and-mortar stores, especially at our end of the market where Ritu Kumar sits in, the luxury end of the market.
What I think you see is, if you take away the element of human suffering and misery that happened because of the pandemic, if I put that to one side, I do believe Covid-19 had a positive impact because it over indexed a lot of the digital commerce space, all the numbers projected for 2023-24 we are now seeing happening in 2021, so it has brought it forward by many years without taking away what is happening at the malls etc.
Q: When it comes to expanding the brand?
Darshan Mehta: Of course, without overwhelming the system, these are young days of the partnership and our agenda for the next six months is to get the cadence of this partnership. Also allow teams of people interacting with each other's counterparts and as we settle in to this partnership we will begin to put our thinking caps on. Home as a category, marketing and their other categories, there will be lots to think about without overwhelming the partnership.
Q: Your outlook on this festive season...
Darshan Mehta: Everything is back in a big way, we have just seen a fabulous quarter, it was very promising compared to 2019, leave alone 2020. The festive season that we just started two weeks ago looks incredibly good. The focus of the partnership is to allow all of the brands in Ritu Kumar to realise their full potential.
Q: Sustainability has always been at the core of the Ritu Kumar portfolio, are there any new initiatives you would like to speak about?
Amrish Kumar: From our genesis we have always used process and products which are "sustainable". Sustainable is a big word, there are many things that go into it, but from the beginning whether it was with respect to sustainability and support of artisans, the fibres used in our products are biodegradable, patronage of slow fashion, we don't make throw away clothes, in a consumer's mindset we are a brand that remains in your wardrobe for generations, that in itself is sustainability. So built into our DNA, built into our construct is this idea of long-term growth from an environmental, ecological and moral standpoint. We have to be extremely aware of new developments, for instance recycled fibres, new technologies, we launched saris made from banana and soy fabric, so the onus is on us to constantly discover sustainable inventions and to be mindful.
The five brands under the banner include, Ritu Kumar, Label Ritu Kumar, RI RItu Kumar, Ritu Kumar Home & Living and aarke . Since 1970s, the Ritu Kumar brand has been symbolic of how the contemporary Indian woman dresses, becoming the legacy brand in India's fashion story rooted in India's rich heritage of textile aesthetics. Label Ritu Kumar which launched in 2002 is for a younger, global consumer of western pret. RI Ritu Kumar is a luxury bridal couture and occasion wear line. Its products are considered heirlooms and are produced by the finest craftsmen and artisans. aarke is the newest addition to the brand portfolio. It is an accessible product line blending the aesthetics of the house in easy dressing meant to reach a larger consumer base. Ritu Kumar Home & Living is a category extension under Ritu Kumar that defines comfortable luxury for homes that like to tell their own story. The collection is amalgamation of modern pieces inspired by Indian textile and craftsmanship.
Continuing with RRVL's refocused attention towards value creation through developing and supporting home-grown talent rooted in Indian design sensibilities, this partnership with the matriarch of Indian fashion Ritu Kumar will set a benchmark in this journey.