Mr Ajay Kumar confirms Kolkata is finally splurging on haute expressionist fashion
Avant-garde luxury designer Mr Ajay Kumar moved bases from Bengaluru to Kolkata recently and experienced a staggering escalation in clientele as urban millennials in the city were quick to stock up on his famed signature prints. “I didn’t think I’d find a buyer base this quickly in the city,” Kumar shares. Loyalists would agree that the designer’s floral bandhgalas, neon bombers and kilt trousers deserve a better playground than a randomly planned house party.
“A client recently told me, “apke kapde pehen ke main kahan jaunga? (where can I wear your clothes right now?)’ Because my numbers are usually flashy and if you’re wearing a Mr Ajay Kumar, you’d want to show it off, and not just at a small home party,” the designer tells us. His newest winter festive line Firdaus is checking a lot of right boxes in the urban celebratory styling memo, and the designer explained exactly why Kolkata is splurging on homegrown high fashion:
You moved bases to Kolkata last year. Tell us about the shift...
We moved to Kolkata for personal reasons, I simply wanted to be closer to my parents. But we also knew Kolkata has a market for interesting fashion. A lot of people said, ‘why Kolkata?’, since the city is known for a more heritage-driven culture and the people are known for their love of traditional wear. But I first got an idea about how incredible Kolkata’s buying market is when we came here for The India Story a few years back, it blew me away.
I found so many buyers there, a lot more than what I was expecting. Buyers in the city, especially from the new generation, are well-travelled, they know what they want and have the spending ability. During celebrations like Diwali everyone loves experimenting with luxury labels. It was after moving here that I realised how much people in Kolkata appreciate luxury fashion, be it international brands like Gucci or Chanel or interesting Indian names. I remember we sold out almost our entire stock during our first The India Story, that really taught me how people are looking for unconventional styling and are willing to spend money on what they like. I always say it’s difficult to determine Kolkata’s true spirit unless one has lived here
Do you think people want to spend less amid the pandemic?
Yes, in fact during the lockdown period, people weren’t buying anything at all. We introduced our masks in our signature prints. I should say things started getting better around September and October, of course, they weren’t as great as last year. Since gatherings that big or that momentous are on hold, and only small, intimate house parties are allowed. I feel everyone has taken a step back and is just waiting it out.
You’ve introduced a lot of elements in menswear. Tell us how you feel about the spectrum
It’s unbelievable how far menswear has come, our selling ratio, in fact, is the biggest indicator. We have more male buyers at the moment than women. The one thing that I love is that men are now looking to buy runway pieces, I mean the ensembles we style for runway shows. So, they’re essentially shopping for a whole look, which is so interesting
Tell us a little about your winter-festive line Firdaus
We don’t usually use a lot of prints together because it doesn’t always work, at times it’s distracting. Firdaus features this interesting balance. There’s so much happening in our ensembles from head to toe, so we have to be smarter about prints. We’re also working with solids for the first time